BLIND, drama, not rated, in Norwegian with subtitles, Center for Contemporary Arts, 3.5 chiles
For most of us blessed with functional eyesight, that sense is a major factor tethering us to our concept of reality. The sudden loss of sight, Norwegian filmmaker Eskil Vogt suggests, can leave a person unmoored.
In his elegant and challenging first feature, Vogt presents us with Ingrid (Ellen Dorrit Petersen), a thirtyish blonde who has recently gone blind. She still retains some visual images in her head, but as she laments in a voice-over, she fears she will soon lose even those “as the optic nerve withers.” She’s determined to exercise her memory to try to hold on to her sense of the visual world for as long as she can.
But the blindness has dealt her morale a crippling blow — no “worldchampion blind lady,” like Audrey Hepburn’s character in the classic thriller Wait Until Dark, for Ingrid. Despite the encouraging of her architect husband, Morten (Henrik Rafaelsen), to get out into the world, she remains a shut-in in their gleaming high-rise apartment.
And her imagination starts to get the better of her. She begins imagining, and writing about, a couple of sad loners. One is Einar (Marius Kolbenstvedt), a heavyset, ponytailed internet porn addict, compulsive masturbator, and peeping Tom. (A warning for viewers: There are brief but undiluted clips of hard-core pornography in some of these scenes.) The other is a young Swedish immigrant named Elin (Vera Vitali), the single mother of a child of about ten named Kim, who sometimes appears as a boy (Isak Nikolai Møller), and at other times as a girl (Stella Kvam Young).
These two loners, as indicated above, are figments of Ingrid’s imagination, but it’s not always easy for us, or for her, to tell. Her erotic sense is heightened by her handicap. In one scene she undresses and presses herself naked against the window of her apartment high above the city, as if she were having sex with all of Oslo. Ingrid worries that her husband is losing interest in her, and only feels duty-bound to have occasional sex with “a blind lady.” So in bed, as Morten taps on his laptop and tells her he’s catching up on some office work, she “sees” him in fact engaging in torrid sexting with Elin, and later arranging to meet her.
Morten and Einar also run into each other, and discover that they’re old friends from school. Their conversation in a coffee shop is one of the film’s most intriguingly disconcerting visuals: Sometimes the coffee shop is stationary and traffic passes by outside, at other times it seems to be a train racing through the landscape. But if this is all happening only inside Ingrid’s sightless head, as it seems to be, it’s mind-bending, but it makes a perverse kind of sense.
The blindness in Blind can no doubt be extended as a symbol for a more far-reaching societal condition. But it’s puzzling enough as it is.
— Jonathan Richards
Vision-eerie: Ellen Dorrit Petersen