Notes on Blindness
Time Out says
This moving doc is built on audiotapes made by an academic as his eyesight failed
You can’t help but become acutely aware of your eyesight – if you’re lucky enough to have it – while watching a film about living with blindness. This creative British doc tells the story of John Hull, an Australian academic living in the UK whose sight rapidly failed in the early 1980s, when he was in his mid-forties. Faced with a new life of darkness, Hull started to record his thoughts on audiotapes.
First-time feature filmmakers Pete Middleton and James Spinney take the tapes as their starting point, playing us extracts from the recordings as well as from more recent interviews in which Hull talks about how losing his sight changed his relationship with himself, his work, his parents back in Australia, the world around him and his kids (‘the discovery that you’re useless is not a nice discovery for any father to make’).
But rather than show us talking heads, Middleton and Spinney do something much more interesting: casting actors to lip-synch to the voices of Hull and his wife Marilyn. This turns John and Marilyn into fully fleshed characters and gives us a strong sense of the world to which Hull had to readjust.
The filmmakers’ depiction of early 1980s Britain – dark, rainy, almost entirely brown – is especially vivid. They also powerfully visualise some of the more abstract themes of Hull’s blindness: they illustrate, for example, how the sound of rain gives ‘shape and dimension’ to physical spaces and how images in his sleep correspond to what he can’t see in waking life (such as his daughter’s face). Hull clearly had a profound and lucid response to his blindness, and this thoughtful, illuminating film goes some way to inhabiting his thoughts.