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September 2017

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"Blindness" (2008) and "The Day of the Triffids" (1981)

I watched "Blindness" and it reminded me of "The Day of the Triffids" so I watched that too so I could compare them.

"Blindness" is based on the 1995 novel by Portuguese author José Saramago. A unexplained contagious disease causes people to go blind. The first victims are forced into quarantine in an abandoned asylum with no assistance. The main character is a eye doctor's wife who can see but pretended to be blind to accompany her husband. Conditions in the asylum deteriorate until the building catches on fire and they are forced to leave. Outside they find that things are no better. A small group, led by the Doctor's wife, go to their home and set up an orderly household. Then the blindness lifts as mysteriously as it came.

It's supposed to be an allegory about how human suffering and violence is a result of our "blindness" to the humanity of others.

I watched the 1981 BBC TV version of "The Day of the Triffids". Based on the novel of the same name by John Wyndham. A strange meteor shower blinds everyone who saw it. Bill Masen (John Duttine) didn't see it because he was recovering from an eye injury and couldn't see, We follow him and Jo Payton (Emma Relph) a wealthy young woman (who didn't see the meteors because she was sleeping off a bender) as they struggle to live through this disaster. Oh, and there are giant killer plants wandering the countryside.

"Blindness" is deliberately vague about the cause of the blindness, the place, or the nationality of those effected because it is meant to be allegorical. "The Day of the Triffids" is more traditionally Science Fiction so it is fairly specific. At least in the TV show there is a speech Bill Masen gives about how both the Triffids and the meteors were created by us, so we are responsible for our own problems and we know the character's names and where they are.

The message of "Blindness" if fairly simple and straightforward. All our problems are caused by our blindness to the humanity of others. If we just saw other people as part of one big human family everything would be better.

"The Day of the Triffids" is much more complex. The blind in Triffids represent the needy, the powerless, the poor. The main character starts out blind but recovers because he was helped by the sighted. That is why he is sighted when everyone else goes blind. The plot covers many different ways that the sighted (i.e. powerful and wealthy) deal with the blind/needy. It discusses the moral obligation of the haves to help the have-nots. but also the impossibility of helping everyone. It also deals with the desperation of the needy who beg, cajole, and force help from the sighted.

One interesting difference between the two movies is that in Triffids we don't see blind people as leaders. We occasionally see lone blind people but every group of blind people is led by a sighted person. Which is consistent with the theme of sight being power and efficacy. In "Blindness" there are gangs of blind predators preying on other blind people. Which is consistent with it's theme that blindness leads to violence and suffering.

"The Day of the Triffids" is much more thorough, sweeping, and morally complex than "Blindness". But "Blindness" has much better production values. BBC TV couldn't show naked men wandering the streets or feral dogs eating human corpses.

Comments

What sort of argument did they make to say that the meteors were created by us? It almost makes me want to look up Day of the Triffids on the Bad Astronomy site.
No bad astronomy. The idea was that "meteors" were really some kind of satellite based weapon system that had gone wrong and was falsely reported to the public.

This was made in '81. The Triffids were blamed on Russian bioengineering so the satellite weapon was probably U.S. Although he didn't say so specifically.
While I understand the allegory and the point that was made, I'm tempted to think that the messages might have been reversed in production. In my opinion, the real blind are the ones who have everything necessary for their own comfort, and choose to look no further than themselves or see the ones who struggle to survive.
I see your point. And that is the message of Triffids which is why I think Triffids is a better movie.