“Usually when I make a film, I can get started by going to Google, doing research,” Fernando Meirelles said about his new movie “Blindness,” opening October 3, 2008.
“But this is a film based on nothing. It’s all invented, a generic city with characters who have no names and no past, who get a disease that doesn’t exist. After I got involved in the film, I realized, wow, this is like a trap.”
“In most films everything is based on the eyes. You cut to show where the character is looking, that’s how you tell stories. It’s all about point of view, and I wasn’t going to do this film showing only Julianne’s character’s point of view. So how do you get people involved with the characters when you can’t put them in the same position visually?”
So, his solution, he said, was: “I put the audience in this blind world, to try to deconstruct the image, if I can say that. Sometimes the image is washed out, sometimes it’s out of focus, sometimes the framing is totally wrong, deliberately and toward the end of the film I even tried separating the sound from the image, showing a character with his mouth shut, but you’re hearing his voice.”
“It was all very experimental. Very scary. But “Blindness” is not scary in a horror-movie way, this isn’t science fiction, really. It’s a metaphor.”
His movie is “not a story like that, about a disease and somebody looking for a cure. The plague here is just an excuse to explore human behavior, how this blindness affected people, how they’d react if nobody could see them and they could do anything, knowing that they won’t be judged.”
In the movie people attack each other because they all went blind at the same time and were quarantined, away from anyone that could see. They become helpless from not having any experience being blind. There is only one character who was blind before the epidemic and he is the second most powerful character in the movie, since he knows how to be blind.
In “Blindness”, disease-blindness manifests itself not as darkness but as total, blank-page whiteness.
So, Meirelles said: “This movie, is about how we lose our humanity and how we get it back, how we learn to see again.” In other words, the whiteness that this film’s characters see isn’t, or doesn’t have to be, merely blindness: it’s also the light at the end of the tunnel.”
“I agree with Jose Saramago. After all these years of civilization we’re still very primitive. In a crisis, we always seem to go back to our basic instincts, everything becomes about eating and sex. I want the film to remind us that we’re part of nature, not so special, we’re really animals.”
But, The American Council of the Blind released a strongly worded statement criticizing “Blindness” (“outrageous and offensive movie”) for its portrayal of blind people as “uncivilized, animalized creatures.”
Interestingly, director Fernando Meirelles was willing to revise the film in response to criticism from women regarding a scene of sexual violence. According to the LA Times, Meirelles changed a disturbing scene depicting a brutal rape after nearly 10% of his audience walked out of a test screening.
But that was not enough…Baltimore-based National Federation of the Blind plans to protest the movie!
Blind people and their allies will hand out fliers and carry signs. Among the slogans:
“I’m not an actor. But I play a blind person in real life.”
“The movie portrays blind people as monsters, and I believe it to be a lie,” said Maurer, president of the organization.”
The protest will include pickets at theaters in at least 21 states, some with dozens of participants, timed to coincide with evening showtimes. Maurer said it would be the largest protest in the 68-year history of the NFB, which has 50,000 members and works to improve blind people’s lives through advocacy, education and other ways.
People are blind in lots of ways, not just in the inability to see.