Bryan Caplan  

See Blindness

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It's been years since I saw a movie like Blindness.  I spent the last half hour savoring that rare thought: "I have no idea what's going to happen next."  The premise: A plague of infectious blindness erupts, and turns the world upside down.  I'll avoid spoilers, so just let me say that the story unfolds with horrifying realism.  The audience gets to see the political economy of fear, the social science of group formation and group conflict, and the psychology of hunger.  And as in every great post-apocalyptic story, we relearn the great lesson: When times are tough, man is wolf to man.

Do not see this movie if you lack a cast-iron stomach - it has the visceral intensity of the original Saw.  "Graphic" shows like L&O and CSI will not prepare you.  You will feel like a witness to the awful experiences of real people.   At the same time, though, you will see how little it takes to make people smile in desperate circumstances - and be grateful for all the gifts you have.  At this very moment, I'm not just glad I can see.  I'm also very glad to live in the modern world.  The only place I'm likely to see man be wolf to man is at the movies.
 

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COMMENTS (13 to date)
The Cupboard Is Bare writes:

I suspect that the creator of "Blindness" may have gotten his/her inspiration from an old "B" Sci Fi flick called "Day of the Triffids". In this film, people all over the world are blinded by watching some kind of meteor shower and find themselves falling victim to a predatory species of plant as well as people who are less than honorable.

libfree writes:

For the moment, at least until the global financial meltdown sends us back to the stone age.

Teresa Rodrigues writes:

Blindness is based on a book by Jose Saramago,a portuguese writer, Nobel Prize Literature.

He's not universally loved in Portugal probably because he scares the living daylights out of everyone.

To Mr. Caplan as long as you're sure these things happen only in the movies.

KipEsquire writes:

TCIB stole my comment. Day of the Triffids was outstanding by the standards of the period.

Zubon writes:

The movie is not as deeply obsessed with excrement as the book, is it? I understand that it works the motif of human degradation, but that was a lot of feces. At least the film has not been using "graphic rape scenes!" as a promotion.

RL writes:

If Bryan enjoyed Blindness, he'll especially like the sequel, Seeing. Per Wikipedia's synopsis: "Seeing is a story set in the same country featured in Blindness and begins with a parliamentary election in which the majority of the populace casts blank ballots. The story revolves around the struggles of the government and its various members as they try to simultaneously understand and destroy the amorphous non-movement of blank-voters."

gappy writes:

"Blindness" (the book) is great, as is most of the work by Saramago. I am glad to hear the movie is also good. I am mentioning this because today the Nobel Prize for Literature was announced, and is a marginal writer. The Nobel committee seems to have misfired this year and in recent years. In hindsight, Saramago was an excellent choice.

Mike Linksvayer writes:

The sooner humans become the mere pets of robots, the better.

Badger writes:

Saramago is an unapologetic communist, and his books have a solid reputation for being boring to death among those who were forced to read them in school by equally communist teachers.
Meirelles, the Brazilian director, despite having proven his filmmaking skills in "City of God," is a typical Latin-American leftist with schizophrenic world views due to having achieved success as a producer of TV ads for large companies -- not an uncommon mental disorder among leftist artists in that region, BTW.
Now, somebody please explain to me how such a combination of "talents" could have produced a movie that's actually watchable (if indeed it is)?

Bryan Pick writes:

Bryan, you just sold me on the movie. Partly because I'm a sucker for well-done tragedy. I had seen the teaser and I was intrigued, then saw the trailer and started to have a few doubts, but you've sold me on it. I just need to carve out some time to go see it!

Badger, if I had to agree with the politics of all the artists whose work I patronize, I'd be bored out of my mind. Unless they're trying to shove their politics down my throat, I get by just fine. Even when the hero becomes a mouthpiece for the author's own politics, I can just chalk it up as one more flaw in the hero -- no problem with that. What bugs me is when the hero's politics improbably work out just perfectly -- which is another case of shove politics.

The Cupboard Is Bare writes:

KipEsquire,

Aside from myself, you are the only person I know who has ever heard of "Day of the Triffids". I first saw that flick in the 60's when I was about 8 years old, and it scared me.

I bought the VHS and still watch it now and then.

Mauro Mello Jr. writes:

Brian - howdy!

"The only place I'm likely to see man be wolf to man is at the movies."

You should also see Michael Haneke's Time of the Wolf, released in 2003, which explores similar themes as the ones you mentioned about Blindness (which I haven't seen, though) — "political economy of fear, the social science of group formation and group conflict, and the psychology of hunger" — when an undefined event causes a catastrophic failure of social, political and economic institutions. Alas, homo homini lupus, in full force.

Haneke (a German-born, Austrian director & writer) captures people's amoral and pragamatic responses to a breakdown they are individually incapable of comprehending, and that even the collective cannot resolve.

Alex J. writes:

I just saw the movie. I will try to be euphemistic, but there might be spoilers below.

It struck me that the protagonists were in denial for some time about the lifeboat situation they were in. They should have taken the concerted action that they did much sooner. They should have planned for its eventuality before that. The behavior of the Good Samaritan should have gotten the rest of the characters planning for eventualities. The outsiders disregard for their welfare showed that they were on their own. When people were not team players about small matters, this made it clear that they would behave likewise with large ones.

By the end of the movie, they should have been thinking about agriculture.

There are also a number of irritating horror-movie-isms. eg: You want Mr. X to do you a big favor. Mr. X is afraid of you. Mr. X has a gun and says if you come any closer he will shoot you. In order to get Mr. X to do you the big favor, do you A) move closer to Mr. X or B) do anything other than move closer to Mr. X? In horror movie land, you continue to move closer to Mr. X.

I still liked the movie. Unlike most cinematic pap, it was thought provoking enough to get me thinking about these questions.

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