Monkey Reviews

Through the Eyes of A Chimp

Monkey Reviews
July 7, 2009

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“Blindness” - “The blind leading the blind …. Chimp”

Maybe it’s because my mind has been caught up in the Isaiah story lately that made watching the movie “Blindness” so striking. As they say, the tale told is one of “biblical proportions”. Jose Saramago bases the movie on the book of the same title “Blindness”. I went to Amazon to read a brief overview the novel: “Blindness is in many ways a horrific novel, detailing as it does the total breakdown in society that follows upon this most unnatural disaster. Saramago takes his characters to the very edge of humanity and then pushes them over the precipice. His people learn to live in inexpressible filth; they commit acts of both unspeakable violence and amazing generosity that would have been unimaginable to them before the tragedy. The very structure of society itself alters to suit the circumstances, as once-civilized, urban dwellers become ragged nomads traveling by touch from building to building in search of food. The devil is in the details, and Saramago has imagined for us in all its devastation a hell where those who went blind in the streets can never find their homes again, where people are reduced to eating chickens raw and packs of dogs roam the excrement-covered sidewalks scavenging from corpses.”

It might seem like I’ve just given it away but there is so much more to this “apocalyptic” fable. While the details are important what you come away with is the sense that you’ve encountered something archetypal. The details and the plot-line serve what is clearly a “meta-narrative”. You know there’s something deep informing the story when throughout the movie you are reminded of “The Road”, the Exodus, Homer’s Odyssey and as I said in the beginning, the plight of Israel seen through the eyes of a prophet.

The usual ingredients of Hollywood apocalyptic movies are absent from this movie and in my opinion “Blindness” is better off for it. You aren’t assaulted by special effects and explosions, there is no mega-hero outfitted in military garb saving the day for America, no pretty ending where the streets return to the order of the status quo and the epidemic or scourge that attempts to wipe out all society is not an excuse for gore. Rather the ailment that brings down society is really an ailment of the soul. Blindness is the presenting problem and you do see how, on the literal level, it makes life, as they know it, a misery but blindness is also clearly symbolic. The idea of what it means to have a vision in a world where no one can see is just one of the messages that ring through this cinematic telling. As well, themes of baptism and being washed clean, community, the remnant few, joy in the midst of sorrow all play off each other to make this movie more than just an “End-of-World” blockbuster. What makes a good movie great are often the little things that seem at first glance, tangential.
Blindness blends dialogue that feels real and natural with cinematography in such a way that the end result is that the viewer feels part of the desolation, part of the blindness and in the end part of a much bigger story. It is a story that can only be told after the sorrow and the suffering. It is a story that a prophet long ago might have told anyone with ears to hear.