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Blind [AFI Fest 2014]
Other // Unrated // November 7, 2014
List Price: Unknown [Buy now and save at Fandango]
When a story is being told from a specific perspective, it's absolutely critical to understand from who it's coming from. It can sometimes take quite a while to determine whether one is a reliable narrator. This might be Eskil Vogt's directorial debut, but he's an experienced writer who has a firm understanding of character and fluidity, andBlind is no different. While the film has its set of serious issues, it has a fascinatingly core of ideas that utilize several themes. It's just a shame that the feature's strengths are only taken so far before Vogt begins jogging in place.
After recently losing her eyesight, Ingrid (Ellen Dorrit Petersen) retreats to the safety of her home. Fearing the dangers of the outside, she recluses herself, only to face her inner demons. These are fueled by the insecurity that her husband, Morten (Henrik Rafaelsen), may be cheating on her. She spends her days writing a novel, as she expresses her fears of a possible affair. Ingrid begins to displace these anxieties, as her repressed fantasies rise to the surface.
Blind starts as a piece of visual poetry, as Ingrid tries to remember specific details of when she could see. Whether it's a dog or the carving in the bark of a tree, she's fighting to avoid losing these memories. Her husband isn't shown in relation to her for nearly the entire first act, as the picture allows us to feel the intensity of being locked in this the same few rooms with the protagonist. By not immediately identifying Morten, it allows us to feel further trapped within this space, as Ingrid begins to feel fantasize. At this point of the film, we can't help but empathize with Ingrid, as she progressively becomes more separated from the outside world. The core of the film is essentially given away, making us wonder, where else can this story go? While it remains intriguing, it never moves in much of a meaningful direction, as it focuses on explaining already-made concepts, rather than exploring new ones.
As Ingrid continues to struggle with the adjustment to her lack of sight, she begins to narrate the lives of a few people, which are all inevitably connected by Morten's supposed affair. She imagines what they think about, their motivations, and how they relate to her blindness, and how her husband could be taking advantage of her blindness. The first features Einar (Marius Kolbenstvedt), who is a lonely man with an obsession with various sexual experimentation of women, who acts more as a voyeur. It starts from casually watching porn, and transforms into following various women around town. The second is Elin (Vera Vitali), who is a divorced mother who has her own personal demons when it comes to meeting new people. They are connected through Ingrid's voice-over, as they prove to have ties to Morten that allow us to view a perception of what he may believe of his wife.
Up until this point, Blind proves to be smart, impactful, and captivating, but it spends a lot of its running time running in circles through the remainder of the film. Rather than using its message as a stepping stone, it doesn't tell us anything else. It keeps making the same point over and over again, and there are only so many times that we can see it before it starts to get a bit stale. Numerous critical plot elements feel as if they're confusing simply for the sake of being confusing, calling for us attempt to wrap our minds around something that is simply there to be "artsy." If you're taking notes on the feature as I was, then you just might find them to be useless words on paper, as the feature changes directions so many times, that it feels as if we have been standing still the entire time. It hardly feels like a complete personal journey by the time the credits start rolling.
When it comes to the performances, the film doesn't disappoint in the slightest. Ellen Dorrit Petersen is captivating as Ingrid. As the role begins to break down little by little, Petersen truly delivers an often heart wrenching portrayal. Henrik Rafaelsen is outstanding as Morten. Given the various perspectives provided of this character, this performance calls for numerous interpretations, making it a complex role. Yet, Rafaelsen manages to convince us of each one. Truly a performance to behold. Vera Vitali is solid in the role of Elin. While this character is sure to receive mixed emotions, audiences are sure to be hypnotized by Vitali's charm.
Eskil Vogt delivers upon a marvelous sense of tone in the director's chair. While we're in Ingrid's home, we're provided with a claustrophobic atmosphere that cannot be shaken off easily. As Ingrid reaches towards the ceiling, her fingers are no more than an inch away from it, but when we're shown reality, the ceiling is far above her. This is one of the many chilling examples that displays Vogt's ability to make us feel as Ingrid feels, before seeing how it really is. The lines between fantasy and reality continue to blur, as we're once again reminded that we're following an unreliable narrator. Blind is poetry for the soul.
A strong concept at the core of a film is crucial, but it's what the filmmaker does with it that makes or breaks the feature. In the case of writer/director Eskil Vogt, he spins us around before telling us to step forward, making for a puzzling moviegoing experience, where we're then questioning whether the film actually went anywhere. Supported by excellent performances and an impactful visual presentation, this is a feature that could have been great. Instead, it settles for just being alright. Blind is intriguing, but it doesn't capitalize on its greatest strengths. Rent it.
Blind will be playing at AFI FEST 2014 presented by Audi on November 7 and November 8.