Julianne Moore and Mark Ruffalo succumb to Blindness.
BLINDNESSdirected by Fernando Meirelles, written by Don McKellar from the novel by José Saramago, with Julianne Moore, Mark Ruffalo, Gael García Bernal, Danny Glover and McKellar. An Alliance Films release. 120 minutes. Opens Friday (October 3). For venues and times, see Movies. Rating: NN
The makers of blindness would very much like you to know that the version that played the Toronto International Film Festival last month, and which reaches theatres this week, is different from the version that opened this year's Cannes film festival.
The clumsy voice-over that opened the earlier cut is gone. The opening reel has been tightened up here and there, mostly to the detriment of Don McKellar's character. (Is he still a car thief? It's hard to tell for a minute or two.)
And a pivotal sequence has been altered, presumably in response to criticism from North American journalists who couldn't understand why it takes so long for one of the movie's Good Characters to kill one of the Bad Characters.
Great, whatever. The movie's central metaphor remains broken.
Blindness, the novel, is a dense, digressive text written in a manner designed to deliberately obscure the action and the characters from the reader's perception. José Saramago wants to cloud your mind's eye, to immerse you in the experience of not seeing - not comprehending - the story he's telling. Paradoxically, it serves to further identify the characters with the reader.
Blindness, the movie, couldn't do that without turning into a radio play. Instead, director Fernando Meirelles plunges into the story's most visual aspects - which is to say, the look and texture of the world of the plague.
But he does so at the expense of the inner lives of the people who inhabit that world. Saramago's device of leaving his characters unnamed and undescribed beyond their immediate profession - a doctor's wife, a car thief, an old man - doesn't work at all now that they look just like Julianne Moore, McKellar and Danny Glover. And none of them has anything like a character to play.
It's not like a few tweaks can blind us to that.