starring Julianne Moore, Mark Ruffalo, Alice Braga, Yusuke Iseya, Yoshino Kimura, Don Mckellar, Maury Chaykin, Mitchell Nye and Danny Glover
screenplay by Don McKellar
directed by Fernando Meirelles
Based on the novel by José Saramago, Blindness is an Andromeda Strain/Outbreak/28 Days Later/I Am Legend kind of medical thriller. But it is not a big Hollywoodproduction. It almost - but not quite - looks like a low-budget-made-for-TV film because it was made cooperatively by several national film companies and filmed in several nations - Canada, Brazil, and Uruguay. I have been waiting a long time to see this movie because many of the scenes were shot in a vacant former minimum security prison in my hometown - Guelph, Ontario - that we used to call the “Reformatory.” That was two years ago, in the summer of 2007. I was home for a vacation and returned to Tokyo just one week before the big Hollywood stars Julianne Moore and Danny Glover arrived in town and took over the local Holiday Inn.
Even though I know many scenes were shot at the former prison, I was disappointed that nothing was recognizable. In fact, I thought that they did not need the Reformatory at all. The scenes could have been shot in a Los Angeles studio. Is there something special about the Reformatory building, or its grounds, or the City of Guelph that attracted the attention of location agents? Or, was the studio attracted by film subsidies offered by the city of Guelph, Province of Ontario, or National Film Board of Canada? Or, did legal mandates of Canadian content in entertainment push the Guelph location contrary to efficacious budgeting? I don’t know.
The premise was good, but justice was not done to the story. Too many cooks in the kitchen, I imagine. A mystery illness is sweeping the globe and people are going blind. In an effort to contain the spread, governments quarantine the blind in facilities (the former prison in my hometown). Those resisting or trying to escape detention are shot on the spot. But once inside the quarantine facility they are not given any treatment. No one is in control, so we see how the inmates take control of themselves in a brutal, bloody-in-fan-and-tooth kind of animalistic way. It’s most scary to see the breakdown first of civility, and then of civilization itself. It happens so easily in the movies. I wonder how easily it can happen in reality?
I know from personal experience that in difficult times civility goes out the window almost immediately. But I tend to think that civilization is stronger stuff than mere polite civility. (During the Black Death in medieval Europe, for instance, society continued to function in an orderly manner despite a 25% death rate. During war and civil war almost anywhere in the world society continues to function.)