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Review by Jack Foley

IndieLondon Rating: 3 out of 5

DVD SPECIAL FEATURES: ‘A Vision of Blindness’ – 50 minute making of documentary; Deleted scenes with director’s introduction; Theatrical trailer.

FERNANDO Meirelles’ Blindness is not an easy film to like. By virtue of its source material, it’s an extremely harrowing experience that takes viewers into some very dark places.

Based on the acclaimed novel by Portuguese Nobel Laureate Jose Saramago, it’s nevertheless a thought-provoking film and further evidence of the Brazilian director’s undoubted skill as a filmmaker.

Set in a deliberately unnamed city, the story picks up as a Japanese motorist is suddenly blinded by whiteness in the middle of a busy junction. A good Samaritan takes him home, but then subsequently steals his car.

As the first victim seeks help and treatment, it slowly becomes apparent that his condition has started to spread and it’s not long before the doctor (Mark Ruffalo) that examined him also falls prey.

His wife (Julianne Moore), however, is immune to the virus and stays with him, pretending to be blind, as the doctor and his fellow victims are penned up in a special facility. But as more and more people succumb, a faction – led by a former barman (Gael Garcia Bernal) – takes control with violent results.

Both Saramago’s source material and Meirelles’ subsequent movie have drawn criticism from the National Federation of the Blind for its depiction of the blind. But both have been quick to refute the accusations, insisting that the story serves as a parable about our disaster prone times and our metaphoric blindness in the way we connect with one another.

Whereas Saramago’s text was set in the ’30s and ’40s, Meirelles’ movie is set in the present day.

What’s inescapable, however, is that in exploring some of the darker elements of human nature, the story does venture into bleak territory and a rape sequence – although obscured from view – is extremely upsetting and difficult to watch.

Audiences, too, may question the motivations of certain characters and why such a desperate scenario could ever have been allowed to unfold. Are we, as a species, really that blind to suffering until it becomes so acute?

Meirelles’, for his part, captures the blindness in convincing fashion and succeeds in asking some provocative questions. He also draws strong performances from a cast that includes Danny Glover and Alice Braga, as well as Ruffalo and Moore.

It’s just that the middle section of the movie proves such a torturous ordeal, and the characters prove so remote, that the film fails to connect on an emotional level, even though the story ends with a smattering of hope.

Blindness is visually stylish and well acted but it may well leave you feeling extremely uncomfortable and even emotionally numb for some time afterwards.

Certificate: 18
Running time: 2hrs
UK DVD Release: March 30, 2009