Blinding insights

Notes On BlindnessReview by David Southwell


For John Hull the experience of totally losing his sight became something of a spiritual quest.

That’s not such a surprise considering he was the son of a Melbourne Methodist minister who became a theologian and eminent religious educator.

John’s determination to wrest a sense of meaning from his mid-life loss of sight in 1983, while living in the UK with his wife and children, led him to record a taped diary. The diary forms the bulk of the soundtrack for the extraordinary film Notes on Blindness.

Actors lip-sync to the voices of John (who died while the film was being edited), his wife Marilyn and other family members to create a vivid dramatisation of the diaries and other taped material.

This is done so well that you have to keep reminding yourself that it isn’t the actual people and events being shown.

Even more remarkable is the way young British writers and directors, James Spinney and Peter Middleton, use the visual medium to impart a sense that you are sharing in a blind man’s experiences and understandings.

The film is tremendously inventive and, paradoxically, visually striking aided by lushly immersive audio.

Dreams, the one time when John can ‘see’, and other imaginings feature prominently and come weighted with emotional and symbolic significance, as do visual metaphors such as his glasses.

John’s trip home to Victoria proves a pivotal moment as he sinks into despairing frustration over his failure to connect with his emotionally distant father or with any sense of his past. Childhood settings have become a meaningless blank.

From this sense of loss, isolation and incapacity, the film charts John’s path towards an epiphany, fittingly in a cathedral, as he reframes his dilemma of whether to accept or resist blindness.

John’s sister, Jan Dale, introduced a one-off showing of the film in Carlton on 26 April.

Notes on Blindness is being shown on demand, requiring an individual or group to act as an event host and ensure enough tickets are sold to allow a screening.

If you are interested in hosting a screening go to the Demand Film website


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