This is a really grim film. I mean seriously question-your-faith-in-humanity GRIM*! The basic premise is that the population of the world slowly turns blind, starting with a few related cases, and the first few hundred sufferers are quarantined (imprisoned) in an abandoned hospital to prevent them from infecting others.
Our plot follows a selection of the first sufferers of a debilitating and mysterious contagion that causes people to lose their sight. Our first sufferer is a lovely Japanese chap who goes blind while driving through the city. A stranger offers to drive him home – dropping him off and stealing his car. The following morning his wife takes him to the opticians (Dr Mark Ruffalo) who has no clue what is wrong with the chap. His other patients include a sunglasses-wearing prostitute and a little boy who actually looks creepily like one of my year 7 students. That evening we see Dr Ruffalo talking to his somewhat distracted wife (Julienne Moore) about this mystery illness and when he wakes up the next day he discovers he has also gone blind – panicking that he may therefore have infected his wife as well. Minus the doctor’s wife (who stays sighted throughout the film) everyone who has come into contact with the Japanese chap turns blind – causing much chaos. Those who have been blinded are collected and shipped to an installation to quarantine them from the population. At the last minute the doctor’s wife jumps in the truck as well, lying and saying she has also turned blind and so should accompany them. They arrive in the facility and are met by the others.
Things originally start off ok, with the wife feigning blindness but helping the others around the facility and taking care of them. Slowly, however, the facility begins to fill up, with food severely rationed and hygiene standards falling rapidly as the halls fill up with stinky, disoriented people, trailing feces around the place, urinating everywhere and wandering around naked in squalor – I guess it doesn’t matter if they are naked when there is no one to see them. The facility is surrounded by armed guards and when a stampede of new residents causes problems outside, they are shot down. The captives are thrown a spade to bury the bodies, however problems break out between the Doctor’s ward (ward 1) and ward 3 who refuse to help with the burials and declare themselves a monarchy – appointing a Latino chap, who I will call Che (he played Che Guevara in The Motorcycle Diaries – quite hot…) to be their King. Emotions are frayed between the doctor and his wife and after an argument the doctor ends up having sex with the blind prostitute, not realizing that his wife can see them doing it. Wifey is surprisingly calm and unemotional about her husband’s infidelity and they continue to wander on in their little quarantine hell. This all seems pretty bleak right? Well, just wait!
At the next food delivery serious problems arise when Che (with a gun) and Ward 3 commandeer the food supplies and inform the residents that in order for them to receive food they must pay for it with any valuables they have. Ward 3 also have a man who has been blind from birth– giving him a massive advantage over the recently blinded population. Weeks pass and eventually people run out of valuables to pay for food. This is where things get REALLY grim. Che announces that if the wards want to eat they must pay for it with their women. After initial uproar among Ward 1 and 3 days of having not eaten, 9 of the women reluctantly agree to go to Ward 3 and ‘service’ its residents in return for food for their ward. The women include the doctor’s wife, the Japanese chap’s wife and the prostitute. The film graphically portrays the women’s ordeal in Ward 3, with Che forcing the doctor’s wife to give him oral sex and one of the other men beating a women to death because she is ‘a wet fish’ in bed. The women eventually get to leave, and drag their dead companion back to Ward 3, along with a minimal amount of food. At this point in the film you are really beginning to lose hope in humanity.
Eventually, with the prospect of having to return to service Ward 3 in return for the next lot of food, Mrs Doctor sneaks into Ward 3 with a discovered pair of scissors and, while Che is raping another woman, she stabs him through the eye – killing him. This starts a Ward war, with the blind-from-birth man wielding the gun and promising revenge. At this point the doctor’s wife reveals to the rest of Ward 1 that she has retained her sight and a plan is made to fight off Ward 3. One of the ward sneaks along and sets fire to a mattress in ward 3 – igniting the entire ward and eventually burning down the entire facility. Huddled outside in the courtyard – fearing slaughter by the armed guards – the wife realizes that the guards have left and the facility is no longer locked down. Ward 1 leaves. Happy ending, yes?
No. Life outside the facility is hardly better than life inside. The rest of the world has turned blind and people have reverted to living like animals, fighting, killing and doing anything to stay alive, while most people are starving to death on the streets. The doctor’s wife is mobbed while retrieving food from a supermarket store room but is saved by her husband who drags her away.
FINALLY from this bit on things DO seem to look up, as the remaining Ward 1 seek refuge at the doctor’s house and live fairly contentedly as a family, even adopting a dog. In the final minutes Japanese guy regains his sight – leaving the rest in hope that their own sight will return – dawwwww.
Basically this is a really soul destroying film. The sad thing is that I can imagine people actually degrading to this state if faced with this scenario. Basically humanity once taken out of their comfortable existence is SHIT. For those of you who have read The Day of the Triffids the premise is pretty similar – with humanity crumbling into savagery when blinded and unable to survive. At the beginning of Triffids we see squabbling and disorder in the streets, gangs forming and abducting women and a basic inability to act in a civilized manner. Sound anything like Blindness? Yeah.
Now, I am generally all for apocalyptic survival scenarios etc but this is a scenario I REALLY don’t want to get stuck in. Blindness really shows what humanity is capable of and if I were left helpless in an environment like the one shown here… well…. That would suck. A lot.
*and I’ve seen some pretty miserable films.