Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Eskil Vogt's startling and original new film takes us far and fiercely into the mind of the BLIND

What an unusual -- and unusually intelligent and psychologically astute -- movie is BLIND, the first full-length film to be directed by Eskil Vogt, the fellow who earlier co-wrote two other highly-regarded Norwegian films, Reprise and Oslo, August 31. Most films about the blind use this handicap for purposes of thrilling us (Wait Until Dark), plucking our heartstrings (At First Sight) or, more lately, showing us how the loss of one valuable sense only leads to the heightening of all the others (Netflix's brilliant new comic book-based series, Daredevil).

What interests Mr. Vogt, shown at left, is something else entirely: the state -- mental, physical, sexual, spiritual -- of being blind and what this can do to the suddenly no-longer sighted. That's a big order. What makes Blind even more impressive is how quietly and intelligently the filmmaker manages this. He allows his heroine, Ingrid, (Ellen Dorrit Petersen, shown below) to narrate, bringing us into her life in her own quiet manner, and we're of course with her all the way. Poor girl.

The key, she tells us, lies is in remembering things correctly. Such as the dog -- a German Shepherd -- or a department store. And so she remembers both. But wait: What is the dog doing inside the department store? Oh, yes -- and the poor girl's husband: addicted to porn web sites and voyeurism! The first fifteen minutes of the film, in fact, are practically a voyeur's delight. What with all the porn we see, and that sleaze of a hubby.

And then there's the neighbor (Vera Vitali, above) -- a divorced mom with a young son to care for. Wait a minute: I'm wrong. She has a daughter. And about that husband: there are actually two of them, one portrayed by that excellent actor, Henrick Rafaelsen (of The Almost Man), below, left, and the other by Marius Kolbenstvedt, below right, and also first-rate. There is so much going on here, but Mr. Vogt juggles it all quite snazzily, with superb visual flair underpinned by psychological realism and performances that make the bizarre seem almost credible.

Fantasies abound -- of being watched, of being highly sexual, of being another person entirely -- and the movie offers a surprising amount of humor, too. (Does that device for sorting laundry when you're blind actually exist? If not, someone should invent it!) And because the characters here are cultured and au courant, there are references aplenty for us to latch onto (the director's cut of Mask figures in rather prominently).

Oddly, as the movie grows weirder and crazier, it also becomes clearer what is going on. This juxtaposition works with surprising brilliance, finally offering up a film that is about as original a look at the world of one very particular blind person as you are likely to encounter.

From KimStim and Fandor, Blind opens this Friday, September 4, in New York City (at the IFC Center) and next Friday, September 11, in Los Angeles (at the Cinefamily), simultaneous with its debut on Fandor.
However you choose to see it, do. 

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