DVD Review: 'Blind'

★★★★☆
Director Eskil Vogt'sBlind (2014) begins with a black screen. Then the voice of Ingrid (Ellen Dorrit Petersen) starts conjuring images. Nothing too big, but rather evocative fragments of the whole: the cracks in the bark of an oak, or the lolly-pink tongue of a German Shepherd. Ingrid, in her thirties, has lost her sight. Restricted to the austere apartment she shares with her husband, Morten (Henrik Rafaelsen), she wanders through her imagination, mining memories and spinning fictions. Her voiceover in the opening scene acts as a kind of rubric for our interpretation of what follows. As she says, "It's not important what's real if I can visualise it clearly."

Ingrid starts to write, introducing us to Einar (Marius Kolbenstvedt) and Elin (Vera Vitali). Here, the liquid narrative tricks begin, reminiscent of the writer's creative process seen in Spike Jonze's Adaptation (2002). Initially the real and the imaginary are relatively distinct, but soon they meld together as Ingrid begins to write Morten into her stories, and Elin becomes a proxy for herself. Although much of what we see may be fantasy, the nature of these fantasies reflects her feelings. Einar himself is an inversion of Ingrid. Addicted first to pornography then voyeurism, Einar seems to be the male gaze incarnate. When it comes to the fairer sex, sight is his one and only sensory ally.

Blind immediately presents a seeming paradox: how can film, as a visual medium, convey the experience of blindness? A cool palette, drained of colour, along with carefully coordinated camerawork and sounds creates an almost synaesthetic shift, emphasising the tactile. Left alone while Morten is at work, we watch Ingrid learn to live by these new rules. The camera draws our attention to her thumb feeling the ridges in the tabletop, so as to judge distance. Searching fingers graze the coarse paper of teabags; the kettle rumbles, clicks and sighs, ready to be poured. As she cradles her mug, eyes hollow without the outward focus of attention, the creaks and rustles of the apartment hold a sinister suggestion. Alert, rigid, Ingrid often suspects Morten - or someone - is sitting there, watching her. Such are the fears and insecurities bred by blindness. Ingrid and Morten moved into the flat after she lost her sight, so she has never seen it. Although Morten assures her that the ceilings are high, she still stretches to reach them, imagining them to be only inches beyond her fingers. In bed together, his evening work emails appear to her as dirty messages to other women. Morten evades her attempts to seduce him, perhaps unable to shake the feeling he would somehow be taking advantage of her. Although Blind is an intellectual and mischievous film, misleading and beguiling the viewer, making us doubt what we see, behind this there is a profound emotional core, and a moving portrayal not just of blindness, but of losing one's sight.

Tom Graham

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