Blindness, a drama about an epidemic of sightlessness that reduces the afflicted to their primal worst and best, is up to its eyeballs in visual affectation. Ironic, no? And here's what is even more cockeyed: Though it's directed with a fondness for stylized blur, shadow, and bleached imagery by Fernando Meirelles, who gave slums a hip-hop gloss in City of God, this self-consciously moody adaptation is based on a 1995 novel by the Portuguese Nobel Prize winner José Saramago that's the opposite of gussied up. On the page, in fact, Saramago's compelling parable spills out in an urgent rush of unadorned language.
I suspect the culprit is a case of middlebrow glaucoma a condition of glazed cloudiness that sometimes affects movies chasing the prestige of admired literature. But whatever the diagnosis, the ailment takes a toll on an honorable cast that includes Mark Ruffalo, Danny Glover, and Gael García Bernal among the squabbling, unseeing crowd, and Julianne Moore as the one sighted witness; she feigns blindness to be with her husband (Ruffalo) when he’s quarantined. As the players enact the fall and rebirth of civilization, Meirelles suggests that even a society gone to hell looks better with a little music-video-like pizzazz. C+