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.