Sunday, January 19, 2014

Sundance ’14: Blind

In a post-Heisenberg world, we have grown accustomed to the notion perception influences reality, but what does that mean to you if you happen to be blind?  For one woman who recently lost her sight, the world has become drastically smaller. Yet, she will still exert a strange influence over it in Eskil Vogt’s Blind (nsfw trailer here), which screens during the 2014 Sundance Film Festival.

Ingrid was once an outgoing Norwegian professional, but after the late onset of a congenital condition robbed her of her sight, she rarely leaves her flat. Her husband Morten is becoming increasingly frustrated with her reclusiveness.  Yet, she suspects he might secretly spy on her in the flat, at times when he is supposedly at the office or his gym.

In fact, Blind’s small cast of characters can be divided into those who watch and those who are blind. Morten’s old college crony Einar is definitely a watcher. Vaguely resembling the out of shape Val Kilmer of today, Einar is an internet porn addict who graduated to real life peeping. The current object of his fascination is Elin, a struggling single mother and fellow Swede, with whom Morten strikes up a dalliance.  Elin is certainly not a voyeur, nor is she initially blind.  However, through Twilight Zone-like circumstances, Ingrid might just visit a fearful symmetry on her pseudo-rival.

Or perhaps not.  Frankly, it is almost as hard for viewers to parse fantasy from reality in Blind as it is for the characters. Ostensive reality is a malleable, ever changing proposition that often involves nudity. Vogt constantly changes the rules on us, but for reasons of philosophic uncertainty rather than to extricate himself from a narrative corner. This is a very strange film, but the quality of the four principle performances and the oddly mesmerizing vibe help rehabilitate sexually charged hipster pretension.

Ellen Dorrit Petersen is absolutely haunting and maybe a little scary as Ingrid.  Likewise, playwright Marius Kolbenstvedt humanizes the potentially creepy Einar to a remarkable extent. Vera Vitali is also quite effective expressing Elin’s fragile vulnerability, suggesting a woman trapped in a stage of arrested emotional development.  In contrast, Henrik Rafaelson (somewhat reminiscent of Michael Nyqvist of the Dragon Tattoo franchise) has the least to work with as the coolly detached Morten.

Head-tripping movies are rarely rendered as elegantly as Blind.  It is a film that begs for repeat viewing and obsessive analysis.  Despite all the talk of pay cable television supplanting cinema as the dominant cultural force, you will only find surreal postmodernism like this in arthouse-festival films.  Recommended for mature and adventurous viewers, Blind screens again this Wednesday (1/22) and Saturday (1/25) in Park City as well as this afternoon (1/19) in Salt Lake, as part of this year’s Sundance Film Festival.