Director Eskil Vogt’s Blind manages to do what few other films have done: humanize the blind people without relying overtly on sympathy. With his directorial debut, he explores how the loss of sight influences the perception of the individual, their relationships, and the social acceptance in the city of Oslo, Norway. It is a challenging, cryptic puzzle that manages to tackle the issue with humor, bleakness, and troubled characters. It is a celebration on how to see the world when there are defeating challenges blocking you.
Ingrid (Ellen Dorrit Petersen) has recently become blind and has become a recluse in her apartment as a result. Her husband Morten (Henrik Rafaelsen) isn’t helping her adjust by flirting with other women and leaving at inconsistent hours. She passes the time by listening to rock music and imagining the world as being close enough to her perception. She stumbles while doing mundane chores and strives to have a regular life with Morten that includes activities and physical attraction. While being handicapped, there are varying dynamics to the relationship that points out each other’s flaws in accepting the alteration to their relationship.
The success behind the film comes from Ellen Dorrit Petersen’s performance, which manages to have as many somber moments as it does meditative voice-overs full of wit and passion. Vogt created the film with the desire to present blind people as actual humans, and it shows here. Ingrid’s physicality navigates away from the stereotypical blind person and instead makes subtle gestures such as where her eyes focus feel more authentic and real. Moments range in the film from close-ups on her face to display what she cannot see to altering landscapes in order to present her interpretation.
The supporting cast is also excellent, specifically Elin (Vera Vitali) who is also blind, but lives a more social life with her child. Unlike Ingrid’s contemplative approach, Elin is livelier in how she comes to accept it. Her physicality is a little more vibrant and her denial a little more comedic. When pitted against the male characters such as Morten and Einar (Marius Kolbenstvedt), the dynamic becomes more complicated and the film shines in the struggle to understand each character’s motives. By doing this, it turns the tile into something metaphorical and sublime.
While the film centers on the idea of becoming blind, it is also an impressive exploration of what makes relationships work. Much like Vogt’s screenplay for the great Oslo, August 31st, he doesn’t sacrifice charm in order to heighten his subjects. While sometimes only implicitly, there is humor and the characters possess contemporary interests and slang that transcend the subject matter and connects the characters to the real world. It is as complicated as the real world, but with a more honest and harsh approach. It explores deep themes in profound ways and makes the abrupt ending both satisfying while leaving desire for more.
Blind is something strange yet tangible. Its exploitative style is mixed with a unique approach to visual perception. While at times unpleasant and slow, the characters are often too engrossing to make this an issue. It manages to create realism that brings the subject to life and demands to be dissected. It is a story of isolation, romance, and accepting differences. It continues Vogt’s dedication towards honest, hard-hitting stories that are striking in tone yet often funny simultaneously. Much like its main subject, it is a complicated film, but nonetheless breathes life into the story in unexpected and satisfying ways.