Tuesday, 5 July 2016


Though not a traditional documentary, Pete Middleton and James Spinney's Notes on Blindness is an excellent example of what this genre can accomplish, and certainly should more often. Rather than a story of passionless objectivity, this is a most intense, intimate, subjective experience. It forges the feeling of a new reality, felt as it occurs, from the memories of an old reality; the film is concerned with evocation more than recreation, and thus with a more identifiable, everyday reality for the viewer. Notes on Blindness offers little philosophical commentary in its formal gambits, instead employing them to chiefly emotional and sensorial ends. Middleton and Spinney recognize truths about blindness, related via John and Marilyn Hull's recollections and contemporary recordings, that mightn't immediately come to mind, but whose potency is far greater than that which the obvious techniques could have mustered up. John's life as a blind man is represented not by the absence of image, but by manipulation of it: a lack of focus here, a lack of light there, close-ups at odd angles, or - most effectively - a withholding of the actual sights (or absence thereof) being described. Thus a vivid intimacy is formed, a keen, tight subjectivity through image and sound alike - the former particularly acute in acknowledgement that one cannot substitute the audience's most prominent sense for John's and expect as powerful a response. If this narrow outlook prevents Notes on Blindness from obtaining any stronger significance outside its own direct meanings, it allows the filmmakers to sculpt such significance within, a process to which they are most dedicated.