Blindness, the new movie by Brazilian director Fernando Meirelles (The Constant Gardener), is one of the most eagerly awaited films of the fall and is based on the eponymous book by José Saramago.
The story is about a world epidemic disease that leaves its victims blind. Not finding a cure, the first victims are interned in an old psychiatric hospital to keep them from spreading the disease to others. The group includes an ophthalmologist (Mark Ruffalo), his wife (Julianne Moore), a prostitute (Alice Braga) and The King, a bartender played by Gael García Bernal.
This time the Mexican actor not only shares the screen with some of the best actors in Hollywood, but he actually plays the film’s most controversial character, a role far from the noble and innocent characters we have seen García Bernal play before. Blindness had a pre-screening at the Toronto International Film Festival, where we talked to the actor about the making of the film.
We know you get offered a lot of interesting movies. Why did you decide to make this film?
I always thought this was a transcendent story because it addresses the inability we humans have to live together in peace, as if we suffered some kind of blindness.
I liked the fact that the story creates a situation, in this case blindness, that puts to test the moral and social structures we’ve been taught. Suddenly chaos and corruption govern the different areas of the place in which those infected by blindness are confined. But what is interesting is that, in the end, it boils down to a story about hope, since we realize that the secret to survival is within our own selves.
We’re used to seeing you in the role of the good guy. How does it feel to play the bad guy?
I don’t believe The King (his character) is a bad guy. He’s practical and pragmatic. He may be a cold man because he’s not an idealist and he has no hope, but he’s nothing more than a survivor like everybody else. To say that The King is bad would be to contradict the point of the story. He chooses practical solutions for the benefit of others in the group. And what strikes me as really powerful about him is that his actions always unleash very heated debates.
Mark Ruffalo wore contact lenses that prevented him from seeing, and that resolved his struggling with his eyesight. How did you handle your own blindness?
My case was different from Mark’s. I couldn’t wear contacts because I have light-color eyes and you could tell I was wearing them. So it was a little frustrating, though at the same time it was kind of liberating because it forced me to jump into the plot without using any tricks. I think the hardest thing was to not react instinctively to someone clapping his hands before your eyes and that type of thing.
There were times in which we simply made mistakes following something with our eyes and things like that, but those mistakes prompted a lot of laughter while shooting, and that was good. It’s that we took everything seriously, and when something like that happened we laughed our hearts out and the atmosphere became more relaxing. We should not forget that we do this for the love of it, so it’s important that we also have a good time doing it.