Directed by Peter Middleton and James Spinney
8th – 18th July 2016
Reviewed by Colin Serjent
I can empathise to a great extent with the subject matter of this film. It centres around theology professor John Hull who, after struggling with poor sight, went completely blind in the early 1980s.
A similar experience almost happened to me at that time. I underwent several operations at St Paul’s Eye Hospital in Liverpool after I had detached retinas in both eyes. After these operations failed I was sent to Addenbrook’s Hospital in Cambridge where one of the top eye surgeons in the world at that time, Mr Scott, eventually brought an end to my dilemma. Without his expertise I would have gone blind.
Hull kept an audio diary, comprising hundreds of cassette tapes, meditating on his blindness, spanning a period of three years after his tragedy. In a brilliant piece of direction by Peter Middleton and James Spinney, the actors, playing Hull and his wife and five kids, lip-synch to these recordings. Hull played by Dan Renton Skinner and his wife by Simone Kirby.
Tribute must also be paid to the two directors for the impressive way they sometimes shot in a blurry, less defined way than normal to convey the lack of visual input. The most notable example was the scene where trees within a forest are shown in a distillated way, with primary colours almost absent.
In some sort of similar way, as a form of therapy, I recorded self composed music and poetry on cassette tapes, which I still possess, with the subject matters often relating to the precious nature of sight.
One of the most telling quotes uttered by Hull is that ‘I need to understand blindness or it would defeat me.’
Sadly, Hull died last year.