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Blindness (2008)

Miramax Home Entertainment
DVD Released: 2/10/2009

All Ratings out of
Audio: 1/2

Review by Mike Long, Posted on 2/9/2009, Updated 8/17/2012

Since the dawn of film, many trends have come and gone and many things have changed. But there is one practice which has been in place since the beginning and it's still thriving today: When a book is popular or important, someone is going to try and turn it into a movie. Be it the latest bestseller or a literary classic, producers love to bring books to the silver screen. But, this raises an important question; Just because you can adapt a book into a film, should you? Blindness by Jose Saramago won not only critical acclaim, but the Nobel Prize for Literature. However, prizes aside, would the book make a good movie?

(Author's Note: None of the characters in Blindness have names -- ML)

As Blindness opens, we see a man (Yusuke Iseya) driving his car through a crowded city. Suddenly, traffic stops moving because the man has gone blind. A good Samaritan (Don McKellar) drives the man home (and then steals his car). The blind manís wife (Yoshino Kimura) takes him to an eye doctor (Mark Ruffalo), who can find no problem for the blindness, which the man describes as being white and bright, instead of total darkness. The Doctor goes home to his wife (Julianne Moore), and when he awakens the next morning, he canít see either. Thus begins an epidemic of people suddenly going blind. The government creates a detention center for the victims, and despite the fact that she can see, the Doctorís Wife accompanies her husband to the abandoned hospital which is converted to a make-shift shelter. Once there, they find a living hell. There isnít enough food, the tenants fight, and since everyone is blind, no one can take care of themselves. Living in fear of what is happening both inside and outside the hospital walls, the Doctor and his Wife must focus on survival.

Typically when I write a review, Iím completely autonomous. Before I write, I try not to read any other reviews or even the blurbs on the DVD box so that what you are getting is 100% my opinion. But, Iím going to have to lean on my wife for part of this review, as sheís actually read Blindness...which she hated. I do remember hearing rumblings from critics that the movie was nowhere near as good as the book. (The movie currently has a 40% (out of 100) on Rottentomatoes.com.) According to my wife, the movie follows the story of the book very closely, and many key scenes from the book are replicated here. So, why the huge difference in opinion. How does a Nobel Prize winning book become a movie which over half of the major critics didnít like? (And one which earned only $3 million at the box-office?)

For me, the biggest problem with Blindness is that itís shockingly unoriginal and pedestrian. Again, note that I wrote ďto meĒ. The vast majority of the entertainment in which I partake falls into the horror, sci-fi, or action category. Perhaps literary critics and Noble Prize panels donít dabble in those genres, and thus didnít feel that way about the novel. The only original notion here is the idea of a group of people suddenly going blind, but this parallels any movie where an infection is quickly spread (more on that in a moment). (There is a famous novel and film entitled The Day of the Triffids where a passing comet (meteor?) causes everyone in Britain to go blind.) Once the story moves to the hospital, the story plays like a combination of any zombie film where people become isolated + Lord of the Flies + Season 3 of Prison Break + my fast-forward button. Because of this, there are very few surprises in the story.

But, as itís based on an ďimportantĒ novel, one gets the feeling that the purpose of Blindness isnít so much to tell a compelling story (which it doesnít), but to hide a deeper meaning. The movie is all about manís inhumanity towards man, which weíve seen in every Romero zombie movie, and it seems to be asking us, ďWhat would you do?Ē It makes a mistake in asking this, because it highlights the flaws with the Julianne Moore character. She keeps the fact that she can see a secret, but as the only one with sight, she should be in charge. Instead, she spends her days cleaning up after everyone. When things get bad, she waits a long time to make her move. This is frustrating to the viewer and instead of creating tension, it simply makes us dislike the film.

Blindness also makes a huge mistake by being too ambiguous for its own good. At the outset, we assume that the blindness is created by some sort of infection which is passed from person-to-person, but this is never verified. The hospital takes on an Orwellian feel as the blind arenít allowed to communicate with anyone on the outside and theyíre never given any information. I wonít give away the filmís ending, but I will say that it simply ends with no explanation for what has just transpired. I simply canít imagine anyone, even the artsy ďI like to decide for myselfĒ crowd, being satisfied with that ending.

Blindness is one of those films whose grim subject matter keeps it from being a fun viewing experience, and thereís no denying the fact that itís a depressing movie. But, Director Fernando Meirelles has also crafted a film which is devoid of emotion and simply boring at times. You would be better off staring at a blank screen than watching Blindness.

Blindness loses sight of quality on DVD courtesy of Miramax Home Entertainment. The film has been letterboxed at 1.85:1 and the transfer is enhanced for 16 x 9 TVs. Meirelles has taken a specific visual direction with the film and this is reflected in the transfer. The movie has a very washed-out look and this process has created some grain on the image. There are some nice-looking colors at times, but for the most part, we are treated to shades of grey and white. Despite these issues, the image is sharp. I did note some mild video noise at times, but nothing too distracting. The DVD carries a Dolby Digital 5.1 audio track which provides clear dialogue and sound effects. The scenes in the hospital allow the track to show off some nice stereo and surround effects. Noises constantly surround the characters and this track helps to drive that home. Some scenes of violence provide moderate subwoofer effects.

The Blindness DVD contains only two special features. "A Vision of Blindness" is a 55-minute documentary which focuses on many aspects of the production. Through comments from the filmmakers and the cast, and copious amounts of on-set footage, we get a close look at the making of the film. The piece explores the locations, the training which the actors received in order to act "blind", the director's approach to the look of the film, and the visual effects. We also get a detailed study of some of the film's key scenes. The DVD also contains five DELETED SCENES which run about 6 minutes and can be viewed with commentary from Director Fernando Meirelles. Two of these are truly deleted scenes, while the other three show alternate takes from the film, two of which slightly alter the story.

On September 4, 2012 Echo Bridge Entertainment in conjunction with Miramax brought Blindness to Blu-ray Disc.  The film has been letterboxed at 1.78:1 (as opposed to 1.85:1 on the DVD release) and the Disc contains an AVC 1080p HD transfer which runs at an average of 30 Mbps.  The image is very sharp and clear.  There is a slight amount of grain here, but this comes from a stylistic choice on the part of the director.  The picture has a nice crispness to it and it's nicely detailed -- we can make out textures on objects.  Again, this is a muted film colorwise, but the colors which do show up look very good here.  The Disc carries a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track which runs at a48 kHz and an average of 3.6 Mbps.  The track provides clear dialogue and sound effects.  From the opening shot, it's obvious that this is a great track.  The amount of detail here is impressive, as we can pick out individuals noises in the chaos.  The front and rear speakers stay very busy as the mix accommodates the surround sound channels in the best possible way.  Obvious, yet subtle subwoofer effects help to round out this audio experience.  Overall, this is one of the most technically impressive Blu-ray Disc releases thus far from the Echo Bridge/Miramax affiliation.

As with the DVD release, the Blu-ray Disc contains "A Vision of Blindness" and the DELETED SCENES.  It also contains an additional featurette entitled "The Seeing Eye".  This 36-minute piece is another "making of" piece which offers a detailed look at the planning and precision which went into shooting the opening scene.  From there, the featurette takes us on-set to see the creation of several scenes from the movie.  We hear about the amount of detail which went into the scenes and Meirelles worked to make things accurate.

Review Copyright 2009/2012 by Mike Long