Synopsis: Ingrid (Ellen Dorrit Pettersen) is a woman contending with the loss of vision. In trying to navigate a world without sight, she spends her days attempting to reconstruct the visual world as she once knew it. As she struggles with her new found predicament, she begins writing salacious fictional stories that slowly morph into fantasies of what her husband does when she’s not around. When real-life events seamlessly give way to Ingrid’s creations, she is able to find a means to come to terms with her disability. Provocative, sexy and deeply-felt, “Blind” won raves out of its premiere at Sundance where it won the World Cinema Screenwriting Award as well as the Label Europa Cinemas Award at the Berlin International Film Festival the following month.
eyelights: its plot. its structure. its performances.
eyesores: its emotional coldness.
“I can still see in my dreams.”
One of the first things that people think when you mention blindness is that losing one of your senses means that all of your other senses will become heightened as a consequence: your hearing would be more acute, your tastebuds would be dialed up, scents would be more pronounced, touch would be more sensitive.
Though we are visual creatures, many people enjoy sex blindfolded, with their eyes covered, precisely because their other senses become more central to the experience. Plus there’s the element of surprise, which increases without sight. By this argument, sex should be more potent without the use of one’s eyes.
But that’s not what ‘Blind’ is about.
Though Eskil Vogt’s 2014 feature film debut features its share of sexy bits, it’s not directly due to its protagonist’s recent blindness. Save one scene, the sexy bits are mostly the product of Ingrid’s imagination, now that she spends her days writing fictional accounts of herself and her spouse, Morten.
‘Blind’ is really about coping, about facing one’s fears and adapting to an alien existence. Ingrid isn’t ready to leave the house yet. She doesn’t trust her perception of the world around her. She’s afraid of getting hurt by tripping on and bumping into things. She’s also afraid of making a fool of herself.
She’s also worried that Morten will tire of her limited short-term capacity for life and build a parallel one without her, maybe even seek solace in the arms of another woman. She’s growing concerned that she’ll become pregnant and not be able to take care of her child. She’s uncertain about the future.
And so she writes stories.
It’s her therapy.
If ‘Blind’ seems angsty, perhaps even dreary, it doesn’t feel like that one bit. In fact, in the way that Vogt structured his film, he ensured that there were always rays of sunshine breaking through, moments that make you wonder or that stimulate the imagination; he’s always blending fact and fiction.
It’s Ingrid’s tale, but it’s four stories in one:
- There’s Ingrid, who’s trying to adjust to her new reality. Without her sight, she often imagines scenarios about what’s going on around her. She even thinks she’s not alone in the apartment sometimes.
- There’s Morten, who’s also trying to adapt to Ingrid’s new reality. Meanwhile, he’s rekindling a friendship with Einar, from his college days, and dating Elin because he can no longer reach Ingrid.
- There’s Einar, a socially-awkward man who is also trapped by his sight; he is fascinated with women but can’t approach them. His eyes show him all manners of female form but he’ll never know them.
- There’s Elin, a single mom from Sweden, who lost all of her friends in her recent divorce. She begins to date Morten out of loneliness, despite his being married. But an accident will change her life.
These four stories overlap and gradually reveal more and more about Ingrid’s reality. What’s fascinating is how we can never really be sure what’s real and what’s not, though this becomes slightly more apparent as the story unfolds. We’re obligated to pick out kernels of truth from Ingrid’s imagination.
We discover that Ingrid has a lot more control than we’d thought.
I’ve already probably said too much. ‘Blind’ is a picture that’s best seen with few if no preconceptions. It’s a surprisingly sophisticated feature film debut, one that challenges its audience without being pretentious about it. It’s poignant, it’s thought-provoking, it’s inspiring, it’s funny, it’s sexy.
It’s worth a look.
I’ll see Eskil Vogt’s follow-up sight-unseen, no questions asked.
No doubt about it.
Date of viewing: July 21, 2017