Reading the book by Jose Saramago, one of the first things that struck me was the dark tone with which the story was developed. To me, one of the main points of Saramago's writing in this case is making you feel as blind as his characters; you don't know their names, their past, what exactly is happening to them or why. In this sense, it was hard for me to imagine this story being told in a media that relies so much on the visual aspects of a narrative as the cinema. Part of what made possible for me to put myself into the shoes of the characters and, consequently, relate with some of them, was being in the dark with them, having nothing but my imagination to rely on.
Watching the movie, however, I was rather surprised by the final result. I had already watched City of God, so I knew how good Fernando Meirelles was, but, given the circumstances, I was trying not to expect too much from this movie in particular. Nevertheless, the choices made by the director made all the difference. After all, he focuses on another idea present in the book to convey the same message, which is that, even though the whole country is going blind, one of the main characters (Julianne Moore) isn't. So, to me, the movie puts you in her place; it makes you able to see in a world where everyone has gone blind. The only time you can't see what's happening is when she is in the dark. Rather than not being able to see, our biggest curse ends up being the very opposite, which is being able to see so many bad things with tied hands. This is what sets the tone to the movie and, in my opinion, one of its greatest achievements.
On another note, Julianne Moore's amazing performance creates an antithetic feeling in the audience, some kind of painful hope. If, on the one hand, we are forced to see things the way she does, and she is the one whose hope is the most powerful, on the other hand, we know that we can't go back in time, and that everything that was done will remain in the memories of those affected by it.
The photography is both beautiful and brutal at the same time, and the usage of very bright scenes which blur our vision for some seconds is yet another positive point of this adaptation. It conveys the idea that the white blindness might be seen as a metaphor for a kind of "image overdose" as the one discussed by Jonathan Crary (2016) in his book entitled 24/7: Late Capitalism and the Ends of Sleep ("With an infinite cafeteria of solicitation and attraction perpetually available, 24/7 disables vision through processes of homogenization, redundancy, and acceleration.", claims the author). In fact, if you watch the documentary by Brazilian directors João Jardim and Walter Carvalho entitled Janela da Alma (The Window of the Soul), you may realize that it was possibly Saramago's idea from the beginning.
More than respectful to the source story, the movie rewrites it with a new perspective while keeping untouched all important events. It's a movie worth watching whether you have read the book or not (even though I definitely recommend that you check the book out) and a piece of art which stands in its own merits.