Wednesday, October 1, 2008

The Blind Hating on Blindness

(Just a note before reading this post, I have tried to remove as many of the spoilers as possible from this post. If you want to read them, just highlight the words in between the brackets.)

The National Federation of the Blind decided to go out of their way to protest Fernando Meirelles' new film Blindness, opening on October 3rd. The press release was sent out yesterday and it can be found here. Originally I was not going to write a post about this news until I actually read the press release that was sent out.

In their defense, Cinematical informs me that seven staff members of the National Federation of the Blind have actually seen the film, three of them being sighted and four of them being blind. It's a good thing that they actually watched the film before they started to blast it for portraying the blind as "incompetent, filthy, vicious, and depraved." I saw this film at the Toronto International Film Festival, and now I am just wondering if we all saw the same film.

Their major argument is that the film portrays the blind in a disgusting manner that will further harm the image of blind people in the real world. First of all let me just say that I personally do not believe it matters if you are blind or not, and that people are defined by who they are, what actions they take, what they think and not by physical traits, disability or otherwise.

This is a film about an epidemic of blindness that sweeps the whole world. It is not really about blind people at all, but rather about people who can see and then lose their sight after coming into contact from others who have contracted the disease. This is important because many choices of the characters and many of the circumstances are based on this fact, not that they are blind but because they have become blind so suddenly and without warning.

[SPOILERS] In the film that I recall seeing, some of the "deplorable" acts in the film occur while the population is still sighted. At the beginning of the film Don McKeller plays a character only known as "Thief". He steals the car of a man who has just gone blind, and while he can still see. Of course, this event doesn't really compare to the terrible things that happen once the characters are placed inside an abandoned asylum, but I do believe it does go to show that everyone has the capability to do evil or vicious things, sighted or not. Even once inside the asylum there are vicious acts that occur. There are some scenes that are sure to make some audience members walk out in disgust. However, even with these scenes on cannot say that there are good or evil characters. The blindness that affects the population acts as an equalizer between all people. Societal structure falls apart once we all become the same. Their is lawlessness and rampant abuse of human rights. Why? Because we no longer have to follow those rules now that there is no one left to enforce them. Some of the people who were hit with the disease at the beginning of the film slowly begin to show their true natures once they realize that there is no order inside the asylum. [/SPOILERS]

While continuing their argument, the N.F.B. states, "Only one woman, played in the film by Julianne Moore, remains able to see, feigning blindness to remain with her husband. She is portrayed as physically, mentally, and morally superior to the others because she still has her sight." While it is true that she might be superior to some of the other characters in these ways, but this would have also have been true before the epidemic of blindness had hit anyone. This is another reason why I feel that this argument is a little foolish. The film never portrays anyone as a saint, everyone does horrible things, some much worse than others.

[SPOILERS] There is a sequence in which the women of the asylum are forced to have sex with the men of Ward Three in exchange for food. If they do not give up their bodies the people in their wards will starve. While the women of Ward One are having sex with the men of Ward Three, one of then men kills one of the women. In one of the most moving and beautiful scenes in the film, the rest of the women of Ward One carry the body of the dead woman back, clean her, and wrap her. Later, Julianne Moore's character murders a man in Ward Three with a pair of scissors and arguably causes the death of many more people, does that put her morally above others in the film? This is why I say the argument of the N.F.B. is a little foolish. There is no one side to this story, no good guy and no bad guy. [/SPOILERS]

In closing I would just like to reiterate that this film is about society as it falls apart due to an epidemic of blindness that sweeps through the world. It is not an attack on the blind but an exploration of the capabilities of human beings when placed under extreme circumstances. I highly doubt such intelligent people and artists would make a film that would only act to metaphorically lambast the blind.


[Source Cinematical]

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