Land of the Blind

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Land of the Blind
Theatrical film poster
Directed byRobert Edwards
Written byRobert Edwards
Produced byPhilippe Martinez
Jon Avnet
Alan Latham
Cerise Hallam Larkin
Stanley Roup
StarringDonald Sutherland
Ralph Fiennes
Tom Hollander
Marc Warren
Lara Flynn Boyle
CinematographyEmmanuel Kadosh
Edited byFerne Pearlstein
Music byGuy Farley
Doug Edwards
Avnet-Kerner Productions
Bauer Martinez Studios
Brooklyn Films
Defender Film Fund II
Defender Production
Lucky 7 Productions LLC
Studio Eight Productions
Templar Films
Distributed byBauer Martinez Entertainment
Release date
  • June 16, 2006 (2006-06-16)
Running time
101 minutes
CountriesUnited Kingdom
United States
Budget$18 million (est)[1]
Box office$15,180 (Worldwide)[2]

Land of the Blind is a 2006 British-American drama film starring Ralph Fiennes, Donald Sutherland, Tom Hollander and Lara Flynn Boyle.

Land of the Blind is a dark political satire, based on several incidents throughout history in which tyrannical rulers were overthrown by new leaders who proved to be just as bad, if not worse, and several such cases are alluded to. The title is taken from the saying, "In the land of the blind, the one-eyed man is king."[3]

Land of the Blind had its world premiere in competition at the International Film Festival Rotterdam, and was the Opening Night Gala film at the 2006 Human Rights Watch Film Festival in London. Its U.S. premiere was in competition at the 2006 Tribeca Film Festival. The film sparked intense reaction during its festival run, attacked by both left and right, each of which saw the film as a critique of its position.[citation needed]


Maximilian II (often called Junior) is the ignorant, vindictive and petulant ruler of a troubled (but unnamed) country. Maximilian has two main interests: enjoying himself and running his country's movie industry. The output of the nation's film studios is limited to terrible action-adventure schlock with names like Out For Vengeance 4. While it is heavily implied that Junior is a childish sadist, it is conceded that his excesses are only bolstered by the encouragement of his beautiful, yet cruel, wife Josephine (Boyle) and the violence dealt by anti-government terrorists.

Joe is a warder working at the prison where John Thorne is held at the beginning of the movie. During this period, Thorne squats in a shabby cell, endures frequent beatings from the other guards and writes revolutionary slogans on the walls with his own feces. Joe comes to learn from Thorne and respect him for his bearing and intellect, if not his message. Maximilian, trying to quash spiraling dissent, takes the risk of letting Thorne out of jail, hoping to have him thus become not a great folk hero but another greedy, dishonest politician. Joe, too, is soon promoted to one of the guards at Maximilian's palace and a position in the country's elite military unit. After seeing Junior's madness firsthand, he lets Thorne and his followers into the palace's inner chambers while Junior and Josephine are engaged in a revolting sex game. Thorne shoots the pair and becomes a ruler governing a country as absolutely totalitarian, if not more so, than the deceased Maximilian. Thorne also encourages separating children from their parents, imposes veganism, bans action movies and eliminates imported medicine all while sending the country's professional classes to grim re-education camps. Frightened females cower underneath burqa-like garments.

For his assistance in assassinating the dictator, Joe is hailed as a hero by Thorne. Nevertheless, as Joe realizes that his one-time friend is just as bad as, if not worse than, his predecessor, he refuses to ally with the new regime. For this, Thorne sends Joe to a re-education camp.

Subjected to numerous beatings and isolation, Joe continually refuses to sign his loyalty oath. At one point Thorne visits but does not recognize his old friend, even after Joe attempts to show him repeatedly who he is. Joe is also accused of being part of a "hidden" conspiracy within the prison itself. One of his former co-workers, assumedly after being severely beaten, admits to the conspiracy's veracity and accuses Joe of being involved. Joe is quickly brought to the dreaded Room 12. It is there that the audience is revealed to a shocking twist: Joe is accused of never helping Thorne conquer the government or being a commando in a covert-ops group, but rather a standard recruit in the armed forces discharged after the standard two years. During this, Joe seems to hallucinate heavily, his interrogators becoming characters dead and alive we have seen throughout the film and is asked once again what is better than a big juicy steak (a recurring question with a wordplay answer, a slogan concerning the obligation of veganism). Throughout the scene it is suggested he may be being tortured mentally or is undergoing a paranoid or psychotic episode. His answer to any of the questions is never shown.

Thorne is killed in his bath by one of his once loyal followers. The revolutionary government is quickly overthrown. Junior's in-laws and nephew are revealed to have escaped during Thorne's revolution and, having lived in exile, have returned to re-establish the old government (with an outside country's assistance). The head of the camp returns to being a doctor and denies having taken part in the tortures and excesses he ordered, while the tortured co-worker that accused Joe of conspiracy is given a government job. This ex-coworker makes a number of empty promises to get Joe out as soon as the "political climate" settles but says that his confession to helping murder Maximilian makes him a sensitive case. For having destroyed the old government, but also never having 'played ball' with the new one, Joe is stuck in a prison cell until the end of time. Twelve years later, we find Joe writing his memoirs in a white cell resembling that of a prison's or an asylum's, seemingly oblivious even to his daughter's visits. It is possible that he is insane, or that he is perfectly sane, but the woman that visited was an actor pretending to be his daughter to break him down. She leaves Joe writing his memoirs and exits his cell that is really located in some low end residential apartment complex implying that Joe is not a political prisoner but is under some sort of house arrest being taken care of by the State.


Historical references[edit]

Historical references in the film include Jean-Paul Marat (from the French Revolution), Kim Jong-Il, Joseph Stalin, Benito Mussolini, Augusto Pinochet, Anastasio Somoza Debayle, François Duvalier, Rudolf Hess, Jean-Claude Duvalier, Lyndon B. Johnson, Julius Caesar (from William Shakespeare's play), Robert Mugabe, Ngo Dinh Diem, Idi Amin, the PIRA Maze prison protests, U.S. POWs in Vietnam, the Weathermen terrorist group, the Khmer Rouge, the 1979 Revolution in Iran, and the subsequent Cultural Revolution in that country.

Critical reception[edit]

The film received mostly negative reviews from critics. Review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes reports that 17% out of 18 professional film critics gave the film a positive review, with a rating average of 4.1/10.[4]


  1. ^ Business for Land of the Blind IMDb
  2. ^ "Land of the Blind". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved 2015-06-19.
  3. ^ Desiderius Erasmus. "In regione caecorum rex est luscus". The Quotations Page.
  4. ^ Land of the Blind. Rotten Tomatoes. Flixster. Retrieved 14 October 2012.

External links[edit]