From the Sundance Film Festival here's Nathaniel on "Blind" which won the World Cinema screenwriting prize...
Excuse me while I leap forward 11 months and give Blind the gold medal for "Best Opening Scene" of 2014. This highly original Norwegian film begins with a visualization exercize. Ingrid (Ellen Dorrit Petersen), a married blind woman, is detailing her recent loss of sight. She's trying to remember what things looked like and has been warned that with no new visual stimuli from the optic nerves, her memoires of sight will fade. She'd like to keep the images for as long as she possibly can. She visualizes a tree, her apartment, a park, a dog. It's a German Shepherd to be precise - a morbidly funny choice given their status as the original seeing eye dogs.
Once the dog is visualized in a park, the background vanishes leaving only the panting dog on a blank canvas, as if it's posing in a photographer's studio. Ingrid visualizations a shopping center she likes and just before this intriguing prologue ends we see the dog again, barking forcefully in a window. But we don't hear it. Ingrid and director Eskil Vogt have unexpectedly robbed us of one of our other senses to close out this playful series of images. [more...]
This won't be the last time that Ingrid toys with us, as she sits alone in her sparse apartment (refusing to leave despite her husband's protestations), sharing her inner thoughts in voice over. Blind is a swift 98 minutes but it isn't as empty as Ingrid's sterile home. Without much by way of warning and just when you're wondering how long you can sit in a room alone with a newly blind woman, the film shifts focus and Ingrid begins to introduce us to other characters: Einar, a neighbor and porn addict; Elin, a struggling single mother; and Morten, Ingrid's workaholic husband, who may or may not be unfaithful. Blind's multiple character vignettes, are alternately funny, dirty, serious and moving and sometimes they fuse all of those moods in glorious fashion.
But Vogt doesn't rest there. The filmmaking, through sound and cinematography and editing begins to instill a swelling sense of unease to the most banal activities like preparing tea or typing by a window. Is someone in Ingrid's apartment watching her? How well does Ingrid know these characters she's telling us about? Is her husband actually cheating on her or are we only seeing the signs of it because the film is (mostly) from her point of view? I assumed, as anyone who has ever seen a movie will, that we will learn how these characters are connected. We do. But not always in the ways we're expecting. Ingrid isn't always truthful, she has a mean streak, and she's a little paranoid, too. Eventually all of the characters collide but to say more would be to spoil the often surprising and layered storytelling from Vogt but also from Ingrid who likes to spin yarns herself... and sometimes conflicting ones.
If there's anything preventing a full fledged rave it's the organic extension of the problem with any unredeemed unreliable narrator. Eventually, when everything is in question reality feels like a luxury and the stakes can get awfully slim. But otherwise this is a superb directorial debut that leaves you eager for film number two. Eskil Vogt's name will already be familiar to fans of Joachim Trier's great Norwegian features Reprise and Oslo August 31st which Vogt co-wrote. Blind shares with those films something of the same quality of light, mental health obsession, novelistic bent, and omniscient but troubled narrator/storytelling... and yet, Blind is its own beast - funnier, raunchier, and definitely weirder.