Apart from closing our eyes and stumbling around like a drunken fool, it is extremely difficult for any sure-sighted individual to know what it is truly like to be blind; myself included. To know what its like to be trapped inside your own head. To know what it’s like to feel useless to your loved ones. To know what it’s like to never be able to see your home again.
Notes on Blindness shares the story of John Hull, an Australian theologist and academic, who meticulously documented the loss of his sight via audiocassette. The film that resulted is an insightful synthesis of these audiotapes perfectly laced with visuals of lip-syncing actors.
This film was a beautifully emotional piece of cinematography. To create an image of what it is like to lack sight is not a simple task, but Notes on Blindness managed to do so sensitively and with emotional depth and empathy: it accomplished the unenviable task of inviting the sighted into the moving landscape of the sightless.
Despite Hull’s recordings being taken from 1980s cassettes, the audio quality is immaculate, with little to no distortion. This assists in a seamless, near unnoticeable blend between what the audience is hearing and what they are seeing. The unaware may even go into this film thinking that there is no clear separation between the two.
There were very few negatives to Notes on Blindness, but if I were to choose an element to criticise, it would be the pace of the film. It is slow and flowing, with no real peaks and troughs. This to some could be a significant turnoff, although it’s merits outweigh this potential drawback. In spite of the lack of dramatic turning points the emotional narrative, and the film’s ability to draw the audience into the world and experiences of John Hull, are to be applauded.
If you were to see any films from MIFF this year, I would highly recommend Notes On Blindness. It gracefully encapsulates the struggle of being without sight in a modern world, and perhaps reminds the sighted audience of the great gift of that sense; one not to be taken for granted.
By David van Veldhuisen
This review is a part of SWINE Magazine’s Melbourne International Film Festival coverage.