Flops I love: Blindness

7 08 2009

In one of the many rainy and gray days this (supposed) summer, I watched “Blindness”, the movie adaptation from the excellent book “Ensaio sobre a Cegueira”, by Portuguese author and Nobel Prize winner José Saramago:

This is the plot summary, sourced from IMDB:

A city is ravaged by an epidemic of instant “white blindness”. Those first afflicted are quarantined by the authorities in an abandoned mental hospital where the newly created “society of the blind” quickly breaks down. Criminals and the physically powerful prey upon the weak, hording the meager food rations and committing horrific acts. There is however one eyewitness to the nightmare. A woman whose sight is unaffected by the plague follows her afflicted husband to quarantine. There, keeping her sight a secret, she guides seven strangers who have become, in essence, a family. She leads them out of quarantine and onto the ravaged streets of the city, which has seen all vestiges of civilization crumble.

I read the book in Portuguese (my first language, if you’re a newcomer to this blog) more than 10 years ago, and was skeptical about how well it would translate to English, as Saramago’s style of long and convoluted sentences may irk folks used to a language that excels in being concise and objective. A movie adaptation would be even more challenging: the book is an allegory rich in images, smells, noises and emotions. Converting that to actual faces and action could ruin the whole experience.

My expectations were very low for the movie, but I was immediately hooked by its attention to details such as the effort to make it set in a non-recognizable city, use of an international cast, and the camera point-of-view. Of course, most people don’t care about any of that, but I also found the storytelling to be engaging and well-paced, and the actors are really good too.

I’m clearly in the minority here: according to Box Office Mojo, the production budget for Blindness was $25 million, while the worldwide gross revenue came short at $20 million. Its “rotten” consensus in Rotten Tomatoes does not help either: “not as interesting as its premise implies”. I beg to differ, but for the sake of full disclosure you need to know that Blindness was written by a Canadian and directed by a Brazilian, so I may not be a very impartial judge here. And hey, have I told you that I liked The Godfather Part III and Beneath the Planet of the Apes and hated The Lord of the Rings? Now you know, so follow my recommendation at your own risk.


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4 responses

8 08 2009
smartpeopleiknow

I think there are films that are worth watching, even if they have major faults. I think Blindness might be one of those.

Now the Planet of the Apes movies….hmmmm.🙂

8 08 2009
Aaron

What do you mean? They are right there with Godard and Fellini!

I mean, in the sense that most people heard about them but didn’t bother watching them🙂

8 08 2009
Tom P

Hmmm. I always watched this movie recently but I felt that the story lacked overall cohesion. This may be because I have not read the book. My interpretation was that the physical blindness was allegorical for spiritual blindness. However, when the end of the movie came I felt like I missed the point. They were lucky to have a leader who had vision to guide the blind but why was she the one who had it?

8 08 2009
Aaron

Great comment Tom, that was one of the reasons why many of the reviews in Rotten Tomatoes didn’t rate it higher. You just gave me inspiration for my next post🙂

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