Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Blindness

This, contra the subject of my previous post, appears to be worth your while.

This is based on the excellent novel by Nobel Prize winner Jose Saramago. The novel is a fast--because absolutely gripping--read; I hope you'll have a chance to read it before going to see the film. The premise: an unexplained blindness suddenly strikes masses of people worldwide, and world governments quarantine the afflicted in compounds of various sorts in their attempts to halt the spread, dropping off food to them but otherwise leaving them to fend for themselves. It is not pretty, as you might imagine. There is squalor and violence as the need to survive leads to the emergence of baser instincts in some. But there is also courage and decency and love--it seems that the need to survive can also bring out our better angels.

Fans of McCarthy's The Road should like Blindness as well. Though their premises are very different and they end in different ways, they traverse much the same thematic terrain. In fact, while reading The Road I was struck by the similarity of its texture to that of Saramago's novel.

It sounds strange to say, "Go see Blindness" but, well, you should. Or at least read the novel.

UPDATE: Christopher Orr's review of the film isn't positive, but he does raise the question I did in comments of how, given film's inherently visual nature, this particular film would deal with a text most of whose characters cannot see.

4 comments:

Carla said...

Blindness was my first introduction to Saramago, a novelist with an uncanny ability to make the absurd seem realistic, and perhaps, even probable. For those who have already read the novel, might I also suggest Seeing, Saramago's revisitation of the people and the city affected by the plague of blindness four years earlier. As Ursula K Le Guin of The Guardian wrote, "one book illuminates the other in ways I can only begin to glimpse." Seeing is a fascinating discourse on the lingering effects (from policies to paranoia) that can consume a city long after an event has unfolded. It also speaks to how past events can become chimeras, invoking unfounded assumptions about current circumstances.

Both novels are powerful reads and, considering the current climate, could teach us much about the state of our nation.

Gwynne said...

This was a gripping novel and as one affected by glaucoma but having neglected my treatments for awhile, I had a hard time reading it without feeling like I was also going blind. I'll look forward to the movie...I didn't know it was being made.

Pam said...

I didn't know it was being made either - something to look forward to! I really enjoyed the book too.

I haven't read 'Seeing' - but after reading Carla's comment above, it seems that it needs to go on my list!

John B. said...

Thanks for the comments, all.

Carla, thanks for reminding me about Seeing, and I second Pam's comment.

Gwynne, your comment made me ask myself how watching this film, where everything is "seen" in advance for the audience, will compare to the novel. It seems to me that as readers we are somewhat in the position of the people stricken with blindness in the novel: like them, the reader has to visualize the narrator's descriptions so as to begin to make sense of the space and characters described.