A sour satirical cocktail blended with ingredients oft-used in the recipes of Terry Gilliam and Paul Verhoeven, Robert Edwards’s Land of the Blind is a concoction difficult to swallow as either piercing allegory or clever farce. In an unspecified country in an unspecified age (save for generic “Year Minus One” and “Year Three” title cards), everyman prison guard Joe (Ralph Fiennes) strikes up a friendship with his most notable inmate, a crazy-haired, quasi-Marxist revolutionary named Thorne (Donald Sutherland) who’s prone to quoting literary giants and scrawling passages on the walls with his own excrement. Thorne convinces Joe that their nation’s dictator Maximilian II (Tom Hollander, in a role built for Jonathan Pryce)—whose pastimes include directing horrid action movies, killing dissenters (including a “fag” underling), screwing his actress-turned-Lady Macbeth spouse (a puffy-lipped Lara Flynn Boyle), enjoying minstrel shows, and holding cabinet meetings in the bathroom while dropping noisy deuces—must be executed for the good of the country. Once the dirty deed is done, though, Thorne replaces the old despotic boss with a new one (i.e. himself), substituting military authoritarianism with Islamofascism. It’s dim irony rooted in a lyric by The Who, with everyone (including poor, passive Joe) getting fooled again, though the real sham is the film’s supposed political concerns, as Edwards’s equal-opportunity critique of “conservative” and “liberal” rule of law can be summed up with boilerplate platitudes about absolute power corrupting absolutely. It’s unclear, however, what’s more unimaginative about Land of the Blind: its dystopian future tinged with Victorian stylings, pilfered from Brazil and V for Vendetta; its derivative Starship Troopers news and commercial segments; or its maladroit see-sawing between grim sermonizing and poopy-caca humor. Despite such atonality and Fiennes’s one-note passivity, Edwards’s directorial debut—reportedly written before 2001’s World Trade Center attacks—at least boasts a tight, deliberate visual schema capable of reflecting its thematic ideas. Unfortunately, pre-9/11 or post-9/11, this pusillanimous parable’s vision is as acute as that of a bat.
- Bauer Martinez Studios
- 101 min
- Robert Edwards
- Robert Edwards
- Ralph Fiennes, Donald Sutherland, Tom Hollander, Lara Flynn Boyle, Marc Warren, Ron Cook, Don Warrington, Laura Fraser
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