Film Review: Notes on Blindness

30/06/2016 12:20 | Updated 30 June 2016

'Notes on Blindness,' Peter Middleton and James Spinnet's innovative, thought provoking and sensitive debut feature immerses the viewer in the experience of going blind as it follows John Hull, the remarkable academic, theologian and writer who lost his sight in his mid-40s and kept a diary over 3 years reflecting on how he dealt with this life changing condition.


Director: Peter Middleton, James Spinnet. Documentary. UK 2016 (U) 90 mins. ****

Premiered at this year's Sundance Film Festival to critical acclaim, 'Notes on Blindness,' Peter Middleton and James Spinnet's innovative, thought provoking and sensitive feature debut pays tribute to the remarkable academic, theologian and writer John Hull who lost his sight in his mid-40s and immerses the viewer in the life changing experience of going blind.

Just after the birth of his first son, after years of steady deterioration, writer and academic John Hull lost his sight in 1983. How do you cope with such a devastating and life changing condition? Other senses may become heightened but the visible world has gone. 'I need serious books, recorded sensibly' was his response. Friends and colleagues filled that gap but John Hull ventured further keeping a diary on audiocassette over 3 years with over 16 hours of material reflecting on his personal, philosophical and religious struggles and conversations with his wife Marilyn and family to try to make sense of his blindness as images of the past began to disappear. It's a remarkable diary and Peter Middleton and James Spinnet's innovative approach offers a fascinating insight into his world with scenes from John's life recreated with actors Dan Renton Skinner and Simone Kirby miming the actual audio recordings, brilliantly supported by Joakim Sundstrom's terrific sound score.

The diaries titled 'Touching the Rock' were published to critical acclaim in 1991 and described by the author and neurologist Oliver Sachs as 'a masterpiece...The most precise, deep and beautiful account of blindness I have ever read.'

A philosophical approach prevailed, and John Hull accepted blindness as a gift from God 'not a gift that I want, but a gift nonetheless.'

'To gain our full humanity, blind people and sighted people each need one another.' John Hull.


Peter Middleton and James Spinney decided to use innovative Virtual Reality technology to create a unique experience to complement their film.

Alongside the premiere of the feature film, Sundance 2016 saw the unveiling of Notes On Blindness : Into Darkness, an immersive VR project based on John's sensory and psychological experience of blindness.

The interactive experience complements the story world of the feature film and forms an integral part of the outreach programme. Each scene addresses a memory, a moment and a specific location from John's audio diary, using binaural audio and real time 3D animations to create a fully immersive experience in a 'world beyond sight'.

In April the project won the prestigious Storyscapes Award at the 2016 Tribeca Film Festival.

The VR will be touring in cinemas across the UK and Ireland from 24th June and will be available for download for Samsung Gear on 30th June.

Released 1st July

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