Notes On Blindness: Film for the Common Good
Notes on Blindness introduces a ‘world beyond sight.’
Flickers of light, swinging and shifting scenes, blurred figures and 3D tours of anatomy—these are just a few elements that viewers ingest in the film Notes on Blindness. Besides an original approach to cinematography what good are these images? The documentary commemorates a blind scholar and theologian’s journey into darkness. Filmmakers Peter Middleton and James Spinney broadcast John Hull’s dream, bringing together the visually-impaired and the sighted. The Notes on Blindness project is a project for the common good.
Committed to John and Marilyn Hull, Middleton and Spinney involved the husband and wife in the writing and filming process. But, they didn’t stop there. John Hull’s audio diaries are the entirety of the script. Actors Dan Skinner and Simone Kirby learned the cadence and rhythms of John and Marilyn’s speech. Their prolific lip-syncing give form to those voices.
The film instigates the melding of the visually-impaired and sighted communities.
Cinematography does not privilege the sighted. Hard to envision, I know. Middleton and Spinney shoot in spotty segments, focusing on the object projecting sound such as moving lips and tapping shoes. Flashes of light stun viewers’ retinas making it difficult to refocus on the dark images. The sighted are welcomed into the world of blindness. Meanwhile, multiple viewing options construct opportunities for the visually-impaired. An audio-enhanced version lends spatial descriptions alongside film dialogue. An enhanced soundtrack version uses additional dialogue sequences as well as filled out sound design and music.
The virtual reality project offers the experience of the blind to the sighted.
The film is not the only aspect of the project. The VR experience, Notes on Blindness: Into Darkness, provides an opportunity for the sighted audience to encounter the ‘world beyond sight.’ This six-part interactive documentary exhibits the psychological experience of blindness.
Middleton, Spinney and their collaborators have taken an inspirational step for film. Their documentary-style storytelling extends past the traditional transfer of unique information. Notes on Blindness reconciles two experiences of world, of life. The sighted are introduced to the blind with fantastic innovation and profound dignity.