Eyes Wide Shut

in 7th Krakow International Festival of Independent Cinema

by Clementine Van Wijngaarden

The most striking trait of the Main Dramatic Competition of Kraków Off Plus Camera film-selection was the emphasis on the female body. From the hymn of Nigerian/American director Andrew Dosunmu, in whose film Mother of George the camera almost seems to be glued to the sensuous body of his lead actress, to the uncompromising shots of Carla Juri, the protagonist of David Wendt’s Wetlands (Feuchtgebiete), who is not really into personal hygiene and knows no taboos when it comes to her body and her sexuality.

These, let’s call them more ‘graphic’ performances, stand in sharp contrast with the almost still body language of Ellen Dorrit Petersen, lead player in Blind by Eskil Vogt. Petersen, a Nordic actress with a strong but slender body and an intriguing face with pale skin and piercing eyes, sometimes almost feels like a ghost.

She plays Ingrid, a woman who has recently lost her eyesight and isolates herself from the world by spending her days locked up between the four walls of her apartment. There, she feels safe: she knows the place, which is scarcely furnished; she knows how to move from her living room to the kitchen and to the bedroom, but is predominantly sitting in a chair in front of a window with her laptop. Ingrid suspects her husband Morten (Henrik Rafaelsen) sometimes stays at home just to observe her. And maybe he does, because the line between reality and imagination is not very clear in Blind.

In what first appears to be a different storyline we meet two other characters: Einer (Marius Kolbenstvedt) a lonely guy who seeks his pleasure on porn-sites because he’s too shy to pick-up a woman in real life; and Elin (Vera Vitali), who lives across the street from him and who has no one except her only child who’s half of the time staying with her ex-husband. At first it seems these people have nothing to do with Ingrid, but gradually it becomes clear that they are a product of her imagination: together with her husband they play a part in the story she is writing — a story which helps her to come to terms with her blindness and accept herself.

Vogt, who previously wrote the scripts for two acclaimed feature films, Reprise (the Norwegian candidate for the Oscar as Best Foreign Language film in 2006) and Oslo, 31. August. Both films were directed by Joachim Trier and they are both striking because of their distinctive narrative structure In Blind, Vogt’s directing debut, he once again experiments with narration, and interestingly this time he uses the medium film, by definitiona visual medium, to show the world of a blind person. ‘It is not important what is real as long as I can visualize it’, Ingrid says in a voice-over at the beginning of the film. Although serious in tone, Blind has some deadpan humorous scenes, as well as scenes that reflect a profound understanding of the human condition.

The beautiful piano score by Dutch composer Henk Hofstede, the delicate cinematography and the strong performances by Dorrit Petersen as well as by Marius Kolbensvedt make Blind a strong first feature of a talented writer/director.

Edited by Birgit Beumers