Norwegian writer-director Eskil Vogt’s Blind follows the psychological wanderings of Ingrid, a housewife who has recently and unexpectedly lost her sight. As the movie begins, Ingrid has quietly made a personal decision to never leave her Oslo apartment, and finds herself working on a novel in a depressed, hallucinatory, intermittently drunken stupor, emotionally adrift and increasingly unhinged.
Trylon microcinema, December 14-15
Director: Eskil Vogt
Writer: Eskil Vogt
Producers: Sigve Endresen, Jans-Jørgen Osnes, Joachim Trier
Editor: Jens Christan Fodstad
Cinematographer: Thimios Bakatakis
Music: Henk Hofstede
Cast: Ellen Dorrit Petersen, Henrik Rafaelsen, Vera Vitali
Premiere: January 19, 2014 - Sundance
US Theatrical Release: Sept. 4, 2015
US Distributor: Kimstim Films
The film subtly interweaves dramatized scenes of Ingrid’s fiction with slice-of-life scenes of her and her husband Morten’s day-to-day existence. But even the “real” scenes are themselves punctuated with exaggerated diversions into Ingrid’s anxieties and fantasies. Sometimes she imagines that Morten is in the room when he’s not there, or vice versa; at one point she daydreams a lustful embrace before bed only to be disappointed by yet another passion-free installment in their nightly routine. This deft blurring of reality and imagination comes full circle when the plot of Ingrid’s novel is revealed to be itself an extrapolation of her deep-seated paranoia about Morten’s infidelities, as he appears as a character in her writing only to quickly become the target of humiliating vengeance.
This may sound like a recipe for bleakness, and Blind is certainly not a lighthearted film. But there are moments where Ingrid’s reveries veer toward absurdity, and where the film, in turn, becomes more of a black comedy. Yet it’s hard to tell how intentional this is, and in any case, it doesn’t always work—juggling so freely between moods, the film loses some of the visceral claustrophobia that informs Ingrid’s character.
That said, Ellen Dorrit Petersen is largely fantastic as Ingrid, nailing both her vulnerability and the fragile layers of affectation and poise that allow her to sporadically convince herself she’s thinking and behaving in a rational way. Henrik Rafaelsen, meanwhile, gives a solid, nuanced turn as Morten, coming across as a distant enigma in the scenes that take place in reality, only to shapeshift many times over in the fictionalized scenes, his personality transfigured to suit the needs of Ingrid’s rotating fears and fantasies.
Blind is Vogt’s debut feature as a director, but as a screenwriter he has under his belt two of Norwegian cinema’s most prominent exports of the past decade: 2006’s Reprise and 2011’s Oslo August 31st, both directed and co-written by Joachim Trier, and which together form a haunting, emotionally vivid cinematic dyad. While Reprise deals with the rushing joy, confusion, and disappointment of youth as seen through the eyes of two best friends, Oslo August 31st is a far bleaker and more solitary extension of certain of the earlier film’s thematic threads, following a single character’s tragic, possibly irreversible sojourn into depression. Blind feels like a cousin to both, but has its own visual and philosophical aesthetic—cerebral, spare, and surreal, yet no less intimate. It’s a promising start for Vogt’s career as a director, but it is guided and grounded by the sureness of his vision as a writer. While it’s not likely to be the most audacious or unique film you’ll see in 2015, it is, in its own quiet and unassuming way, one of the year’s best.