Friday, July 01, 2016

notes on blindness

Moira+I went along to the Watershed (where else?) this afternoon to see Pete Middleton’s/James Spinney’s remarkable film “Notes on Blindness”. In 1983 (aged 45), after years of failing sight, theologian John Hull became completely blind. Understandably, he struggled to come to terms with the finality of his condition – he described himself as being stuck, “a sighted person who couldn’t see”. He went through an initial grieving process, before deciding that he had to record his thoughts about blindness on tape (which he did for the rest of the decade) "because if I didn't understand it, it would defeat me".
These numerous tapes (along with interviews with John and his wife Marilyn) form the basis of the film… with actors (excellent Dan Skinner and Simone Kirby) lip-synching the dialogue.
It’s a moving and profound film (certainly not sugary or over-romanticised)… about coping and adapting, about becoming more aware, about the need for identifiable structure and routine, about the importance of support (from family, friends and colleagues), and about the importance of the familiarity of surroundings.
But, as you might imagine, it’s also a film about huge regrets… about not being able to see his five children (some of whom he’d never seen) and his wife, about not being able to access information, and about losing his visual memory (“longing for optic stimulation”). For me, I would have like to have heard more about how Marilyn adjusted to John’s total blindness…
During the course of the film, I found myself reflecting on the magical importance of ALL our senses - sight, sound, taste, touch and smell being the five traditional recognised senses… and how much we simply take them for granted… a magical sunrise or sunset; the laughter of children; Italian ice cream; an embrace from loved-one; new-mown grass… (the list could go on for several pages!).

Thanks to the tapes and his philosophical approach, you sense that Hull (who died in July 2015) was able to come to terms with his blindness… but one can only imagine how difficult the journey was and, if the circumstances were reversed, how we might cope in Hull’s situation.
Definitely a film I think you should see.
Losing sight, but gaining vision perhaps?

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