Blindness

So, I finished reading the book, and I finally saw the movie. And now to compare the two and review both the book and the movie (but moreso the movie). When a man (Yusuke Iseya) suddenly goes blind at a stoplight, an apparent good Samaritan (Don McKellar) takes him home to the man's wife (Yoshino Kimura)... and then proceeds to steal his car. The First Blind Man's Wife takes her husband to the eye doctor (Mark Ruffalo), who can't find anything wrong with the man's eyes, and also finds it peculiar that the man sees white instead of black, and he relays this peculiarity to his own wife (Julianne Moore). But when all of these people and more -- including the Man with the Black Eye Patch (Danny Glover), the Woman with Dark Glasses (Alice Braga), and a young Boy (Mitchell Nye) -- with the exception of the Doctor's Wife go blind, everybody suddenly believes this white blindness has become some contagious epidemic. The government begins quarantining people in a run-down insane asylum wherein they don't give enough food, medical help, or assistance of any kind, and will shoot somebody if he/she even gets too close to them or the exit. And when a hoodlum deems himself the King of Ward Three (Gael Garcia Bernal) and demands payment for food, the place begins an even quicker spiral into a living hell than it was already on.

     I would like to start off saying this: I'm still in awe at how very close this movie stuck to the book. It kept in even the littlest details or tiniest bits of dialogue. Of course, it did cut and change a few things, but most of those changes or cuts made the movie better for it, and were things that oftentimes barely even worked in the book the way they originally were. Such changes were the focus on the downward slopes of the relationships between the Doctor and his Wife, as well as the one between the First Blind Man and his Wife. The book just threw in little disjointed bits here and there, while the movie did a much better job at working with it and building on the idea. They also gave more personality and slightly more screen time to the King of Ward Three (who didn't even have that title in the book, but it fits just the same).

     I don't want to bore you by listing all the similarities and differences, but I do want to make one big note on a change. The book's biggest downfall is its third act. For over a hundred pages, it just dribbles on and on seemingly without end about absolutely nothing. Thankfully, the movie doesn't do this. It keeps in a lot of details from the third act, but cuts out just enough as to where I'm not bored to death. I wouldn't have minded seeing the old crazed woman at the Girl with the Dark Glasses' apartment building, but it would have only prolonged the movie's closure and served little purpose. But still, I was very glad that the movie altered the third act just enough so it would work much better than it did in the book.

     However, this also brings up some issues with the film as both a movie and an adaptation. I'm not sure if it's because I've read the book or if it's just as a movie-goer that I have this opinion (especially since this is the biggest issue I've read about in most reviews thus far): the movie seems to have lost something in translation. It doesn't have the same power or oomph as the book does. Perhaps it's because the book likes to go off into philosophical rants, and a movie can't exactly do that. However, it might have helped to add a bit more grit and grime to the film. The movie didn't even touch the disgustingness and grittiness of the book. The asylum and even the streets later on in the movie were considerably cleaner and much less disgusting or disturbing as described in the book. But then again, my sister, who hadn't read the book, felt it was gritty and disgusting enough as it was, so I could just have a biased opinion here.

     So enough on the adaptation level (at least for now), let's focus on it as a film. Did it work? Yes, I think it did... but only if you don't go in expecting some Hollywood thriller (like pretty much every person in my theater, from the ghetto crew at the back that left halfway through to the annoying people right behind us) and actually enjoy good cinema and films that make you think. The pace, just like the book, starts off slow and is a slow burn into the suspense and craziness before topping off and then easing back into the slow-paced philosophical stuff.

     The cinematography made me smile quite a bit, because it was filmed almost exactly how I would have imagined it to be in my head (not the settings and stuff, but the camera and lighting stuff). It were as if the book gave directions on how to film or light certain scenes, because in reading, I thought things like "Oh, it would be cool if they filmed it like this..." and then, to my surprise, it was filmed exactly like that (and seriously, how often does that happen?). There was a lot of playing with white and black/light and dark, just as there should have been.

     The acting was done really well, though my biggest complaint came as quite a surprise. Danny Glover's acting during a specific voice-over scene (which, again, is exactly how it played out in the book) came off as really fake and a bit annoying. But otherwise, the acting was done very well, I thought.

     I also have to take my hat off to the screen writer. I would have thought that making this book into a film would have been highly improbable a task, especially with how it was written. But not only did it happen, but it stayed amazingly close to the book (I'm sure you're sick of hearing that by now), only to differentiate at the most appropriate times, seemingly where the book had the most issues. However, one issue with the writing was in the characters. In the book, although it had some issues with character development, you still got to know the characters and their different relationships very well. Every character was rather deeply written, especially the Woman with the Dark Glasses, and that seemed to be removed from the film. Same goes with Danny Glover's character and The First Blind Man, both of which seemed to have much bigger roles in the book. They all became flatter versions of themselves (though the only one I didn't mind in changing was the Boy, who got rather annoying in the book). However, where the movie lost in depth, it gained in development, so I guess there had to be some kind of trade off.

     I'm not sure what else to really focus on here. To me, the movie could have been grittier (though I think it was, and the director had to edit it a lot in order to appease some people. I wouldn't mind seeing a Director's Cut). That was my biggest complaint, really, and maybe a bit more character depth and a way to include some of the more philosophical depth that the book had. Other than those things, I thought the movie was great. And if you enjoyed the book, like I did, there's almost no way you won't enjoy the film, as it's a near perfect (not quite, but near) adaptation.

Reviewed by: Nick
2 Comment(s)
Great review Nick. I'm so excited to see this. I was given the book as a gift and almost didn't read it. And then, when faced with the punctuation (or lack thereof) as I tried to weave my way through the first few pages, I wondered what I'd gotten myself into. It turned out to be one of the best books I've ever read.

As with every adaptation, I guess there's only so much that they can do, have the time/budget to pull off, etc. It's nice to hear how closely the movie stuck to the book. Fans should hopefully be pleased.

When I first heard they were turning this into a movie I was thrilled and then I began to wonder how they'd manage it. The book made things seem to desolate, bleak and hopeless. And, of course, there's the problem of filming what happens when the criminals demand "access" to the women in the other wards - do you include this part of the book and if so, how?

I don't make it to the theatre very often (unlike yourself, Shea, Adam and the rest of you) but this is one I'll definately try to catch on the big screen.

Thanks for the review!
K.
Nick said...
Karen: The orgy raping is in the movie still. But the director played it really smart... everything is kind of black, so all you can do is hear what's going on and the screaming, etc. (and that can really make it worse). Though you do see some stuff.