Blind is the directorial debut of Eskil Vogt, who previously wrote the Joachim Trier films Oslo, August 31st and Reprise. Unsurprisingly then, given the strength of the script of both those films, Blind is conceptually quite impressive, telling a surreal story about the human imagination. It’s sort of like a Norwegian Synecdoche, New York or Ruby Sparks – bar the quirk and meta-mindedness – in that we’re unsuspectingly led inside the creative mind of a lonely writer.
Ingrid (Ellen Dorrit Petersen), the film’s central figure (and perhaps it’s only ‘real’ character?!), has recently become blind and has since retreated permanently to the confines of her apartment home. Around her is a cast of metamorphosing faces – a voyeuristic neighbor addicted to porn, an adulterous husband, and a mysterious, recognizable young woman – whose lives are tangentially related to Ingrid’s blindness. I’m throwing caution to the wind with ‘spoilers’ because Vogt sees past meaningless endgame reveals. Instead, he slowly unfurls his grand concept, making it gradually obvious that the behaviors of these characters aren’t entirely ‘real’, and in fact they’re figments of Ingrid’s inventive suspicion.
On one level this imagined world is quite ugly – it’s harsh and dismally droll – but it’s so revealing of Ingrid’s self-perception that it absorbs you into its bleakness. Blind is a film that looks past the supposed all-importance of the visual, using Ingrid’s voiceover to great effect, while stressing the many echoes and reverberations that occur throughout. Which isn’t to say the film is visually weak, in fact it’s expertly cut and crafted, and the fluorescent lighting and production design make for some troublingly austere settings.
At times though Blind’s ingenuity is also its greatest drawback. Vogt’s clever ideas about imagination and construction render characters pawns to overarching themes rather than complex figures in their own right. As characters move and morph you start to question your own investment in them and you become naturally a little less engaged as the film progresses. Having said that though, these people are effectively fragments of Ingrid’s personality, and therefore their agency is largely fictional, existing only as a reflection of Ingrid.
One of the greatest revelations of Blind is its willingness to jump between genres – it’s so dark and yet at times also hilarious. It’s barely a seamless transition from drama to comedy, but for the most part it works, as Ingrid tells fluctuating stories about Oslo in her attempt to reconstruct the city she could once see. Despite the tragedy of Ingrid’s circumstance, Blind ends feeling like an optimistic film. Vogt doesn’t condescend or humiliate, he respects the interior life that Ingrid lives, and he finds great beauty in the embracing of one’s imagination.
What we’re ultimately left with in Blind is a very unique, complicated character study that is both charming and alienating. It’s alienating in its traversing of dream and reality but it’s charming in its intelligence and beauty, which will inhabit your thoughts well after the credits roll.