BlindHow can you trust if you cannot see?

If you lose your sight, how can you be sure that your husband is not sneaking into the room to stare at you? How would you know if your hair is graying? How could you read the results of a home pregnancy test?

Sightlessness is not a mere disability in Eskil Vogt’s sublime debut feature, Blind. It is solitary confinement, isolation on a strange, new planet fashioned by one’s imagination with indeterminate physical laws and a time-space relationship unique to a particular universe. Ingrid (Ellen Dorrit Petersen) has a rare condition that robbed her of her sight as an adult. Her visual memory is fading, and even though she exercises it daily, her doctor informs her that she will lose it all together one day.

Her husband, Morten (Henrik Rafaelsen) is loving and supportive, but puzzled by the stranger that now shares his bed. Ingrid is more housecat than wife at times. She languishes in their new apartment, napping, feeding, stretching her naked body without a trace of self-consciousness in front of the window. Outside holds little interest for her. Strangers and humiliation reside there. Inside, she is safe. She knows what the external world is like because she creates it on her notebook computer, and we see it played out on the screen.

A man very much like her husband is cheating on his wife with a pretty, young blonde woman, who is going blind. The young woman’s neighbor, an unemployed introvert who has conducted an encyclopedic study of Internet pornography longs for her, but is unable to express his feelings. Ingrid’s increasing doubts reverberate throughout her fiction. Her husband asks her to accompany him to an important evening reception. The young woman crashes a party at her lover’s office and finds prostitutes and cocaine. Ingrid cannot clean up a spill. The living space in her story deteriorates.

Yet, it is not so much a tailspin as a trip Ingrid must take through a valley of shadows to reach an accommodation with her condition. Director/screenwriter Vogt eschews convention and predictability in showing us Ingrid’s journey. We are not always certain if what we are seeing is real or fiction or what Ingrid imagines to be real. It is a film best seen in a mood of absorption and quiet contemplation. Blind has traveled the festival circuit this year, with stops at Berlinale and the London Film Festival, earning well deserved critical praise and a number of awards for this Norwegian export.

Petersen is astonishing in the lead role. One cannot imagine the film without her. It is so much of her essence that Blind is practically performance art. She spins through a revolving door of roles and images. One moment, Ingrid is coquettish, seductive, in charge; the next, she is insecure, alone, aged. Vogt provides her with provocative insights that she shares with the viewer even as she contemplates them herself. You never see a pregnant blind woman, Ingrid muses. She would have to pull the baby carriage instead of pushing it.

By the end, Ingrid is both flat on her back and on top of the situation, and viewers are left wondering if they underestimated her the entire time.

Four stars.

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