Editor’s Notes: The following review is apart of our coverage of the Transilvania International Film Festival. For more information visit http://tiff.ro/en and follow TIFF Romania on Twitter at @tiffromania.
Is it a benefit or a burden to share much with not only last year’s winner, but the one before that too? One can only wonder in the case of Eskil Vogt, whose co-written Oslo, August 31st took home the Transylvania Trophy two years ago, and whose directorial debut, in competition this edition, shares a blind heroine with last year’s Ship of Theseus. Neither seems an appropriate point of comparison for Blind, all the same; if there’s a forebear to be touted here it’s Stranger than Fiction with its pseudo-surrealist sense of authors and their characters interacting, but any parallels here are strictly surface level. Vogt has made a movie very much of its own, as distinct from those of others’ as from his own prior scripted work.
[The film is] a fixating psychological study by proxy, as much a metaphysical mystery to be solved as a domestic drama to be delved into.
Despite the black screens that periodically populate the film, this is Vogt in lighter territory than we’ve seen him before, more akin to Reprise than Oslo in its outlook on life. That’s not to label it an upbeat outing, mind: if there’s a levity lent by the comic through-line here, it’s as… well, reprise… from the hefty thematic material at hand. Focused chiefly on Ingrid, newly beset by the eponymous affliction, as her imagination wanders in the new darkness and contrives characters who may or may not exist beyond her apartment walls, it’s a fixating psychological study by proxy, as much a metaphysical mystery to be solved as a domestic drama to be delved into.
Impeccable taste in technical team immediately outs Vogt as a discerning director with lofty aesthetic aims, enlisting great Greek cinematographer Thimios Bakatakis to lend the same pseudo-surrealist aura he brought to the likes of Dogtooth and Attenberg. It works wonders, and the superbly ambiguous air he affords Ingrid’s cutaway visualisations—borne, to boot, on the editorial efficiency of Jens Christian Fodstad—ensures the paranoia she’s plagued by is rife within our minds too. Ellen Dorrit Petersen’s is a performance of remarkable restraint, precise in its physicality and always understated in the sense of inadequacy it projects. She and the manner of her shooting are the movie’s strongest suits; the character crafted between is one whose crises we endure as much as observe.
Observation, though, is a stepping stone from which Blind slips, and the peculiar premise suffers for Vogt’s inability to marry its comic overtones with the darker aspects of his lead’s life. The aforesaid ambiguity renders the actions of the two other characters we trace a compelling curio, though Ingrid’s overused voiceover as she writes them betrays both a dependence on the director’s part and—less a problem, perhaps—no book deal in the near future for the nascent author. Though the comedy comes efficient in these often-extended interludes, there’s a tangential triteness to their integration that deprives the movie either the fluidity of feeling we have when with Ingrid alone, or the clarity of tone to keep things interesting.
Ellen Dorrit Petersen’s is a performance of remarkable restraint, precise in its physicality and always understated in the sense of inadequacy it projects.
Still, if Blind shirks the dramatic depths one might have anticipated from Vogt’s collaborations with Joachim Trier, it’s an announcement—if not an entirely successful one—of a voice all of its own. Unlike his heroine, Vogt has proved himself in the past as a writer to be reckoned with; here, even when not orchestrating things to a satisfying whole, he has done the same for his directorial chops. This is a perfectly fine first outing for a filmmaker who’s sure—for our benefit every bit as much as his own—to move on to better things in the future, a solid slice of movie meta-fiction that consistently compels, even if it can’t ever really connect.
Blind is a perfectly fine first outing for a filmmaker who’s sure to move on to better things in the future, a solid slice of movie meta-fiction that consistently compels, even if it can’t ever really connect.