The story in Blindness – Jose Saramago’s apocalyptic “vision” as interpreted by Fernando Meirelles – is simple: Mankind is affected by sudden, inexplicable and instantly transmittable blindness. Society fractures. Some cope, and survive decently, some descend into cruelty and madness – everyone spirals into hell. (I kept thinking about Lord of the Flies.) Only one woman, the paired-back and stripped-bare Julianne Moore – who’s excellent – is able to see, and she leads her new family out from the chaos.
It took me two attempts to get into this movie. The bit I thought would be most gripping – the horror and panic as the infection spreads and the world loses its sight – was disrupted by a pac-man-esque soundtrack that was oddly up-beat and not at all brooding or ominous. It made it hard to engage. However, when I went back to the film the next morning, and essentially followed the survivor’s harrowing tales, I found it compelling.
As for locations, Saramago long resisted selling the rights to the book to Hollywood, and when he finally did so it was under the proviso that the city chosen as the location for the film would not be recognisable. Meirelles has achieved this honestly: the movie shot in Sao Paolo, in the oddly-named Guelph in Canada, in Japan and in Uruguay (hello Uruguay!). The discombobulating effect is added to by an international, polyglot cast.