Notes on Blind­ness

NOTES ON BLIND­NESS, docu­d­rama, not rated, Jean Cocteau Cin­ema, 4 chiles

Pasatiempo - - PASATIEMPO -

“In the early 1980s, the­olo­gian John Hull lost his sight. He be­gan keep­ing an au­dio di­ary.” Thus be­gins a mov­ing por­trait that leads the viewer on a jour­ney of in­sights and per­cep­tions. For the doc­u­men­tary lover, Notes on

Blind­ness is some­thing un­ex­pected. It’s a dra­matic re-en­act­ment of a man com­ing to terms with his blind­ness, but the au­dio — of Hull, a Bri­tish univer­sity pro­fes­sor, and his wife Mar­i­lyn — is au­then­tic. Pro­fes­sional ac­tors — Dan Skin­ner as Hull and Si­mone Kirby as Mar­i­lyn — lip-synch their au­dio record­ings and in­ter­views.

Hull lost his eye­sight af­ter surgery, just be­fore the birth of his son in 1983. He was pained at the thought of not be­ing able to read, teach, or lec­ture, but took a sen­si­ble ap­proach to his predica­ment, hir­ing peo­ple to record the books in his li­brary and fig­ur­ing out the prob­lem of how to re­main en­gaged with univer­sity life. But that meant con­fronting a world where blind peo­ple are at a dis­ad­van­tage. “I had to think about blind­ness be­cause if I didn’t un­der­stand it, it would de­feat me,” he says. As the pic­tures in his mind be­gin to dim, the loss of sen­sory per­cep­tion is echoed in the film’s vis­ual style, which pro­vides ele­giac glimpses of the beauty of his fad­ing world in in­creas­ingly blurred but also im­pres­sion­is­tic pic­tures. Hull’s own im­pres­sions drive the nar­ra­tive. He won­ders what hap­pens to the part of the brain that pro­cesses vis­ual in­for­ma­tion when the vis­ual in­put ceases. “The brain it­self thirsts for that for which it is ac­cus­tomed,” he says. The loss of vi­sion is ac­com­pa­nied by a grad­ual loss of mem­ory of de­tails.

Di­rec­tors Peter Mid­dle­ton and James Spin­ney match Hull’s thought­pro­vok­ing and emo­tional nar­ra­tion with footage that leaves you con­stantly aware of vis­ual per­cep­tion. Hull’s dreams, which he nar­rates, stand out as re­mark­ably vivid, while his wak­ing life is de­picted as one of shadow and haze. We glimpse him and his fam­ily through the branches of trees, through panes of glass, or par­tially ob­scured by a piece of fur­ni­ture or other do­mes­tic de­tail edg­ing into the frame. Ten­der, in­ti­mate mo­ments be­tween Hull and Mar­i­lyn are shown at a slight re­move from the viewer, which in­creases the sense of im­pend­ing loss — and with it, the de­sire to hold fast to mo­ments of beauty.

Hull, who died in 2015, made his peace with blind­ness. An in­tel­li­gent man, he was ca­pa­ble of un­der­stand­ing his loss of vi­sion ob­jec­tively, per­haps be­cause of his commitment to record­ing his sub­jec­tive ex­pe­ri­ences — which also meant a commitment to ex­press­ing his fears and daily chal­lenges. While its mo­ments of tri­umph are sub­dued, Notes on

Blind­ness is not with­out a hope­ful tone. Hull did not ask for his blind­ness, but in the end, it gave him an­other way to see. — Michael Abatemarco

Seer: Dan Skin­ner (as John Hull)

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.