Darkness Visible

Blindness Running Time 120 minutes Written By Don McKellar  Directed By Fernando Meirelles Starring Mark Ruffalo, Julianne Moore, Danny Glover,

Running Time 120 minutes
Written By Don McKellar 
Directed By Fernando Meirelles
Starring Mark Ruffalo, Julianne Moore, Danny Glover, Gael García Bernal

In Blindness, a noxious, stomach-churning and deadly pretentious freak show by Fernando Meirelles, the talented Brazilian director of City of God and The Constant Gardener, the citizens of a big city are stricken by a plague that renders them sightless. A Japanese man goes blind in traffic. The same fate befalls the man who steals his car, as well as the eye doctor (Mark Ruffalo) who attends them both. Suddenly it’s happening all over town, as victims are quarantined in the cages of an abandoned mental institution. The doctor’s wife (Julianne Moore, who is lately working above and beyond the call of duty in one bad movie after another) pretends she’s blind, too, so she can bravely accompany her husband to the isolation ward. While the government and the scientists debate funding, cures and research, the populace is left to its own insanity and filth. In the darkness, panic ensues. Infected victims are preyed upon by other inmates, abused by the guards and forced to sleep in their own excrement. Gael García Bernal plays a bartender who takes over the food supply and declares himself king of the blind, raping the women in exchange for bread and water. As a microcosm of civilized society reduced to primitive lawlessness, they discover sex, violence, greed, hunger and murder, sacrificing their sense of pride, morality, dignity and self-respect. After the horror of the cages, the real hell awaits in the sunlight outside, as the grimy, ravaged and courageous Ms. Moore leads the survivors to file through empty railroad cars filled with decaying corpses, through streets of starving people fighting off packs of wild dogs feasting on human flesh. The extremes are so barbaric few audiences will sit through them, and despite the allegorical intentions, the apocalyptic literary views in the José Saramago novel upon which it is based fail to translate coherently to the screen. Finally, they see, but then the milky white film covers their eyes once more. Are they all going blind again? What does it all mean? Nothing about Blindness ever makes any real sense; you go away feeling lousy, and it is hateful to look at. I have never seen floors filled with the contents of waste from overflowing toilets (to put it politely) photographed with so much misguided artsy-craftsiness. Worst of all, the torture slugs along for more than two hours. It’s hard to believe the film’s Canadian screenwriter and co-star, Don McKellar, is the same man who won the 2006 Tony award for writing the delicious Broadway musical The Drowsy Chaperone. And it’s getting tiresome watching the glorious Julianne Moore waste her talents playing so many resilient, clueless sufferers. This is one movie where sightlessness might be a blessing.

rreed@observer.com Darkness Visible