Fernando Meirelles, he of the noxiously overpraised City of God and The Constant Gardener, may be the most pretentious filmmaker working today. An artist who can’t let a single frame exist without some form of look-at-me embroidery, Meirelles’ primary interest is stroking his own ego through excessive aesthetic exhibitions, a reputation reconfirmed by Blindness, an adaptation of Nobel Prize-winning José Saramago’s 1995 novel about a sudden, inexplicable plague of blindness. Dubbed the “white blindness” because the afflicted see not traditional darkness but instead bright whites, the epidemic quickly leads to quarantine in a dingy, heavily guarded hospital for all newly sightless citizens, which include an ophthalmologist (Mark Ruffalo) but not his wife (a fierce Julianne Moore), who nonetheless covertly accompanies her husband to the facility and, consequently, becomes the inmates’ den mother. As in Saramago’s novel, blindness is here emblematic of people’s inability to genuinely engage with (i.e. see) one another, a crashingly clunky metaphor – what’s next, people losing their hearing because they no longer listen to each other? – that’s well suited for Meirelles’ symbolism-overload approach. A pseudo-Lord of the Flies scenario soon develops in which, left to their own devices, the afflicted reveal their true noble/repugnant colors, though it’s the director’s parade of self-conscious compositions and pushy musical cues that prove most repellent of all, the filmmaker coating everything in harsh, blooming whites, employing mirrors to create incessant double-image effects, and cutting away ad naseum to a blank milky-white screen. Meirelles is such a constantly intrusive presence that even when he comes across an agonizingly tender sight – such as that of inmates removing their jewelry so they can use it to buy food from a rival ward, Ruffalo’s statement that the stuff is no longer useful juxtaposed by the palpable personal significance the items hold for their owners – he manages to muck it up with some visual and/or audio gesture that reduces the moment to just another opportunity for showing off.