It’s unclear exactly how it happened, but sometime shortly before Blind begins, Ingrid (Ellen Dorrit Petersen) lost her sight. She’s now a shut-in, living in a new high-rise apartment in Oslo, with her kind and quiet architect husband, Morten (Henrik Rafaelsen). To pass the time, she sits quietly by a window, sometimes opening it for fresh air.
Ingrid is quietly suffering; in voiceover, she says she can visualize things from memory, but because the optic nerve can’t make new images, eventually even her memories will fade. Her vivid flashbacks and Thimios Bakatakis’ beautifully composed photography make it clear: Ingrid was a visual thinker, and the blindness is eating away at her.
Besides her husband, the people in Ingrid’s world are Elin (Vera Vitali), a divorced Swede living a lonely life in Norway while taking care of her 10-year-old son, and Einar (Marius Kolbenstvedt), a man with such crippling shyness that he can barely leave his apartment. To cope, Elin watches comedies on TV. Einar watches porn compulsively—there’s a good dose of hard-core footage sprinkled in the first few minutes—and masturbates.
And then something strange happens in these four intersecting lives: Elin’s son, in mid-scene, becomes her daughter. And then Einar bumps into Morten—it turns out they’re old college friends—and their scene together, during which they talk about movies, keeps jumping back and forth from a café to a bus and back to a café.
Blind is what I would otherwise unflatteringly call a mindfuck movie—but I call them such a thing because so many are so awful. Think about Vanilla Sky, which uses its dream imagery as an excuse for an incoherent story; or Fight Club, which, in addition to having a completely unreliable narrator, has completely unreliable direction from the otherwise reliable David Fincher; or the awful Stephen King adaptation Secret Window, in which Johnny Depp plays a normal guy (!!).
Writer and first-time feature director Eskil Vogt avoids using a changing narrative to throw the viewer off. Said changing narrative—Elin goes blind at one point; Einar seems to know her and then doesn’t; Morten may or may not be spying on Ingrid in their apartment—results from Ingrid quite literally grappling with her own story. As someone who’s suffering from permanent blindness well into her 30s, Ingrid’s entire identity is fractured, and Blind’s perspective-changing gamesmanship (thanks to Jonathan Kiefer for that phrase) is reflective of Ingrid’s feelings of doubt and self-loathing, which become manifest over the course of the film.
Blind isn’t without its problems—it seems to believe men and women think the exact same things are erotic, for example, and it leaves Einar dangling somewhat—but it’s a compelling, unique view of a singular experience and the pain that comes along with it. In lesser hands, Ingrid might be insufferable or the plot shifts downright silly, but Ellen Dorrit Petersen’s assured performance and Vogt’s confident direction make the narrative gaps irrelevant and Ingrid’s plight relatable.
Directed by Eskil Vogt
With Petersen, Rafaelsen and Vitali