Lets face it, not every film can be a winner, no matter how badly you want it to be good. This particular theory was one that I was reminded of this week as I screened Fernando Meirelles’ latest film Blindness. It is the story of a mysterious epidemic of blindness that breaks out, causing a state of panic and a government attempt at a cover up. Unfortunately, the outbreak is relentless, causing the world to slip into an apocalyptic state of shock where violence and hunger are widespread. It was a damn cool concept, one that was refreshing. And coming from the same guy who directed City of God, I had every right to be excited.
Yet, no matter how I twist it in my mind, no matter how I attempt to rationalize it, there is something about Blindness that is holding me back from saying that this is one of the most interesting and visionary films of the year. It is certainly ambitious enough of a project, taking on the lofty concept of what would happen if everyone all of the sudden went blind. Underneath the surface, Meirelles makes loud statements about essential nature of humanity, our will to survive, and the potentially dangerous consequences of said will. It also makes a few very poignant statements about relationships, what keeps us together and what drives us apart. For the intellectual film goer, there is much to be deciphered here, and much to be appreciated.
The problem, I suppose, is that the film gets in its own way. Somewhere toward the end of the first act, as we follow a group of afflicted blind people as they are incarcerated by the government and left to fend for themselves with little support from the outside world, the pace of the film comes to a grinding halt. So much so, that it appears as if this might be the only set piece of the entire movie, that it might end here. But it doesn’t. In fact, there is still plenty of movie left after the seemingly climactic moments are through. It is tough to get through, even for the most seasoned movie watcher.
And therein lies my struggle with my own assessment of this film — sure, it really drags us along through its full two-hour run time and beats us up a bit with its depth, but that is no reason why it shouldn’t be seen. In the end, it is still an incredibly well made and well-acted film. Julianne Moore and Mark Ruffalo anchor what can only be described as an impressive cast. As well, Meirelles’ ability to deliver stunning visuals, especially when he shows us what the world looks like to the newly blind.
In the end, Blindness is a film that is ambitious in every way. And despite the fact that it comes with a few problems, most of which involve pacing, it is a film that can be appreciated for what the filmmaker was trying to accomplish, rather than what he did accomplish. Does that make any sense? Let me see if I can simplify — there are plenty of you out there who are interested in the concept behind this movie. If that is you, go see it. You won’t be disappointed. For everyone else, this might be one of those films that is best left for your Netflix queue, as it isn’t necessarily going to knock your socks off.
The Upside: A very ambitious, well-acted film that speaks loudly about the elements of human nature.
The Downside: It gets in its own way by dragging the audience through the metaphorical mud with pacing that is off just enough to make it feel overdone.