An Inventive Story Of Connection And Isolation In 'Blind'

Ingrid (Ellen Dorrit Petersen) copes with her recent loss of vision in Eskil Vogt's Blind. (KimStim)
Ingrid (Ellen Dorrit Petersen) copes with her recent loss of vision in Eskil Vogt's Blind. (KimStim)

Having slipped into permanent darkness, the protagonist of Blind stays secluded in the Oslo apartment she shares with her husband.

Eventually we learn that her name is Ingrid, but her identity barely seems to matter. The world bustles past the shut-in, alone at her window, a voyeur who can no longer see.

Ice-blonde Ingrid (Ellen Dorrit Petersen) is not this smart, nimble movie's only spectator. The former schoolteacher is convinced that her husband, Morten (Henrik Rafaelsen), sometimes steals into the apartment to observe her. Nearby, lonely Einar (Marius Kolbenstvedt) watches Internet porn — presented in a brief but explicit montage — and eyes women on the street.

Looking is not enough for Einar. He copies the motions of women he sees, and strokes his own neck, imagining that his hand belongs to someone prettier. He gazes across the street at a neighbor, Elin (Vera Vitali), and sometimes mimics what she's doing. A Swedish-bred divorcee who stays in Oslo because of her child, Elin is just as isolated as Ingrid or Einar.

What are the connections between these unconnected people? It might be that Norwegian screenwriter Eskil Vogt's directorial debut is one of those cosmic dramas in which disparate characters gradually come to fit together like tiles in a mosaic. One apparent link is that Morten, whose pity for his sightless wife has chilled his desire for her, is having a chat-room affair with Elin.

The puzzle is likely to be solved most quickly by viewers who saw Reprise, the 2006 film Vogt scripted with its director, Joachim Trier. That movie is more exuberant than this one, which despite playful touches is mostly hushed and melancholic. But both simulate the restless, subjective viewpoint of the creative mind. Ingrid is attempting to retain her memories while composing possible new lives for herself and Morten.

There are clues that the deftly edited narrative is filtered through Ingrid's consciousness. The woman begins the movie by discussing her effort to recall things she can no longer see, and she narrates the subsequent events, even ones she could hardly know from her detached viewpoint. A supporting character switches gender throughout the tale, and a scene alternates location, from bar to moving tram and back again.

We see that two unacquainted characters share copies of the same Morrissey album. Other musical cues range from the seemingly random — Francoise Hardy, Sonic Youth — to one that's part of an elaborate if offhand joke about the artistic accomplishments of a certain Star Trek cast member.

With heightened sounds and Petersen's assured performance, Blind evocatively depicts the small triumphs and frustrating defeats of Ingrid's daily existence. She successfully makes a cup of tea, but later drops some food, and while cleaning up the bulk of it has no idea where the rest may have splashed.

Vogt has some fun with contemporary technology for the visually impaired, including a talking microwave oven, a color-sorting device, and an app that reads text messages out loud. Yet the film is not primarily about the experience of being blind. It collates various parallel experiences: social isolation, burrowing deep into one's own imagination, becoming ensnarled in erotic reverie. (If the movie plays the latter note a little too loudly, Scandinavian cinema has long been known for non-essential sexuality.)

The path out of Ingrid's self-imposed confinement is a conventional one, but that's one of the few things about Blind that's commonplace. This passage into one woman's imagination is appropriately surprising and inventive.

Copyright 2015 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Copyright NPR. View this article on npr.org.