Directed by Eskil Vogt (2014)
A mystical and beautiful meditation on loneliness, “Blind” comes from the same clever and emotionally combustible Norwegian mind that wrote the excellent “Oslo, August 31st” (2011) – Eskil Vogt’s. It’s easily one of the best films I’ve seen this year. It concerns a lithe, thirtysomething woman named Ingrid who is holed up in her austere Oslo apartment, learning to cope with what appears to have been a rapid onset of ocular deterioration, leaving her permanently blind. She’s already losing her ability to remember the way things looked from her days of sight, and each mind-numbing day involves her saying goodbye to her husband as he leaves for work, then sitting at a window, wondering what to do next. Ingrid’s mind is far too active & alert for this – so in due course she lets imagination run absolutely wild.
Very quickly we learn that what we’re seeing on the screen may or may not be part of a book that Ingrid is pretending to write. Core characters appear who are also struggling with their own loneliness – a pretty Swedish divorcee named Elin, who can’t meet anyone new in Oslo and who looks forward to the days when her child (first a son, then morphed into a daughter via Ingrid’s book) visits her; and Einar, a schlubby, shy man addicted to internet porn and one who spies on Elin through his apartment window. Do either of them actually exist? Unsure. I do know that I thought at one point Einar was actually Ingrid’s husband, but this appears to be the more conventionally handsome Morten – though both “appear” within Ingrid’s apartment, despite her inability to see them. Her three core characters intersect and overlap in both happenstance and conventional ways, as they would in fiction, and only Elin never actually “talks” with Ingrid during the film.
It first becomes clear that “Blind”’s narrative is unbalanced in an excellent scene in which Morton and Einar (ex-college chums reunited!) are talking at a café, which then evolves into the same set-up with coffee, but this time on a moving bus. I think it’s Vogt’s representation of how our imaginations and daytime dreams/fantasies are no more linear and true to life than our nighttime meanderings are. As Ingrid gains and loses inspiration and confidence in herself, characters change, most often for the worse. Elin begins to suffer horribly, becoming blind herself and having to pay for her affair with Morten, whom Ingrid imagines indulging in graphic sexual chat with Elin on his laptop while lying next to Ingrid in bed. She’s blind – so she wouldn’t know otherwise – and this sets her insecurities loose.
Ingrid’s shame at her condition permeates the whole film. It’s the entire reason she’s writing her ham-handed book in the first place. “A blind author. That would make everything OK again”, she muses. She’s terribly embarrassed to leave her apartment and to try to rejoin society, so she’s locked in this inner world that’s in turns both comedic and horrific. When the film ends, we’re not really sure whether she’s written herself a happy ending, a miserable one or even a wholly imagined one, and part of the thrill of this outstanding and visually gorgeous film is understanding that any and all outcomes work equally well.
(How does one watch this film, you ask? I know it opened recently in New York & LA, but your better bet is to stream it on Fandor right now. I'm on a free 2-week trial for their all-you-can-eat subscription, and I like it).