The Blindness That Sees

4 11 2008

Blindness
Jose Saramago
Harcourt
September 2008, 334 pages, $15.00

Review by Derek Beres

Considering that this book review is only being assigned due to the theatrical release of the 13-year old Blindness (11 years in English translation), it only makes sense to discuss both film and book. Let me begin by saying that when I read this book for the first time, it immediately became my favorite novel, and I have since read everything this Portuguese author has written.

His Nobel Prize was in good faith—he is one of those rare scribes who has truly found an original voice, redefining literature through his seemingly “ungrammatical” refusal to use any punctuation other than periods and commas. His sentences can last three pages, and yet the reader is never lost, never once not amazed at how one man can create so profound a rumination on universal topics wrapped into the heart and soul of everyman.

This is the major reason why it is impossible to make a film “as good” as the book. The medium of movies creates distance between the characters and the individual. When plastered across the screen, no longer can you understand the unnamed characters in Blindness as differing aspects of one person; no longer do you integrate the emotional and psychic content of each voice as one aspect of yourself.

The movie is symbolic of the Genesis—the one becomes the many, and the many are separate from the one who is yourself. The doctor’s wife is now Julianne Moore, not the strong archetypal feminine motif; the doctor is the dim-witted but lovable (or, at least mostly likable) Mark Ruffalo, not the uncertain persona within each of us capable of self-doubt and deceit.

That said, Fernando Meirelles’s adaptation is outstanding on a number of levels. While I was slightly skeptical entering the theater, I had to remember this is the man who directed City of God and The Constant Gardener. Like those two movies, Blindness is cinematically stunning and mentally stimulating.

Read the full review on PopMatters.

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