FILM: Blind

I saw BLIND, Norwegian screenwriter Eskil Vögt's directorial debut, and was inspired by its fresh and daring storytelling. Vögt - who wrote Joachim Trier's films REPRISE and OSLO, AUGUST 31ST -  got the screenwriting award at the sundance film festival for BLIND.


"Places are harder. It helps if I knew them well before it happened", Ingrid (Ellen Dorrit Petersen) tells us at the beginning of the film. She has recently lost her eyesight and all that follows is a series of glimpses into her head; fictional or real events in her life and that of the people around her. For 91 minutes we are taken on a meditation on sound and vision, which slowly gets us to let go of the conventions of storytelling and slide into the imagination of a blind writer.

As she tells us about how she is fighting the anticipated loss of her ability to visualize things, she - our main character but also, as will become clear, our director, the agent that will generate everything we see and hear for the next hour and a half - has a woman walk into a glass door. We can hear her chuckle. With that chuckle she takes responsibility for the funny little accident. It’s all in her head. Slowly we learn that she is a writer, and has a rich fantasy, which we explore with her. "Its not important what is real, as long as I can visualize it" she says.

In a way BLIND celebrates the victory of story over truth, asking of its audience to let go of the question "what is really going on?" as everything is really going on - in her head at least. Almost like a director would with characters from a script, she introduces and describes 3 characters, changing them, blending them, slowly giving away just enough about them for us to imagine who she might be basing them on. Her fantastic rendition of these characters seems to have a subtle sense of revenge or punishment in them.

Einar (Marius Kolbenstvedt) is addicted to the visual stimuli of online porn, "the female body held no secrets for Einar", she says, "He could instantly distinguish and categorize the bodies passing by, but the internet couldn't tell him how it would feel to touch these bodies". He is shy and lonely, does little with his life, and suffers from anxiety attacks: "So it basically ended with me and my PC, staying at home".

Morten, (Henrik Rafaelsen) Ingrid’s husband, sneaks out of the house under the pretext of going to the gym, since going to the cinema is not an accepted excuse for alone time. When she finds out she starts to fantasize about him having an affair. In her fantasy he is online dating the third character in the story, Elin.

Elin (Vera Vitali) is a single mom, who lives across from Einar and is equally lonely. As the story progresses Ingrid makes her go blind. I feel this might be her punishment to her husband Morten, who is online dating behind her back and ends up dating Eilin, who goes blind in the middle of their first real life date.

In a heart-breaking scene Ingrid has Elin tell Morten that she is pregnant through a text message she writes - and finally decides to erase - on the bus, with a whole audience of people who hear her phone read aloud what she has typed (being blind already at this point) He doesn’t seem to care and behaves like a jerk when she shows up at his office-party. I feel this is Ingrid's vengeance. She portrays him like an insensitive jerk for the way he forced her to move on too quickly (he pushes her to attend that party earlier in the film, regardless of her clear signals that she doesn’t feel comfortable doing so) as well as for the way he reacted to her pregnancy, which is the reason why Morten’s presence in the apartment always feels like a flashback. Of course al this is not spelled out in the film and that is what makes it so brilliant.   

The cinematography of Thimios Bakatakis is phenomenal. Very soft, natural yet well-controlled light gives the white stylized, (Dreyer-esque?) spaces a sense of unimportance (“Places are harder”, we even swap location several times during continues dialogues) The light is never obviously crafted, yet very subtle and balanced. Great use of negative fill; always a winner!

The use of sound in this film is another interesting point to be made. It is one of those films that in a very smart way knows how to use and abuse sound. As in the Club Silencio scene in David Lynch’s Mulholland Dr. it strongly disconnects sound and image, something Lynch did to illustrate the transition between dream and reality, but Vögt uses it to make clear how for a blind person sound becomes a generator of images. Ingrid’s mind makes the sounds she hears around her “see things”.

Petersen as well Vitali do an incredible job at playing blind, convincing us with every small gesture and even the way they seem to hold their balance, that they can't see anything, with their eyes open, it made me wonder if they had some sort of lenses in that kept light from hitting their retinas.

I think Eskil Vögt is a name to look out for in the years to come. With this film he has proven that his talent reaches far beyond the writing part of film making.

seppe Van GriekenComment