In the interest of full disclosure: Eskil Vogt's comedy-drama Blind is a highly unusual film that depends on narrative surprises for its initial effect. The title of the film is apt: one should go in knowing as little as possible. There is no conceivable way to review this motion picture and comment on it without giving at least the basic idea away, so those who wish to read on will do so at their own risk. Ellen Dorrit Petersen stars as Ingrid - an attractive, blind Norwegian woman who resides in a flat with her husband, Morten (Henrik Rafaelsen), in contemporary Oslo. Though he is crazy about her, she feels depressed and trapped, for the loss of sight has severely limited her activities. Via Ingrid's narration, we learn much about Morten, and then a bit about their neighbors, including young single mother Elin (Vera Vitali), and Morten's longtime buddy Einar (Marius Kolbenstvedt) a homely, obese single fellow with a seemingly insatiable appetite for bizarre forms of internet pornography. Initially, Vogt depicts episodes from the lives of Morten, Einar and Elin in lively cutaways that function as piquant vignettes. Then Vogt throws us an odd, unexpected curveball: sans explanation, Elin's little boy is replaced with a little girl before our eyes. Then the backgrounds shift, as in a casual tète-a-tète between Einar and Morten; within this single scene, some shots slyly depict them sitting in a moving train car, others in a coffee shop - and back to a train again, and so forth. One inevitably feels a little thrown, at first, by these matter-of-fact schisms in the movie's logical fabric. It may take a few minutes for Vogt's strategy to coalesce in our minds, but the conceit soon becomes clear enough. As it turns out, the events in the vignettes are unfolding only in Ingrid's fertile imagination, as she sits at her laptop and types out fanciful stories about the said individuals. The other characters have onscreen lives outside of the story framework; for instance, we do see dramatic interactions between Ingrid and Morten. But the mini-narratives themselves are pure fantasy - and accordingly, Vogt seems to avoid placing limits on what transpires - the possibilities appear wide open, and we're inevitably reminded of Michel Deville's glorious 1988 French drama La Lectrice, with its inherent love of written (and recited) dramatic narratives. A difference exists here, however. The mini-tales by Ingrid are far from an unfettered celebration of storytelling for its own sake; if that were the case, the device would risk becoming a clever little gimmick and wear out its welcome rather quickly - to say nothing of repeat screenings. The movie stays fresh, mainly because the episodes function as analogues of where Ingrid is at, psychologically and emotionally, at any given point in time. Thus, when we see Morten slipping off to court and bedding Elin, it reflects in turn on Ingrid's insecurity about herself and the marriage, and on her budding neuroses about Morten's capacity for infidelity. And when Elin's life in the stories takes a nasty turn, the event showcases Ingrid's resentment and jealousy of a woman with more daily functionality than she herself has. This narrative conceit is rather ingenious; it's as if Vogt found a clever way around the standard cinematic limitation of an inability to climb in someone's mind and bear witness to their thoughts and ideas. The tone of this movie is deceptive; on one hand, Vogt gets as much narrative mileage out of the central setup as he can, and on the surface, it strikes one playful, clever, often whimsical as it dips into and out of zaniness and even works in little touches of surrealism here and there. Certain kinds of disaster can be hilarious with a malevolent trickster pulling the strings, and Vogt understands this. Think, for example, of the old Chevy Chase-Ken Shapiro picture Modern Problems, where Chase develops telekinetic abilities and uses them to turn the ballet performance of a romantic rival into slapstick insanity. A similar idea is at work here. But when you step back and start to think about the underlying meaning of Blind, it begins to feel more poignant than it initially appeared. You realize that Ingrid is an inherently tragic character - someone who has succumbed to a defeatist life and crushed self-esteem as a product of her disability in lieu of rising above the circumstances - to the point of even refusing to believe in the fortitude of Morten's love and devotion to her. There are also echoes of John Cheever's wonderful short story, "Just Tell Me Who It Was," where a sad-sack husband grows so convinced of his devoted wife's unfaithfulness that their separation becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy; he seals his own doom with paranoia and drives her as far from him as possible, shouting, "Just tell me who it was! Just tell me who it was!" Ingrid is like that same character, weeks or months earlier. Blind is sometimes on the verge of being a little less controlled than it is - slightly franker, wilder, weirder - which would be a plus. But that isn't necessarily a significant weakness. If it falls short of being a masterpiece, that may be because it's a small film by default, subject to the limitations and wandering thoughts of Ingrid's mind; claustrophia is built into the movie's narrative fabric. What we do get is a smart, original, often droll picture that withstands closer scrutiny.
All Movie Guide - Nathan Southern