by Johnny Web (Uncle Scoopy; Greg Wroblewski)

From the official Cannes program:

"A city is ravaged by an epidemic of instant "white blindness". Those first afflicted are quarantined by the authorities in an abandoned mental hospital where the newly created "society of the blind" quickly breaks down. Criminals and the physically powerful prey upon the weak, hording the meager food rations and committing horrific acts. There is however one eyewitness to the nightmare. A woman whose sight is unaffected by the plague follows her afflicted husband to quarantine. There, keeping her sight a secret, she guides seven strangers who have become, in essence, a family. She leads them out of quarantine and onto the ravaged streets of the city, which has seen all vestiges of civilization crumble. Their voyage is fraught with danger, yet their survival and ultimate redemption reflect the tenacity and depth of the human spirit."

Summaries like that are usually submitted by representatives of the film itself. Noting that, we may want to be aware that anything which willfully purports to "reflect the tenacity and depth of the human spirit" is probably some seriously pretentious schlock.

Blindness does have some leanings in that direction, but is actually a thoughtful movie.

Although the film was adapted by Don McKellar from a novel by Nobel laureate Jose Saramago, this general approach to the apocalypse reminds me very much of another film scripted by McKellar: Last Night. In the latter, it is simply a given that the world will end tomorrow at noon. There are no scientific or theological explanations offered for this phenomenon. It's just a given, because the author wants to focus entirely on the behavioral issues. What would people do on the last night of existence? Would they bond? Would they eat rich food and take drugs and make love non-stop? Would they take sleeping pills to pass through the final gates without fear? Would they pass the time in quotidian tasks? Would the bad people continue to hurt others until the very end? The premise of Blindness comes from the same core of thought. It is simply not important why the entire world is going blind, nor why the one woman is immune to the epidemic. It just is that way. Period. Granting that premise, how would people behave?

I'd say that the work stands with the best of science/fantasy fiction in that it does not begin by trying to try to push some point of view, then creating a contrived story to support it, but simply sets the premise and tries to figure out what kind of world we would live in if the premise were true. The difference between the two can be illustrated by the difference between the book version of Children of Men and the film version. The book started with this premise: "What would happen to a world without children? What would the world be like 20 years after the last birth? 40? 60?" From that origin, the author tried to picture a world without youth:  the services neglected for the lack of strong backs, the lack of planning for the future, the poignantly deserted playgrounds and schools, the increase of religious cults, the gradually increasing ratio of women to men, etc. That hypothetical world did not become particularly violent because violence derives mostly from the recklessness and testosterone of young males, and there were none. On the other hand, the movie version started with this premise: "Bush sucks. Oh, yeah, and there's no more kids." From there, it was lost because it was forced to abandon the first rule of thoughtful science fiction: pose the "what if" question, then try to answer it as honestly as possible, with the ultimate purpose being to study how human nature adapts to or is affected by unusual or extreme conditions. We don't need science fiction to tell us what would happen if Bush sucked. We saw it under actual laboratory conditions.

By the way, I liked the movie version of Children of God. It was an interesting movie, excellent in many, many ways. I liked the story, but it had almost nothing to do with the original premise about the lack of children. It was a good film, but bad science fiction - because it made no effort to stay true to its premise. It did not really try to picture what the world would be like without young men (and the young women they fight over.)

From that perspective, Blindness is not as good a movie as Children of God, but it is better science fiction. The world it pictures is very much like the world we might live in if everyone suddenly went blind. In one small corner, the isolated hospital ward of the first few victims, society degenerates into brutality. In the real world, given the premise, that sort of micro-society would certainly emerge in some confined places. Jails, for example. In contrast, the streets outside are not filled with brutality, but simply sadness, chaos, and desperation. People wander in search of food and shelter and a proper toilet. Vital services are neglected.

The scenes in the contamination ward are claustrophobic and painful to watch, but the movie is very different after the escape from that ward. The scenes on the streets of the city are thoughtfully constructed. Sure, life is bad on the streets, but it's not entirely without hope. People take joy where they can - exulting, for example, in a warm summer rain which allows them to bathe and gather drinking water. The small "family" that becomes our anchor in the film finds a modicum of peace and even gets to celebrate Thanksgiving - and they truly believe there are things to be thankful for, even in those black times. And the ending even offers a ray of cautious optimism.


* awaiting product info





1.5 Roger Ebert (of 1.5 stars)
3 James Berardinelli (of 4 stars)
41 Rotten Tomatoes  (% positive)
45 (of 100)





7.2 IMDB summary (of 10)




Box Office Mojo. USA: A massive bomb. Only three million in gross, despite distribution to 1690 theaters.

Overseas: about $12 million.





This film is filled with nudity. In a world of the newly-blind, nudity becomes unimportant and casual. What difference does being naked make when nobody can see you? There is a steady procession of naked unknowns.

In addition:

  • Breasts from Julianne Moore
  • Breasts, buns and full side nudity from Alice Braga.


Our Grade:

If you are not familiar with our grading system, you need to read the explanation, because the grading is not linear. For example, by our definition, a C is solid and a C+ is a VERY good movie. There are very few Bs and As. Based on our descriptive system, this film is a:


The second half of the movie, which pictures the streets full of blind people,  presents enough imagination and thoughtfulness to overcome the ugly, claustrophobic start.