Notes On Blindness

Director: Pete Middleton, James Spinney (2016)

This deliberately dreamlike documentary is an elegy to Professor John Hull who in his forties went totally blind.

Steering away from exploring how society deals with sufferers of this disability, it’s a deeply personal account skilfully stitched together from his audiocassette dairies.

These helped him understand his condition and in his words ‘retain the fullness of his humanity’.

Actors enact scenes from his life and lip synch to his family’s recorded voices. His daughter adds welcome moments of brevity.

To convey how John feels the world we see myriad textures of grass, stone, wood, leather and plastic. Vivid nightmares are recreated to represent his periodical depressions which are most aggressive at Christmas.

John muses on the nature of visual memory and how it relies on constant stimulation to maintain itself. Scenes of rainstorms inside his house offer echoes of Christopher Nolan’s Inception (2010), itself an essay on the power of perception and memory.

Finding beauty in the sound of the rain and retaining his Christian faith, John comes to view his blindness as a gift from god and immediately raises the question of what to do with it.

With tremendous dignity and grace under pressure, a stubbornly thoughtful and quietly inspiring figure is gradually revealed.


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