Blindness (DVD)

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Blindness by Jose Saramago is one of my favourite books, but I couldn’t imagine it making a good film. One of the best aspects of the book are the descriptions of what it is like to be blind. We know as little as the characters do, fumbling around in the darkness (or brightness as is the case in Blindness) trying to make sense of the world. The idea of transferring this book to the big screen, where suddenly we have the advantage of sight just made no sense at all. I was going to avoid watching this film, but then Sandy and CB James reviewed it and curiosity got the better of me.

I have to admit that it was much better than I expected it to be. The director, Fernando Meirelles, did a fantastic job of using special effects and a white screen to give the feeling of blindness at critical parts of the plot. The film was faithful to the book and I can’t imagine a better adaptation being possible, but (and that is a very big BUT!!!) this is a film that should never have been created. I don’t want anyone watching it and thinking they don’t need to read the book. The film is a very poor substitute for the terrifying world created by Saramago. Anyone watching this without having read the book will be underwhelmed – my husband described it as being OK, giving it a rating of 3/5.

I definitely enjoyed it more because I had read the book, but the averageness of this film upsets me. Saramago is never average. He is one of the greatest writers alive today and his amazing writing just doesn’t work on the big screen. The plot might have been the same, but the fear, tension and confusion present in the book were all diminished. If you have read the book then there is no harm in watching this film, but please don’t watch it first.

Watching this DVD reminded me how much I enjoy reading Saramago’s books and so I have reserved the sequel to Blindness from the library. I’ll be reading Seeing in the next week or two.

Have you read Blindness and Seeing?

What did you think of Blindness on DVD?

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  1. Sandy says:

    I agree with your movie assessment 110%. It was a respectable try, but actually felt sorry for the director to be put in such a position in the first place. He did his best…had a phenomental cast and did a decent job with giving you the sensation of blindness. I was a bit put out over the “Hollywood” drama they inserted into the movie between the the main wife and husband. There was no jealousy in the book, and I think the addition of that emotion cheapened their relationship. You give good advice – read the book first!

    1. Jackie says:

      Sandy, I thought the cast and acting was all very good too. I agree about the jealousy aspect – it wasn’t needed. It is such a shame that they felt the need to change an outstanding book just to fit the Hollywood model better. I hope they don’t adapt any more of his books.

  2. diane says:

    I have not seen the movie, but read the book Blindness twice. I do want to give the movie a try since I thought the book was terrific. Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

    1. Jackie says:

      diane, You will probably enjoy it to some extent, but I suggest you start it wil very low expectations – that way you can only be pleasantly surprised!

  3. FleurFisher says:

    I’ve read mixed reports of the film, and I definitely intend to read the book first. I’ve been meaning to, ever since you wrote about it last year but I haven’t quite got there yet.

    1. Jackie says:

      FleurFisher, I hope you get round to it soon – it really is a fantastic book!

  4. Andi says:

    I watched the movie, but I have every intention of reading the book because I know in my bones it’ll be much better. Can’t wait to read what you think of Seeing–I haven’t heard or read much about it.

    1. Jackie says:

      Andi, The book is a LOT better! I will be interested in your experience of reading the book knowing the plot before you start out. I hope it still manages to have an impact on you.

  5. Steph says:

    I just finished Blindness yesterday! How timely! I think I will watch the movie, just out of curiosity, but I can’t see how it could possibly match the book. As you said, part of the brilliance of the book is allowing us to get into the characters’ heads, to see through their blind eyes. I’m not sure how the movie could achieve that, but as I said, I am curious!

    Anyway, I will hopefully have my review up on the book in the next few days!

    1. Jackie says:

      Steph, I’m really pleased to learn that your read Blindness and that you enjoyed it. I look forward to reading your review.

  6. Kinna Reads says:


    Saramago is one of my favorite writers too. I just don’t see how his writing can translate to the big screen. Anyway, I’m staying away from this movie!

    1. Jackie says:

      Kinna, It is great to know that you love Saramago as much as I do!

  7. Annabel says:

    I always prefer to read the book first – this was a phenomenal book that has remained with me since I read it two years ago. I’d still quite like to see the film too. I’d prefer to read ‘Seeing’ though!

    1. Jackie says:

      Annabel, I prefer to read the book first too. If I happen to watch the film first then I need to leave at least a few years before reading the book so I can forget the finer details!

  8. mee says:

    I haven’t tried Saramago and you’ve completely convinced me that I should. Don’t worry, I wouldn’t watch this movie before reading the book.

    1. Jackie says:

      mee, I hope you enjoy his books as much as I do.

  9. Teresa says:

    Blindness is one of my favorites. I’m curious about the film because I love Meirelles and Mark Ruffalo, but I mostly think that what’s amazing about Saramago–his narrative voice–is impossible to commit to film. I checked out a copy of Seeing from the library a couple of weeks ago. I’m hoping to find time to read it before I have to return it.

    1. Jackie says:

      Teresa, You are right – it is his unique writing style that makes his books special – you just can’t film that. I hope you manage to read Seeing and look forward to comparing notes on it.

  10. Samantha says:

    Interesting…I didn’t even know there was a movie. I loved the book (although that seems weird to say since it was a dark read) and can’t see myself enjoying the movie. I didn’t realize that there was a sequel and now I’ll HAVE to read Seeing just to see what Saramago comes up with next. I would eventually like to read all of his works..I liked Blindness that much!

    1. Jackie says:

      Samantha, I am torn between wanting to read all his books and wanting to save them, spreading them out over the rest of my life. I hope you enjoy Seeing!

  11. Beth F says:

    Not my kind of book or film, so I will remain blind to the story. (he, he)

  12. S. Krishna says:

    Hmmm…I read the book awhile back, and judging from your review of the film, I’ll skip it. I wondered how they could possibly convey all the wonderful language Saramago uses, and now I know they didn’t!

    1. Jackie says:

      S. Krishna, Some films just shouldn’t be made! I think you might be right to avoid this one.

  13. cbjames says:

    I think you’re right about reading the book first. I actually wondered if viewers wouldn’t be a bit lost trying to follow the story without knowing what was going on from having read the book.

    I but both the book and the movie in the high B+/A- range, myself. I don’t expect a movie to follow the book all the much. I expect a movie to be good. Books and movies are such different mediums that what works well in one will not work at all in the other.

    In the end, I thought both the book and the movie had some wonderful stuff going on in them.

    But you should definately read the book first with Blindness.

    1. Jackie says:

      cbjames, My husband hadn’t read the book before watching the film and he followed it OK, but he wasn’t that impressed by it. I think having read the book makes you appreciate the film slightly more, but I’m not sure I’d ever describe it as wonderful.

  14. Alyce says:

    I’m curious about Seeing. I can’t imagine how it can compare to the first book for the impact that the horror of the white blindness had.

    1. Jackie says:

      Alyce, I’m afraid the two books don’t compare at all – I’ll have my Seeing review up soon.

  15. Laura says:

    I’ve also put off watching the film, but not because I can’t imagine how it could live up to the book. For me, it’s more about not being sure if I could handle the horror of that book translated into a visual medium! Blindness is a gorgeous book, but it made for a very, very difficult reading experience and I imagined the movie would be very difficult to view as well. I’m actually a little (selfishly) relieved to hear it didn’t hold a candle to the book in terms of horror, but I’m not quite sure what that says about the vividness of my state of mind while reading, ha.

    Seeing has been on my to-read list since I learned of it’s existence a few months ago… thanks for reminding me I should go pick that up soon!

    1. Jackie says:

      Laura, I was worried about the violence of the film, but it isn’t as bad as I thought it would be. Much of the violence is covered by the blurry white screen so you don’t actually see it. It depends on your imagination – sometimes my mind invents things much worse than can ever be shown! I’m interested in your thoughts on Seeing. I hope you decide to pick it up soon and let me know what you thought.

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