Eskil Vogt’s “Blind” is about a writer who goes blind while in her mid-30s. But don’t think for a moment this is your standard drama about a character dealing with her disability, her human spirit triumphant. Instead, it’s a playful and knotty puzzle of a film about what can happen inside an imaginative mind, one that’s suddenly had one of its key links to the outside world cut off. The film premiered at the 2014 Sundance Film Festival and is now out on DVD from Zeitgeist Films.
Ingrid (Ellen Dorrit Petersen) is the writer, for whom blindness began as a small smudge on her vision. Unwilling to navigate the outside world, she stays inside her chilly white Oslo apartment. Her disconnection with the world around her is more than physical — relations with her husband Morten (Henrik Rafaelsen) have grown strained, and Ingrid imagines that he sneaks into the apartment to silently watch her stumble around. (That may be true, or it may not.)
We’re also presented with another character, Einar (Marius Kolbenstvedt), a lonely man whose interactions with other people are entirely visual, whether he’s surfing Internet porn or peeping at the woman in the apartment across the street. Einar’s adventures in Internet porn, exploring one fetish and than another, are chronicled by Ingrid in hilariously dry voiceover narration.
In a scene that’s emblematic of the film’s playful narrative and shifting perspectives, we watch Einar as he watches the woman across the street, as she slips into a negligee, rubs lotion absent-mindedly on her skin, pads around the apartment. It’s an erotically-charged scene. But later, Vogt replays the same scene from the woman’s perspective — she’s a lonely single mother trying to cope with an unanticipated weekend without her beloved daughter to keep her company.
As the film goes on, the narrative gets more and more fractured — Einar and Morten, old college friends, meet in a coffee shop, but as the camera cuts back and forth sometimes they’re on a train together. Gradually, it becomes clear that Ingrid is not just narrating these encounters — she may be manipulating them as well.
While “Blind” is Vogt’s first film as a director, he co-wrote “Reprise” and “Oslo August 31st” with director Joachim Trier, and “Blind” has the unconventional storytelling of the former and the emotional honesty of the latter. It’s the dance between the two — the heady ideas and the depth of feeling — that make “Blind” such a joy to watch, keeping it from being either an exercise in meta or in pathos.
Instead, it becomes a resonant and sexy film about perception — how we see each others and ourselves, and how easy it is to slip down the rabbit hole of our own misperceptions. For a film called “Blind,” it sees a lot about us.