Monday, November 24, 2008

Blind Leading the Blind

The news that there is criticism of the film "Blindness" because of its portrayal of blind people beggars belief. The film hasn't opened yet, so I'm talking in the general sense. "Blindness", the novel by Saramago, a major factor in his winning the Nobel Prize for literature, is, to my mind, one of the great novels of the last 20 years. It is, of course, an allegory. Here blindness is a contagion that passes from one to another, and creates a new, disastrous society. It references the concentration camps of Nazi Germany, but also speaks clearly of our contemporary world, where community is often so disconnected. I don't think, reading the book, I even once thought of it referring to the naturally blind. After all, its a regular trope of dystopian sci-fi - "Day of the Triffids" from 1951 using it - and, more than that, its one of the most moral novels you could ever read. I'm sure the film - which has received very mixed reviews - may have its problems, after all its a highly philosophical novel, yet it can only depress one that the rare occasion of a European art novel being made into a film with a reasonable wide distribution, receives criticism. As someone with an eye problem myself, I'm very sensitive to the needs of the blind and partially sighted, but I'm puzzled where this has come from. In his Guardian piece, it appears that its David Cox who is making the criticism, not the RNIB or anyone else, yet it doesn't say anywhere if Cox is a journalist, an activist or just plain stupid. Apparently the criticism began in America, that country of such universal tolerance, but again it seems like it was opportunistic. If it makes a few more people read the book then perhaps it is just a storm in a teacup, but, I just feel a little wearier having to even respond to this drivel.

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