Notes on Blindness 29.06.18 [U]
Notes on Blindness, a 2016 British documentary film directed by Peter Middleton and James Spinney, starring Dan Skinner and Simone Kirby, won the 2016 British Independent Film Award for Best Documentary, receiving several further nominations and was also nominated three times at the 70th BAFTAs in 2017.
We hear snatches from some of theologian John Hull’s early audio diary recordings which he starts in the early 1980s when he realises his sight is failing and then the visual provides actors lip-syncing the recorded words and memories – John and Marilyn’s (Kirby) honeymoon trip to Cirencester.
We hear the couple’s description of how, despite frequent operations, John’s sight was just about totally lost by the time their first child was born.
Overhearing a friend discussing his blindness makes John (Skinner) concentrate on how to resolve the practical difficulties he faces in his lecturing role – he has his reference books recorded and learns to recognise his students by their voices, but realises he then must think seriously about blindness, especially when he notes his failing to remember childhood memories or what his family look like.
We witness the poignant concern from his children and of a well-meaning faith healer.
Bereft of visual stimulation, John feels part of his brain is dying, feeling he wants to escape but can’t – his intuitive wife Marilyn (Kirby) caringly suggests he escapes to his office; John, angry at the seemingly relentless unfairness, Marilyn hating how she can’t be ‘with’ him. However, the blindness doesn’t affect him so much at work – here he has it under control.
We see John lifted by the rain and by the entertainment and love from his children, who query why God isn’t helping.
John’s journey provides stimulus for his lecturing and he becomes more accepting of his blindness, but Marilyn is deeply worried how his positivity is visibly thwarted when the family visits his parents in Australia.
A positive turning point is when he is back at home in familiar surroundings – his acceptance is not only revived; he considers his blindness as a gift.
Rated by Mark Kermode as an exceptional sensory experience, educational, entertaining and inspirational, Notes on Blindness, based on John Hull’s audio journal of how he coped with losing his sight, received several commendations from organisations for the blind. Described by Peter Bradshaw as affecting and profoundly intelligent, Roger Ebert, who also has no vision in his left eye, claims the documentary makes for powerful, compelling listening.
The actors’ impeccable lip-syncing is incredibly convincing and the filming’s subtly evoking sightlessness with hazy and some imageless shots, highlighting the dazzling moments shot in brilliant colour, provides both an uplifting and educational reflection.