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3.3 out of 5 stars
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3.3 out of 5 stars
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on 26 July 2009
From the moment this movie began to the final (ambiguous) scene, I was completely glued to my screen and gripped by the compelling narrative. I found the acting consistently excellent, the direction elegant & evocative and the whole experience surprisingly rewarding. There wasn't a moment when I felt the story might be descending into an arty, pompous, empty vehicle for snobbish actors; as many of the reviews & critical comments I'd read in the press had led me to believe might prove to be true.

It's been quite a while since I felt I could award five stars to a film without any hesitation, but `Blindness' was without doubt such a rare experience for me. As another reviewer has noted- this film is essentially an exploration of human nature and what impressed me most about the plot is that there's only one contrivance; which is the treatment of the afflicted by those who have yet to loose their sight. But as unlikely as I found the concept that the government would imprison victims of a mystery illness without access to medical treatment, limited food, no surveillance and no rule of law other than that which they implement themselves; the fascinating human interplay on display here more than compensated for that single clunky plot point. And, of course, this is absolutely essential to the plot; in order that the blind can be contained in a veritable human petri dish for the audience's pleasure and so for me was something that could easily be forgiven. Quite often with these types of movies where society descends into chaos allowing a microscopic examination of the human condition- the audience is forced to swallow a number of unlikely scenarios, but in my opinion the events in `Blindness' align eerily with how I suspect many of us might behave under the same conditions.

While pleasure might not be the best word to describe the viewer's reception of many of this film's unsettling themes (particularly due to some scenes where human flesh becomes a type of currency for inmates, as well as the taut atmosphere woven throughout by the director), in the final quarter of the movie the audience is rewarded by a number of comparatively uplifting scenes depicting the simple pleasures we take for granted that become precious when we're deprived of one of our senses, which is a balm for the soul after earlier uneasy events.

This is, without doubt, one of my top five favourite films of all time and by all accounts the book by Jose Saramago is even better, and so I'm really looking forward to reading that in the near future. Clearly the film divides more opinion than the novel, but for me at least, the adaptation showcases a completely satisfying what-if scenario that gave me more than a moment's pause for thought imagining how I might react in the same circumstances. Highly recommended.
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on 22 May 2013
After one man becomes blind, it turns out to be contagious as the whole city eventually becomes blind. They are rounded up and placed in large prison type hospital with no sighted supervision except for one woman (Julianne Moore) who is unaffected by the disease. She pretends to be blind and aids those who are. Things de-evolve to their base level, a movie whose theme is similar to that of "Lord of the Flies."

The acting is good, but the movie drags on. It is about the relationships that develop among blind people as an insight into society as a reflection of individuals...I think. There doesn't seem to be any over powering metaphor that most likely existed in the book. As science fiction it fails on many accounts and must be viewed NOT as science fiction but metaphorically. Even with that in mind, I didn't find the film overly entertaining.

This film is available in a 6-pack "Contagious Outbreaks." $5.00 bin at Walmart.

Parental Guide: F-bomb, nudity, sex, sexual assault.
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on 26 July 2009
There have been many books and films about the end of the world, but few have detailed the end of the world in such a slow meticulous way as this particularly grim offering from City of God and the Constant Gardener director Fernando Meirelles.
In an unnamed city in an unnamed country, a man stopped at traffic lights in his car suddenly goes blind, but is not plunged into darkness, rather he is blinded by a bright white light, rather like as he describes it "being bathed in a sea of milk". The man seeks help for his condition from a doctor (Mark Ruffalo), but soon the blindness spreads as everyone who comes into contact with Patient Zero is struck down as well, including the doctor. As the blindness spreads like an epidemic, the authorities panic, and the infected are quarantined in a hospital, where they are left to pretty much fend for themselves, whilst outside the hospitals doors trigger happy and nervous soldiers make sure no one leaves. As the wards of the hospital become overcrowded food becomes scarce and the society within the hospital begins to break down. However, on one ward there is a patient with a secret. The doctor has been accompanied into the hospital by his wife (Julianne Moore), and she is simply faking her blindness in order to stay with her husband, and it is this woman who will lead a small group of those afflicted to safety.
Utilising the hospital as a microcosm of the larger society outside its walls, it details in stark terms the break down and eventual collapse of the fragile society within the hospital, bringing to the fore in some the worst aspects of human nature. The hospital soon falls into disrepair and chaos, and within this nightmarish establishment a small group, led by the doctor, attempts to hold on to the last aspects of civilization. Names are never given throughout the film, a small detail that helps us to view the afflicted as everyone and anyone rather than creations within a movie. The society within the rapidly decaying hospital soon becomes factional and violent, with any advantage being a trump card, from the man who has been blind all his life and so has the advantage of familiarity with the condition, to the young thug (Gael Garcia Bernal) who is prepared to use violence to get what he wants, even though his desire for wealth has no meaning within the confines of the hospital.
Aside from those mentioned above, the acting talent on show is straight out of the top drawer. Alice Braga plays a call girl who goes blind whilst with a client in a very unnerving early scene, and becomes the surrogate mother to a young boy whilst in the hospital confines, whilst Danny Glover gives a quietly understated performance as an old man who finds acceptance and belonging within this new society. However, this is Moore's film, and she gives a superb performance as a woman who literally has the weight of the world placed squarely on her shoulders as she feels compelled to help these people who cannot help themselves.
Meirelles handles the film brilliantly, giving us a though provoking and challenging scenario populated with well drawn out, believable characters. In spite of its dark subject matter, the film is often bathed in bright light, mimicking the condition of the afflicted, and some of the simpler moments are the most affecting, in particular one scene where Moore's character befriends a dog. Based on the book of the same name by Nobel Prize winner Jose Saramago and apparently fairly true to the original story, though streamlined for the sake of the movies running time, this is not a film that offers any easy explanations, both for the blindness epidemic or the horrendous breakdown of society, but it is a film that is both challenging and riveting, and as a result highly recommended.
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on 25 January 2009
This film is based on the excellent 1995 novel by Nobel-laureate Portuguese writer José Saramago (Blindness or the original Ensaio Sobre a Cegueira, Portuguese Edition). Brazilian director Meirelles (City of God and The Constant Gardener) successfully conveyed Saramago's literature work to the screen, honoring the title of cinema as the seventh art and demonstrating again his creativity and competence as a movie director. As usual, good cinema is almost always not a commercial success, and this explains the harsh criticism by some movie critics and the disappointment of many movie goers.

As a quick warning, if you dislike odd movies with shocking content but with quite a philosophical message, such as Kubrick's A Clockwork Orange, then do not waste your time and money buying/watching this movie. But if decide to you give it a try, please, do not expect a logical explanation for such a rare event as to all people but one going blind in an unnamed city, with characters with no name. It doesn't matter, and it is completely irrelevant for the message Saramago indented. This is a story that lets you think and reflect on human values and our true nature, in a modern society that is more worry about money and so many superfluous things.

São Paulo city is the main background for the movie, though some scenes were also shot in Toronto, and old town Montevideo, Uruguay. Despite the strong Portuguese and Latin American origin and influences of the film (actor Gael García Bernal is Mexican and actress Alice Braga is Brazilian), the movie was produced in English language, and casting renowned American actors Julliane Moore, Dany Glover and Mark Ruffalo, in order to reach out to wider audiences in North America, Europe and Asia. The script faithfully follows the original novel storyline, with the normal simplifications imposed by the limited running time, and above all, by softening and blurring some of the most brutal, cruel and shocking events in the original novel, but without sacrificing the message Saramago intended for the readers. Even though at some point it begins to look like a boring "end of the world" flick or if you find the raping scene too shocking, hold on and do not get confused, wait until the end, that this movie about a powerful message regarding human feelings, instincts and values, that will really make you wonder about our western society's values and about our human nature.

If you really enjoy the movie, I highly recommend you to read the original literary work, and also Death with Interruptions (Intermitências Da Morte, Portuguese Edition), another novel by Saramago, on which he again plays with a fantastical scenario, but his time citizens of an unnamed country do not die. In this work he explores other aspects of human nature in a less brutal and more humorous way. Again, no logical explanation is necessary for such a rare event to occur, and again it doesn't matter, though actually a very silly explanation is provided.
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VINE VOICEon 6 April 2009
The savageness of various people's negative reaction to this film surprises me; not just other reviewers here, but the general critical response was one of shocked dichotomy too - few people seem to have adored it, but those who did appreciate it are out-shouted by those who hated it deeply.

A few points about the production of the film for context: it is based on a 1995 novel by Portugese Nobel Prize for Literature winner Jose Saramago (who is a little more respected than Alex Garland); the city is nameless and unrecognisable because Saramago stipulated that in the contract when the rights were bought (it is never named in the book); it was shot in Sao Paolo, Guelph, and Montevideo in order to achieve the unrecognisability desired; the characters are unnamed because they are unnamed in the book.

As with the recent Watchmen film, one cannot expect a cinema experience to be the same as a literary one. However, just because the cinema experiences are different to the literary ones does not mean that the films themselves are poor, or even inferior at all. The pleasures, morals, and lessons of the film are necessarily different to those of the book, as are the tools used to render them.

The style of the book is very important to the experience of reading it; paragraphs extended over several pages, lack of quotation marks leading to a jumbling and confusion of character voices, and other techniques resulting in a tricky but compelling literary rendering of the experience of blindness.

Portraying blindness through the equally sight-reliant medium of film is no easier, and also relies on the director showing some considerable degree of imagination, which Meirelles manages ably; over-exposed and high-key sequences saturate everything in whiteness to the point of loss of detail and perspective; extremely shallow depth-of-field confuses focus and scale; deftly-placed moments of sound mixing confuse the senses (an intrusive food-processor being the key early example).

Car headlights become tools of dazzling discomfort, the high-concept design of the first couple's apartment is juxtaposed with the sightless filth and degradation that the plot compels the film towards. The "infamous" and "shocking" rape scene is presented in such obscurantist darkness that the abject horror of it is expressed much more through sound than visuals; a glimpse of naked flesh here and there, but mostly shadows, shadows, shadows, and violent, oppressive noises; if anything the depiction in the book is much, much more obscene and disgusting, but is inappropriate for cinema. Meirelles' visual decisions are consistently excellent, and executed with typical skill.

Performances are, to my mind, pretty excellent all round; Danny Glover's turn as the man with the black eyepatch is a little uncomfortably portentous at times, and his relationship with the girl in dark glasses is odd and unreal, but these are both hang-ups I had about the novel, too. The sequence in which the doctor (Ruffalo) has sex with the girl in dark glasses is actually improved upon what is expressed in the book, the doctor's motivation more directly explored and explained here, his wife's reaction deftly expressed by Julianne Moore, the only seeing person in a world beset by sightlessness.

So yes, this is a difficult film to deal with by stereotypical Hollywood standards; nothing is explained, there is no reason for the blindness epidemic, the collapse of the government isn't detailed effectively, the characters have no histories, moral lessons are not spelt out in childish language (unlike the book, interestingly, which lays it on a bit thick towards the end). But this is not a Hollywood production, even though the technical quality of filmmaking on show may make people think a much larger budget and audience was in play here (it's a joint Canadian / Brazilian production); this is a small, meaningful, allegorical film, not some schlock zombie movie or heavy-handed Disney fable. There is much to appreciate here if you are prepared to engage properly.
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on 4 April 2009
The film is very well shot, the use of white to convey characters blindness is effective. For the most part the acting is very good and the characters are well rounded. where it falls down is the basic plot and pace. The plot is about an epidemic of blindness, which has some potential, the film follows a small (relatively) group of people in thier struggle while in quaratine and later out of quarantine. By keeping it personal you don't get a great feel for how far reaching the effects of the outbreak are. that said it could easily have gone down the route of the disaster blockbuster, so this is a refreshing change.
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on 29 March 2015
i bought this D.V.D. because i was impressed with the plot .The thought of everyone going blind is scary to say the least.In most apocalyptic scenarios there is a certain level hope,but in this case you would be completely helpless ,even the already blind would be helpless as the infrastructure they rely on is delivered by the seeing.
They did manage to deliver this feeling well but is was set in the standard cliche filled movie.To give an example ,most of the movie is set in a quarantine center with new arrivals coming in every day, and then one day the bad man arrives and quickly takes over .The way in which it is done and the lengths that that everyone will go to simply to appease this non entity are so unrealistic,this for me really spoiled what could have been a fantastic movie .Because all you are waiting for is the part where he or she is finally disposed of ,something that would happen in seen one of reel life.
And sure enough once this happened the movie got good ,but unfortunately there was only half an hour left. But it was a very good half an hour .It was no longer confined to the quarantine center and it allowed the movie to spread its wings.I also liked the end which, obviously i will not go in to.
So for me it was a missed opportunity.That is why i gave it three stars.
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on 29 April 2012
I thought this film was brilliantly directed and the performances were also strong throughout. Hugely thought provoking, visually appealing and definitely a film with a brighter side.
Mark 'the hulk' Ruffalo proves his acting ability is something to take seriously by playing the highly dislikeable but uncontrollably likeable 'Doctor' part of a pandemic of 'white blindness' sweeping the city.
Those without sight are led to a high-walled facility for fear the blindness may be contagious whilst those with sight search for a solution.
As the number of the blind increase and over populate the facility there spawns a battle between the good and evil as those on the upper level 'Ward 3' start to rape and pillage. However, the good have the all important weapon; Someone with sight (Julianne Moore) 'Doctors wife'.
Those amongst the blind are; Gael García Bernal 'Bartender/King of ward 3' and Danny Glover 'Man with eye patch' both convincing performances.

I really liked this film. Left me with mixed emotions but generally satisfied with the viewing.
Hope this review gives you some insight to the essence of the film minus any spoilers. It deserves a place in my top 100 films and hopefully it will be a part of yours?

Some people may find some scenes in this film unsettling.
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on 27 August 2010
This is not a literal translation into film of the original written work, Blindness (Ensaio sobre a Cegueira) by José Saramago but it captures its message. It highlights the same important values that are often overlooked in a materialistic society and invites you to ponder on our human nature. Praise is also due to good acting and effective light effects (dark - bright light contrast). Worth watching. You may also wish to read the book, compare both and draw your own conclusions.
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on 27 November 2012
A disturbing but thought provoking story about a city hit with an epidemic of blindness. The book was amazing but as usual the film didn't live up to expectations but was still a good adaptation of Saramango's novel. I recommend reading the book first.
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