This excellent debut feature by Eskil Vogt is one of the better films of 2015 that I’ve seen, though sadly I watched it long after putting this list together. It’s an original, Oslo-set psychodrama about a woman named Ingrid (Ellen Dorrit Petersen) who has recently lost her sight. Vogt opens the film with a series of changing images as Ingrid – the narrator – discusses visualisation, and in particular the way in which she is gradually losing that ability; her memories of how things appear/appeared are becoming less clear by the day. She is afraid of leaving her modern, spacious city apartment, and as the camera tracks her around it we see some of the reasons why blindness has knocked her confidence: there are the kind of mishaps and accidents you might expect – she drops her lunch on the floor after walking into an open dishwasher, for example – but also an encroaching paranoia that her architect husband Morten (Henrik Rafaelsen) is present during the day and spying on her, and possibly having an affair. However, although these fears indicate that her wild imagination is detrimental to her mental health, the knock-on effect is that Ingrid – a writer of fiction – experiences a surge of creativity. She concocts a story about another woman named Elin (Vera Vitali), who also goes blind, attracting the interest and sympathy of a loner neighbour who is addicted to porn (Marius Kolbenstvedt). She then writes her own husband into the story, imagining that he is cheating on her with Elin, and subsequently the creation of this fictional version of Morten – a wild, coke-snorting sex addict – alters her perception of the real man, a boring, middle-aged professional with the wardrobe full of clothes from GAP.
What’s interesting about Blind is the way that Vogt and his editor Jens Christian Fodstad visualise events that Ingrid imagines, successfully blurring the line between fiction and reality, and ensuring that the viewer constantly doubts what is seen on screen. Initially it’s hard to tell the difference between that which is is real and that which is not, and whether certain characters are actually present when they appear to be (or whether they even exist), but cleverly that blurring lessens as Blind progresses: things – somewhat conversely – become clearer. At one point Morten and Einar meet in a cafe, but while their conversation progresses the setting changes, skipping between the cafe, a subway car and a bus; we realise that Ingrid is presumably playing around with different ideas in her head, and as a sequence it’s as impeccably realised as it is irresistable. Vogt skillfully tricks the viewer on other occassions, often increasing empathy with the lead character in doing so, while he also makes attempts to put the audience in Ingrid’s shoes: at one point the screen cuts to black, for example, and it’s a while before we are able to see anything again. The performances are very good – Petersen in particular stands out – while Vogt, who wrote Joachim Trier’s Oslo, 31 August, has now established a career that’s clearly worth following, whether as writer, director or both. In some ways Blind feels like the kind of meta work regularly penned by Charlie Kaufman, a man with a similar (if more developed) career trajectory and sensibility, though the film’s stark production design and icy tone firmly mark it out as a north European arthouse piece. There’s an explicitness here with regard to sex and sexual images that the American writer/director has tended to shy away from – at least up until this year’s Anomalisa, and even then you could argue it’s easier to go to certain places with puppets, as opposed to real actors – but I don’t really want to labour the comparison, as it diminishes Vogt’s own work, and the fact is Blind has been made by an original, fresh storyteller. Highly recommended, plus it’s beautifully shot by Thimios Bakatakis, Yorgos Lanthimos’s DP on The Lobster and Dogtooth.
Directed by: Eskil Vogt.
Written by: Eskil Vogt.
Starring: Ellen Dorrit Petersen, Henrik Rafaelsen, Vera Vitali, Marius Kolbenstvedt.
Cinematography: Thimios Bakatakis.
Editing: Jens Christian Fodstad.
Music: Henk Hofstede.
Running Time: 94 minutes.