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Sundance '14 Review: Notes on Blindness


Notes on Blindness is a short film that uses original audio recordings and re-enactment to tell the story of John Hull’s descent into blindness at age 40. Hull, a writer and theologian kept an audio diary for the first three years following his going completely blind. This is the first time that Hull’s recordings have been made public. The film immerses viewers into his world and the little day-to-day observations and discoveries that come with his grief and slow acceptance of being blind. For example, Hull discovers to his horror that the mind’s eye becomes a dreamscape that gradually fades away;

He can remember people’s faces from photographs but not from memories.

In one of the final scenes, Hull experiences the sensory beauty of a rainfall in his garden. This illustrates beautifully how, rather than be drowned by blindness, Hull stops resisting and lets it wash over him gently. In doing so he discovers that there is not only still beauty in life but beauty which is enhanced by his blindness.

The re-enactments are incredible and will no doubt set a new standard. Original photos of Hull and his family are not only recreated accurately but they are done so with subtlety and grace. The colours from these old family photos become the palette of the film which gives it a dreamy look.

Notes on Blindness is an official selection of Sundance 2014. Directors Peter Middleton and James Spinney are currently working on a feature length version of the film. For more information on this and on John Hull you can visit their website, Into Darkness and check out their Twitter @IntoDarknessDoc.

The film is also taking part in a YouTube Audience Award. You can help simply by visiting the film here.