Clive Barker once said, "Horror shows us that the control we believe we have is purely illusory," and this time out I'm reviewing a film that illustrates that truism beautifully- assuming, of course, that one's definition of 'beauty' includes atavism, anarchy and creeping, pervasive dread.
Hello again, gentle reader. This time out, Uncle MJ's reviewing 2008's Blindness, starring Mark Ruffalo, Julianne Moore and Danny Glover. Our story begins as a man (Yusuke Iseya) is suddenly, while driving through an intersection, struck with a strange "white blindness" wherein the victim's entire field of vision is filled with an opaque whiteness. ("It looks like I'm swimming in milk", says he.) He is quickly 'assisted' by another man (Don McKellar), who drives the first victim home, then steals his car... becoming infected in the process. The first victim (none of the characters in the movie are named) goes to an opthamologist (Ruffalo) who determines that there's nothing physically wrong with his eyes or optic nerves and sends him home. Soon, people all over the city (New York, by appearances) are struck blind, a state of epidemic is declared, and the victims are rounded up and quarantined- including the opthamologist and his strangely-immune wife (Moore).
|Blonde leading the blind.|
This is when the movie truly begins to convey its payload of pathos, its delivery of dread; once quarantined, the victims are left entirely to their own devices, apart from a daily food delivery. Ruffalo's character attempts to establish some form of order, with designated representatives from each ward, but- people being people- that order swiftly erodes and is replaced by a few brutish louts with a 'might-makes-right' mentality. Soon, the louts (Ward 3, collectively) begin highjacking the deliveries and demanding payment for food- first in the form of money and jewelry (that both would be useless to them simply never crosses their minds), then in more... personal stock-in-trade, when they deman 'use' of each ward's women. (Significant trigger warning- I myself got fairly angried-up at this point.)
This is definitely one of those movies where the horror comes not from any particular character (although the King of Ward 3 makes a serious bid), nor from the situation itself (although the terror of a populace suddenly struck blind is certainly conveyed artfully); rather, the real horror comes from the face humanity shows when the mask of 'civilized society' is peeled back, revealing the grunting, snarling beast waiting beneath. The audience is left with absolutely no doubt that their morals are, at best, a thin veneer and that that pig-faced monstrosity is a very real and omnipresent thing. In the immortal words of Pogo, we have met the enemy, and he is us.
|How many fingers am I holding up?|
I do so love the movies that make me ask myself hard questions, and Blindness can certainly count itself among them. Moreover, the visual effects are used to brilliant result, perfectly illustrating the frightening uncertainty and debilitation the characters feel due to their sudden blindness; in one scene, a young boy is walking slowly through a kitchen, and suddenly bounces off something- only when we see the rebound and hear the clong sound are we shown the metal table into which he walked. The score is rather spare- almost minimalist- in places, but this is often contextually effective. The acting is excellent, as expected when one assembles a cast as strong as this- powerful emotions, displayed with subtlety and grace.
|In the land of the blind, the one eyed man is...|
In short, this is a movie perfect for watching alone, or in a very small group- Blindness will make you feel a lot of things, and ask a lot of uncomfortable questions.