Rating: R for sexuality, violence and adult themes
Run Time: 1 hour, 55 minutes
Director Fernando Meirelles (smarter than smart “City of God” and “The Constant Gardener”) tackles José Saramago’s searing stream of consciousness novel with intriguing but mixed results.
The resurrection of humanity is a touchy subject; uncomfortable on its surface and downright horrifying beneath. Such is the case for the residents of the edgy, unnamed Anytown where an epidemic of blindness, known as the “white sickness” descends on a bewildered population.
Psychosomatic or neurological? Scientists are at wits end as the country falls into a state of crisis and victims are sent to camps housed in an abandoned mental asylum to fend for themselves. Among them is a brilliant eye doctor (Mark Ruffalo) whose 20/20 vision abandons him, and his seeing wife (Julianne Moore) who is inexplicably spared yet refuses to leave her husband behind.
Assuming the blindness is contagious the camps are quarantined; dissolving into a putrid state of filth and disrepair as their hungry residents yearn for provisions and aid.
Shades of Nazi concentration camps and/or “Lord of the Flies”; a bitter populace stooping to the lowest common denominator on the compassion scale. One violent ward supervisor (Gael Garcia Bernal) goes so far as to barter valuables for food. When those run out he trades sexual relations with the camps’ females for whatever is left to eat. Conditions hit rock bottom and the sighted woman takes action into her own hands with haunting results.
Meirelles appears to be of two minds here; one in keeping with the blistering, earthy tone of Saramago’s allegorical masterpiece and the other with a propensity for cinematic affectation – milky, bleached out frames, good vs. evil and potential apocalypse lurking around every corner. This from the man who colored Brazil’s ferocious favelas irresistible in “God”; heavy-handed rebirth of civilization aside he certainly has the touch.