Land of the Blind

Everything About Fiction You Never Wanted to Know.
Jump to: navigation, search

A 2006 film with dark political satire by Robert Howard, starring Donald Sutherland and Ralph Fiennes. It explores themes of revolution, terrorism, freedom and memory, playing on many real historical examples.

Attention: spoilers ahead.

Opening in a land aptly named Everycountry ruled by Maximilian II, son of a Mussolini-like dictator, it revolves around Joe, a prison guard (Ralph Fiennes) and imprisoned dissident writer Thorne (Donald Sutherland). Thorne speaks with Joe, impressing him by his idealistic convictions, protesting his treatment by refusing to wear a prison uniform and using his own feces to write on the walls. Maximilian II, or Junior, is shown to be dangerously unstable, running the country's film industry and churning out cheap action movies. This may be a reference to Kim Jong-Il, son of the late North Korean dictator Kim Il Sung and dabbler in action film.

Publicity of Thorne's protest raises opposition, and Baby Max orders him tortured into a false confession on live TV. It backfires when Thorne blinks Morse code to say it's been forced. In the end, he is released and made a member of Parliament, on the lines of Nelson Mandela.

Thorne bears a certain resemblance to Karl Marx in his appearance, with disturbing indications of his authoritarian bent that are proven sadly correct. Joe, being made a palace guard, sees Junior's depravity up close and personal, causing him to join Thorne for real. The rebels break in to kill him and the First Lady after a Kangaroo Court show trial of maybe ten minutes. Joe becomes the hero of the revolution, and Thorne is now leader.

The rot sets in quickly, however. Women are made to wear Muslim-style covering, vegetarianism is made the law, intellectuals are sent to reeducation camps, and the references pile up quickly to Iran, Cambodia, Russia, China, etc. Joe realizes the new regime is the same if not worse than before, refusing to swear loyalty to it. He is placed in a reeducation camp, where inmates are indoctrinated to be happy with the bare minimum and love the leader. Thorne visits it and doesn't recognize him.

At last Joe appears to submit, but outside people are revolting anew. Thorne is killed by his wife in the bath, a la Marat, and the boy nephew of Junior is put in power. Joe, however, being part of the revolution before, also refuses to follow this restoration, so he is left in prison. It becomes unclear what is real or not as he writes of his experiences, apparently hallucinating visits by his family. A reference by Thorne earlier about Rudolf Hess being left alone in jail, with it torn down after he died because the memory of him is too much, gets born out with Joe. He knows too much and will not side with any oppressor.

Tropes used in Land of the Blind include:


  • Full-Circle Revolution - People become disgusted with the new regime, restoring the old. The "meet the new boss, same as the old boss" bit is Lampshaded when Joe says "under the old regime man exploited man, but since the revolution it's the other way around."
  • La Résistance - Citizens for Justice and Democracy, an opposition movement that become terrorists due to government repression. When they take over, it doesn't go well.
  • Regime Change - The dictator is killed and his regime overthrown, but the revolution turns out just as bad or worse.
  • Suspiciously Specific Denial - "I can neither confirm nor deny the existence of such a unit, sir." (That is, Battalion Six, an elite anti-terrorist army unit.)
  • Rebel Leader - Thorne, who began as a dissident playwright, headed the opposition, and was imprisoned for sedition. Inside he became steadily more extreme. After he wins, his regime becomes even worse, reminiscent of Mao, Khomeini & co.
  • Two Plus Torture Makes Five - In the reeducation camp inmates are taught "A dry crust of bread is better than nothing, but nothing is better than a big juicy steak. And therefore?...A dry crust of bread is better than a big juicy steak." Plus of course "The nail that sticks up gets hammered down." General Mind Screw. See Four terms fallacy
  • Your Terrorists Are Our Freedom Fighters - It is specifically mentioned that even before taking power, they bomb soft targets, imposing "order" by force in lawless areas, collecting "taxes" and using power drills on the kneecaps of people who resist it, referencing the Provisional IRA in Northern Ireland. After they're in power, of course, things go even more wrong.