Monday, February 16, 2009

On Blindness

Blindness is a movie based on the book of the same name by José Saramago. Basically, there's this unexplained epidemic of blindness that spreads throughout humanity. Instead of the world around them, everyone only sees a sea of white.

It's less a story of how everyone learns to adapt and live with their new situation and more a story of how the world crumbles around them and falls apart.

In the beginning, the government decides to quarantine the blind, in the hope of stopping the spread of the mysterious infection. Those who become blind are put into a hospital. The walls are surrounded by guards, but there is no staff inside the hospital. The blind must care for themselves.

How quickly would humanity break down in a situation like this? If, suddenly and inexplicably, we could no longer see the world around us, how long would it take for us all to fall apart? Obviously transportation would be difficult. If you can't see, you can't drive. And, since no one else can see, there's no one to cart you around. And, once out of your home, how would you find your way back? Do you know how many steps it is to get to the store? The corner? The end of your driveway? How do you prepare food for yourself if you can't see what you're making? Sure, you can judge by the smell or the feel of something, but in our pre-packaged, microwaveable world, how do you know what to do with that little tray or that can of...something?

Some people are born blind, others go blind after time, and they survive. They don't become savages. But, like I said, Blindness isn't about people learning to adapt. This is a vision of anarchy. This isn't someone going blind with the world to support them. There are no buses to take you to the doctor if you get sick. Hell, there aren't any doctors at this point, not really. I mean, what good is a blind doctor? This is just of society's collapse. This is what anarchy looks like. This is what happens when people stop being polite and start being real.

About 80-90% of the movie is pretty bleak. There is little humor to be found, little hope. Just misery. Bad things just keep happening. They're quarantined. They fight. There's little food. No one cares. They live in filth. They're robbed. They're raped. It's a pretty awful existence. The hospital that they're quarantined in becomes more like a concentration camp than a medical facility.

There is some levity to be found, some moments of tenderness and ultimately hope. Those things do exist, even if this world makes them hard to find.

Unfortunately, as a movie, it's a bit of a mess. While the unexplained blindness is a part of the story and is meant to be that way, too many things go unexplained. There are too many coincidences. Too many times where you're shown something and think 'wait. what?' It becomes a bit off-putting. The performances, however, are solid. You do buy into these people all being blind. And I have to commend them on the efforts they all went to to accomplish that.

It's an intersting story, and certainly worth exploring, but I have to the book instead.