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Notes on Blindness

The register of the unseen - audacious British filmmakers and talented actors team up and reimagine the sightless world of the late John Hull, based K7 on recordings that the blind man made in the 1980s

Take an extraordinary journey into “a world beyond sight”. Notes on Blindness is a vivid account of a man losing his sight and also conscious about the importance of living in the reality and not in nostalgia.

The debutant British directors Peter Middleton and James Spinney first pitched the film four years ago, after reading the memories of John Hull. Hull was a theologist who lost his sight completely in the 1980s. His iris was severely traumatised in previous surgeries and he then began to register his memories and accounts into K7 tapes. In total, he registered 16 hours in a tape recorder. Middleton and Spinney had access to this material and decided to use it to make a film. Hull died last year.

The most extraordinary aspect of Notes on Blindness is that the directors used the original material in the film. The intention was to evoke authenticity. Actors Dan Renton Skinner (John Hull) and Simone Kirby (Marilyn Hull, John’s wife) do not use their voices. They learnt how to lip synch the original tapes.

As a teacher, Hull felt the need to understand what was going on with him. He was intrigued by what happens to that affected part of the brain when optic nerves stop functioning. Middleton and Spinney had to translate into images Hull’s anxieties as well as his sensorial perceptions of the world around him. The cinematography and the sound play important role in the movie. Everything around Hull is an audible environment. A simple rain is broken down into various components: the rain on the window, the rain on the wood, the rain on the roof, etc.

Notes on Blindness is a singular cinematographic experience, and you will never see another film like this (pun unintended). Middleton’ and Spinney’s view of cinema transcend what is shown on the screen; it is pure discovery. It’s a movie you can almost touch: a virtually tactile trip.

The film was shown this week at the Sheffield Doc Fest, where there was a long stand-by queue of enthusiastic doc lover hoping to enter the screening. Alongside with the feature film, there was an interactive experience based on John’s sensory and psychological experience of blindness. It won the Alternate Realities: VR jury Award yesterday – click here for more information about the event.

It will be on general release in cinemas throughout the UK on July 1st. There are also a few preview screenings in case you don’t want to wait that long!

We have interviewed Simone Kirby about non-musical lip-syncing – so stay tuned!

Watch the film trailer below:


By Maysa Monção - 15-06-2016

Maysa Monção is a Brazilian writer, teacher, translator, editor and art performer who currently lives in London. She has a Masters Degree in Film Studies from Tor Vergata University in Rome, Italy, ...

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