Of a mixed North and Latin American cast, Julianne Moore (right) and Mark Ruffalo play the leads, as an opthalmologist and his wife who are first on the scene when an unexplained pandemic of blindness breaks out in an unnamed (but New York-evocative) metropolis. Meirelles initially mounts the film as a generic apocalyptic thriller – distant shots of traffic chaos as another victim is blinded – before modulating into, briefly, disease-of-the-week investigation and more extensively pressure-cooker horror as the stricken are imprisoned together by jack-booted soldiers and start descending, ‘Lord of the Flies’-style, into internecine savagery among near ‘Salò’-levels of degradation.
How thin is the veneer of civilisation? That is the question here, with a supplementary query on the differing responses of men and women in the face of moral panic and necessary sacrifice.
As most of us already know the answers to both, all we’re left with is the spectacle – one of fumbling men and women reduced to foetal positions or shooting at each other in the dark. Sadly, ‘Blindness’ may realise its director’s worst fear: to produce not only an exploitation B-movie but one, paradoxically, spoiled by its own integrity and misplaced ‘artistic’ mise-en-scène and intentions.