Arriving on UK screens a year after its Berlin bow, Blind (2014) – the debut feature from Norwegian screenwriter turned director Eskil Vogt – imbues cognitive visualisation and the mechanics of storytelling to achieve what many have tired and failed to do – successfully insinuate what life without vision might be like. Ingrid (Ellen Dorrit Petersen) turned blind in her thirties. As soon as her husband leaves the house to go to work, Ingrid sits at the window and imagines the world outside. Determined to maintain her ability to recollect images from her past, she constructs narratives for her memories to inhabit. It’s within these imaginative fabrications that she introduces us to Einar (Marius Kolbenstvedt).
Einar is an overweight recluse addicted to pornography. When he starts growing increasingly immune to the internet’s lascivious pleasures, he begins to spy on Elin (Vera Vitali), a Swedish divorcee who lives across the street with her son daughter (Ingrid decides to change Elin’s child’s gender mid-flow to help the narrative flow). Then, as we begin to understand the rules of Ingrid’s fictitious world, investing ourselves into the lives of her vividly drawn characters, she lets her mounting insecurity about her husband’s dependability take over the narrative, writing him into her imagined narrative as a rival for Elin’s attentions. Ingrid’s memories and creative imagination dictate the rhythm of Blind with Vogt inhabiting the duality of Ingrid’s world – with reality and fiction blurring into one.
Achieving both agency and autonomy by dictating her own story, Ingrid’s personal journey towards acceptance of her disability takes us on an incredibly moving excursion that’s auspiciously peppered with moments of gentle humour. Shot by esteemed Greek cinematographer Thimios Bakatakis, Vogt goes against common conceptions of how blindness should be expressed on the screen, ignoring clichés (such as blurring the peripheral edges of the screen) and instead focusing intensely on single objects. Commendable for its sympathetic yet non-patronising approach towards visual impairment, Blind also contains some deft comments on issues such as the male gaze and how our deepest desires affect our perception of the world. Like a more earnest and intelligent version of Stranger Than Fiction (2006), Vogt’s meta-approach operates between the dichotomies of fiction and reality and shows how easily the two can be confused. While the film’s mischievous narrative manipulation will inevitably irk some viewers, this beautifully rendered opportunity to view the world through the eyes of those who can no longer see is a moving portrayal of living with an ocular condition.
Patrick Gamble | @PatrickJGamble