This Film is NOT a Future Release.
The Following Preview has been Archived.
April 21st, 2008:
When a sudden plague of blindness devastates a city, a small group of the afflicted band together to triumphantly overcome the horrific conditions of their imposed quarantine.What to Expect:
Before I begin telling you about Blindness I must first give a little disclaimer: Everything I say in this article is going to be a little biased because Fernando Meirelles
is one of my favorite directors. This guy truly knows how to make a movie. Meirelles has the uncanny ability to take extremely difficult social issues that would turn off most filmmakers and present them with such great style and rhythm that you walk away both entertained and touched at the same time. His efforts, although not huge box office hits, have been able to create a loyal fan base as well as critical acclaim, especially his last two movies: City of God and The Constant Gardner. However, despite all the Oscar nominations, he has not been able to walk away with the Oscar just yet. Well I am sure that is all about to change with Blindness, which is based on the novel of the same name written by Nobel Prize winning author José Saramago. Blindness deals with the sudden and total collapse of society brought on by a sickness that has rendered everyone blind. The book just screams for Meirelles to adapt. It is an extremely violent and thought-provoking, much like his best movie, City of God. Thus, as long as this great director is able to recreate the magic of his previous two movies, another Oscar nomination should be his. Article continues below
As excited as I am about this movie, I have to admit that it would have been much better had it been made three years ago. The reason I say this, is because Blindness is extremely similar in themes and in story arc to Children of Men. Blindness tells the story of some unnamed city which is suddenly stricken by a disease that brings on blindness. The story revolves around a doctor and his wife. For some reason the wife is not stricken with the disease. The first few victims, including the doctor and his wife who pretends to be blind to stay by his side, are quarantined to a mental hospital that is hastily converted into a quarantine camp. Conditions at the camp quickly deteriorate and our civilized society soon falls apart. The strong begin to take advantage of the weak; there is random violence and rape. People soon group together in gangs that battle each other. Meanwhile, the hapless government, in a fruitless attempt to control the situation, begins to enact harsh policies to control the populace. This idea is quite similar to the one that is presented in Children of Men, where society falls apart because mankind can no longer reproduce and people lose their humanity, immigrant ghettos are formed and the government responds with harsh means to control the people. Just like in Men, in Blindness the problem quickly spreads outside the ghetto and society fully collapses. Eventually the doctor's wife is the only one who can see, but she must keep it a secret in order to avoid violent reprisals. I guess that old saying "In the land of the blind the one eyed man is king
" does not apply in this situation. And once again, another parallel is drawn to Children of Men where Kee, the one woman who can still get pregnant, is kept a secret for fear of what would happen to her. A group of people form to protect Kee and must lead her to the Human Project at any cost. In Blindness, much like in Men, a group of people band together in a sort of "family" and must also go on a perilous journey through a devastated city in order to reach safety. To make matters worse, not only is the story extremely similar but so is the style and camera work. Now imagine had this movie come out in say 2005, then it would have not only beaten Children of Men to the theaters but it would also have predated Hurricane Katrina. Had that happened, the movie would have received a huge amount of press and attention because the way society collapses in such a shockingly short period of time and the failure of the government to protect their people would have mirrored what happened in New Orleans post Katrina. Unfortunately, people have such a short memory that most have already forgotten the hurricane and all they are going to see is a Children of Men rip off.
Of course Meirelles is not to blame for the poor timing of this film. He wanted to adapt Blindness into a movie ten years ago. He was attracted to the story "by the paradox of making something visual about sightlessness
" but the author would not allow it. To be fair, Saramago also turned down Whoopi Goldberg
and Gael García Bernal
(Babel) when they tried to buy the rights as well. In order to understand why he said that, we must first understand the man himself. The Nobel Prize winning author is an outspoken Stalinist. He had grown up poor in Portugal and developed much of his political theology living under the right wing political dictatorships that dominated the country for half of the 20th century. He developed a very harsh outlook on people, government and religion. In fact, he actually lives in self imposed exile in the Canary Islands after the Portuguese government opposed his anti-church book, The Gospel According to Jesus Christ. Much of Saramago's writing is peppered with his political views including, to a lesser extent, Blindness. Under this scathing dialogue on the nature of man, there is a clear call for the need of the types of safety nets and social controls that a Communist government would ideally provide, and because of these strong beliefs he did not want a Hollywood studio to get their capitalist hands on his book. As he put it, "I did not want my book to fall into the wrong hands.
" Finally, in 2005, Saramago reluctantly agreed to sell the rights to Producer Niv Fichman and screenwriter Don McKellar
on the condition that they use an unrecognizable country and do not water down his message or themes too much. It only took the men two days of hanging out in Saramago's Cannery Island compound and listening to the aging Communist's rants. Don McKellar quickly wrote a screenplay adaptation that stuck very close to the book. Niv Fichman then approached two of the unsuccessful suitors for the rights, Garcia and Meirelles and gave Garcia a part in the movie and offered Meirelles a chance to finally direct his dream project. Both men eagerly agreed.
Meirelles' highly anticipated project quickly turned out to be his most challenging undertaking. First he had to make a movie where every character is blind except for one. This presented several challenges: There really cannot be a first person point of view, as the director puts it: "everything is related to point-of-view, to vision. When you have two characters in a dialogue, emotion is expressed by the way people look at each other, through the eyes. Especially in the cut and edit. You usually cut when someone looks over. Film is all about point-of-view and in this film there is none.
" Instead he developed a milky screen that he placed over the camera to show the blind's perspective, making everything look white and blurry. He also hired a coach to work with the main cast as well as the seven hundred extras to train them on how the blind move around and interact with each other. After conquering the blindness challenge, he was still confronted with the Everest-size challenge of staying true to the novel's major "any man," "any city," "any time" theme. In the book, to accomplish this feel, the city is never named, neither is the time period and none of the characters have names, instead they are referred to by nicknames like "The Doctor," or "Dark Glasses." Doing these things are pretty easy in text because the author has full control of information, while in a movie it becomes very difficult to hide where the movie is being filmed, all a person needs to see is a famous landmark in some shot and he knows exactly where the story is taking place or sees something in the background that gives away the year and the city. In order to overcome these difficulties Meirelles decided to film the backdrops in his hometown of San Paolo, Brazil because he felt most Americans and Europeans would not recognize the city. Then, in order to add to the confusion, all the indoor and close-up shots were filmed in Canada. He also made sure that there was no technology being used by any characters that would be associated with a certain time frame. To finalize his illusion, Meirelles assembled a truly international cast. He first cast a trio of American stars as the main leads: Mark Ruffalo
(Zodiac, Collateral) as the Doctor, a part that originally was supposed to go to Daniel Craig
(Casino Royale) but was awarded to Ruffalo after negotiations with Craig fell through, Julianne Moore
(Boogie Nights, Big Labowski, Children of Men) as the Doctor's Wife which should draw even more comparison to Children of Men, and Danny Glover
as the "Man With Black Patch" as well as the Narrator (I guess Morgan Freeman was busy). Then he got Japanese stars Yusuke Iseya
and Yoshino Kimura
as "First Blind Man" and "First Blind Man's Wife" respectively. Then he got a few South American actors, including the earlier mentioned Gael García Bernal as "King of Ward 3" and Alice Braga
(City of God) as "Girl With Sunglasses." Of Course Don McKellar would not allow the international cast to be complete without his country represented, so he got himself a small part as "The Thief" and Sandra Oh
("Grey's Anatomy") as "The Minister of Health." With all these actors and all their different accents, it made it impossible to decipher where the story was taking place and also gave the film a huge international appeal.In Conclusion:
One of the hardest things to do as a filmmaker is to adapt a book into a movie, but it looks like Meirelles is up to the challenge. He took an extremely challenging book in Blindness and made a movie that retained all the violence and style of the original story. If you have ever read the book then you will be pleased with Meirelles' vision, and if you are like most Americans and have never heard of the book or the director, then you will be pleasantly surprised. Blindness will be one of the few movies that is entertaining while still being uncompromising in its message. It is one of those films that people will talk about for a long time, especially come award season.
Similar Titles: Children of Men
, 28 Days Later
, Escape From New York