Notes on Blindness (2016) Movie Script

Hello. Testing, testing, testing...
Daddy, Daddy...
This is cassette one, track one.
10th of July 1983.
Have we begun yet?
Disembodied voices... 22nd February.
Speaking out of nowhere... 1984.
Disappearing into nowhere.
Thank you very much for the tape.
Everything drifting away.
Waterlogged, immobile.
Hello and welcome to...
A religious crisis... Down, down...
Can't we just go back?
It's a long time ago, isn't it?
How difficult it is to remember
the detail...
Let's think...
We were married on the 1st November
Well, you were driving, of course.
Well, you certainly weren't driving!
We took off down to...
- We got to Chichester.
- Oh, that was it... Was it?
- Where was our honeymoon?
- The southern edge of the...
- What was it called?
- Began with a C, Cirencester.
Ah! That was it, Cirencester.
That's a long way...
That ghastly B&B!
Was quite the worst place
we've ever stayed in.
I don't remember it being so bad.
- The bed was covered in dust!
- Yeah.
- I'm sure there were bedbugs.
- Well.
Do you remember the way the tide came in?
Right up the main street.
It took the form of a... dark,
black disc...
which slowly progressed across
the field of vision.
Went very quickly.
The doctor said that the eye
was so badly traumatised
from previous surgery...
"All we'll be able to do
is to preserve a little bit of sight."
Of course, you never believe that.
You keep on hoping.
That was the final eye operation.
You were just out of hospital
when Tom was born.
He's smiling.
He's smiling at you.
I still had that little bit of vision.
I would see a flicker of a shadow
across the window
as you moved across it.
If I stood underneath
the central light in the room,
I could tell if it was on or off.
The stars had gone, the moon had gone.
I must still be able to see the sun,
mustn't I?
They didn't think it would last long.
Here we are again.
Another part of Imogen Hull's tape.
Er, side two. Now, then...
She was thrilled, you know,
as an older sister, having a little brother.
I don't think she realised
what was going on.
The little drop of the Father
on thy little beloved forehead.
The little drop of the Son
on your forehead, beloved one.
A little drop of the Spirit
on your forehead, beloved one.
There was nobody much around
in the university.
I could hear one of my friends saying...
"You know that John Hull's going
completely blind?"
Stopping and hearing that.
Thoughts just came tumbling into my mind.
What about my reading? My research?
What about my teaching?
How am I going to teach?
How am I going to lecture?
Without any notes!
I went up to my office and sat there.
The students will be here
in about five weeks.
How am I going to do this?
A social worker told me about
all the things they could offer.
Mmm. Your first white cane.
There were special holiday
homes for blind people.
Maybe I'd like to have a dog and...
And she said, "You need a mobility course."
But I said, "No, I'm not doing that."
I haven't got time!
Most people would have made the time.
I was just too busy
keeping up with everything.
Well, you were also stubborn.
You were, sort of, in furious denial.
The only thing I was interested in
was how to function as a blind academic.
That, nobody knew.
We've got...
The Long Surrender.
Autumn Conquest.
I needed to have serious
books recorded sensibly.
Uh... What about anthropology and sociology?
All that was basically available
in the United Kingdom
was detective novels and romantic fiction.
Well, I'm interested in reading
contemporary social sciences.
No, look,
how do blind people read big books?
They said, "They don't."
Anyway, um, I'll sort it out,
so thanks for your advice.
They don't.
That was it.
Now, I didn't buy that.
I had a tape recorder, of course.
I had cassettes.
Is that the microphone? Yes.
Is it on?
That makes a difference, doesn't it?
Testing, testing, testing...
Today is Tuesday
and I'm wondering if this machine
will record or not.
Testing, testing...
Today is Tuesday
and I'm wondering if this machine
will record or not.
The first thing I did
was build up a team of people
to record books for me.
How did you get that going?
I can't quite remember,
but it became an absolute business!
I had up to 30 of them
working for me at one stage.
The books would come back on cassettes.
Hundred of cassettes.
Yeah, that was transformative.
Down on this level. One...
I spent, I suppose,
the next two or three years
learning all of those little tricks.
With ingenuity and a little bit of help,
there were problems that could be solved.
Meaning is an operation
with intentionality...
The truth is that although it was,
in a way, so devastating,
I did enjoy it.
I was entirely occupied.
It wasn't until the final,
tiny bit of light sensation
slowly disappeared
that my mood changed.
Remember that day in Shrewsbury
when I caught a glimpse of a...
- Of a church spire?
- Yeah.
I think that's the last thing you ever saw.
That's probably true.
I had a dream.
You had a dream?
I had a dream
what I got some dinner,
but it didn't have at all
very much nice stuff in it
and I lost it again.
- Was that the end?
- And you were in it.
He's telling me about a dream he had.
it will be cloudy, um,
throughout the evening.
and a big patch of wind on the,
um, satellite picture
just coming over and lots of...
What now?
What next?
I'd learnt how to lecture without notes.
Learnt how to recognise
the students by their voices.
The cassettes were pouring in faster
than I could read them.
All of that was done.
It was at that point
I realised
that I had to think about blindness
because if I didn't understand it
it would defeat me.
This is cassette one, track one.
Notes on Blindness
and this is the 21st of June,
After nearly three years of blindness,
I find that the pictures
in the gallery of my mind
have dimmed somewhat.
People and places I know and love so well.
Memories of my early life
spent in Australia.
So I found with great distress
that I could no longer remember easily
what my wife looked like.
Or what my daughter, Imogen, looked like.
I found that memories of photographs
were more easily recaptured.
In the case of my daughter, Imogen,
I have a wide range
of visual memories of her.
Of Thomas, now nearly three,
I have a few very vague impressions
based upon the first six or nine months
of his life
before I lost sight altogether.
And of Elizabeth,
I have no visual memories at all
and never have had.
Just a minute.
I am concerned
to understand blindness,
to seek its meaning,
to retain the fullness of my humanity.
We need to know
what kind of necessity is it.
Is it a psychological necessity?
Is it logical?
Is it a historical necessity?
A note on smiles.
Nearly every time I smile,
I'm conscious of smiling.
I mean, I'm conscious of the movement.
Even, one might say, the effort of smiling.
I think the reason is that
there is no returning smile.
One never gets anything for
one's own smiles.
One is sending off dead letters.
Consequently, I can feel myself
stopping smiling.
Or I think I can.
I must ask someone close to me
whether this is true or not.
A note on Thomas' awareness of my blindness.
He sadly wandered off into the mountains,
knowing that he could never look into
the beautiful eyes
of Rapunzel again.
Thomas asked me, "Why was he blind?"
"Because his eyes were poorly."
"My eyes are poorly."
He said to me in a very serious
and probing voice...
"Are you blind?"
"Yes, I am."
"Your eyes are closed."
"Yes, but even when I open my eyes,
I still can't see."
"Can't you see the pictures?"
"I can see the pictures."
"Your eyes aren't poorly."
I put my hand over his eyes
and held his eyes closed.
"Now can you see?" I said.
He said, "No."
"Yes, I can see now."
"Yes, my eyes aren't poorly."
I am reminded of being in Wales with Imogen,
when she said to me...
"if I cried and my tears fell on your eyes,
"would you be able to see again?"
This thought she had got, I'm sure,
from Rapunzel.
And they lived happily ever after.
Cassette two, track one.
A strange experience with a faith healer.
On Thursday evening,
we stopped at the Indian restaurant
in Bristol Street.
Isn't this a wonderful example
of what it's like to be a parent?
I hope everything is to your satisfaction.
May I?
I took him to be a waiter
who worked in the restaurant.
He asked me if I was completely blind,
how long I had been blind,
the cause of my blindness was.
Well, um,
in one way or another, I suppose,
I've been fighting against blindness
most of my life.
Please, go on...
when I was a child,
I lost my sight for the first time.
I've had all sorts of operations
and gradually sight simply faded away.
Why do you ask?
And now you see nothing?
I don't see anything now.
And, yet, you still wear glasses?
Silly, really, isn't it?
I'd feel rather undressed
without my glasses.
Tell me, do you still hope
that you will see again?
No, I don't hold out hope.
The doctors have told me
it's quite impossible.
And you believe them?
He told me about some of the
marvellous cures he'd done, even cancer.
My sight is dependent on my will
and he, through hypnotherapy,
could help to restore my will.
I see.
Could you restore a leg lost
in a traffic accident?
You have no eyes? Are they gone?
It's just a mass of jelly.
Willpower cannot restore it.
He was speechless!
He was absolutely speechless!
But, John,
do you think it's got to the point
where you don't really want to
get your sight back?
What makes you say that?
Well, you always seem to be so happy.
You seem to be functioning so well.
Oh, Liz.
If only you knew half the truth.
Of course I want my sight back.
I will never accept
the human losses of blindness.
Every time I wake up,
I lose my sight.
Last night, I dreamt that my sight improved.
I had the most intense picture of Thomas
as a cuddly, little boy.
In my dream I said to myself,
"There you are, you see.
"In good light, you can still manage
fairly well."
My waking reflection is that
my dreaming life
is still denying the reality.
...heavy swell breaking onto the rocks.
Five were swept into the sea,
three from one group, and two from another.
Sennen and Penlee lifeboats
were called to search as dusk gathered.
The Royal Navy helicopter from Culdrose
flew back and forth across the sea.
That's page 104.
My comments... this text
is an interesting example in the Bible
of the limitations of a theology of vision.
Give us an H.
Give us an A.
Give us a P.
Give us another P.
Give us a Y...
Happy Xmas!
Because now it's party time!
Come here for a minute!
'Ello, 'ello, 'ello, look what I found!
Another one of these.
What's this, Tom?
Oh, I know what this is.
When you hold it in the light,
you can see all the colours
really brightly. It's beautiful, look.
Oh, that's nice!
What I remember about you
most vividly in those years
was your amazing practicality.
You never expressed regrets.
You just got on with the next thing,
step by step.
The way you did that,
I always thought was quite incredible.
Dedicated To The One I Love
by The Mamas & The Papas
# While I'm far away from you, my baby. #
Would you take Imagine by John Lennon?
An obvious choice.
No. Dylan, you'd surely want to take Dylan?
Well, I know, but there
one is completely stuck.
I know what you'd take
and what we'd both take!
- What?
- Jacqueline Du Pre
- playing Elgar's Cello... whatsit?
- Yes!
- There you are.
- I think we've got one.
# Each night before you go to bed, my baby
# Whisper a little prayer for me, my baby
# And tell all the stars above
# This is dedicated to the one I...
# Love...
# Can never be exactly like we want it to be
# Love can never be
exactly like we want it to be... #
# Love can never be... #
A huge wave crashed down, separating us all.
There was a debris of
floating merchandise and dead bodies.
I searched for them everywhere
in despair and found nothing.
It was hopeless, they'd simply disappeared.
Somebody had reminded me
that part of the human brain
specialises in the reception
and processing of visual material.
Now I would like to know what happens
to that part of the brain
when optic stimulation ceases.
Could this perhaps account
for the sense of suffering
I have experienced over
the past year or two?
The feeling I am describing
is a sense of hunger, of aridity.
A feeling that one's brain longs for
optic stimulation,
as the body longs for food.
The brain itself thirsts for that
to which it is accustomed.
Part of my brain is dying.
Say Merry Christmas to Mummy.
Merry Christmas, Mummy!
Merry Christmas, sweetheart.
Let's have a Christmas kiss.
What's that? My word!
What is it, Tom?
What is this?
- A mouth organ.
- Good Lord!
That particular Christmas was the worst.
- Dad, look at these.
- What is it?
What is it?
I don't know.
I think it's probably bubble bath.
Father Christmas must have smelt you
all the way from the North Pole.
I was stuck.
You know, I couldn't get up and leave.
How could I walk out on Christmas Day?
- No...
- You know?
But I couldn't stay, either.
Wait for me. How do I look in these?
You look terrific!
Did Father Christmas leave those?
- Are they comfy?
- Yeah.
Are they warm?
- Yeah.
- Are they?
What colour are they?
Ever so nice, aren't they?
Are they a good fit?
Special winter slippers.
Go and look at yourself in the mirror.
That was when you came up to me and said,
"You look dreadful.
Why don't you go into the office?"
Just go to work.
Just go.
I had a desperate feeling of being enclosed.
Having to get out. I must get out.
I had only gone about a hundred yards
when I was aware of a growing feeling
of doubt and uncertainty.
I was intensely aware of the fact
that I was going through nothing.
Through an intensely cold nothing.
Of going nowhere.
Of being entirely alone.
I turned around
and walked back to the house.
Away In A Manger
I felt as if I was banging my head,
my whole body,
against the wall of blindness.
A desperate need to break through
this curtain,
this veil which was surrounding me,
to come out into the world
of light out there.
How could this happen to me?
Who could ask me to go through this?
Who had the right to deprive me of the
sight of my children at Christmas time?
The image that often haunted me
during the early days of my blindness
came back to me with such force.
I was in a little coal truck in a mineshaft,
being trundled deeper and deeper
into the mine.
Were we just out of control?
Was there nobody in a position to stop it?
Would it just go on and on?
I had to get out, I had to jump out,
I had to run back.
But, no,
it remorselessly carried me in deeper
and deeper and deeper.
I think this idea of you
going away into another world
where I couldn't be was...
That was awful, that was...
Shall I scratch my eyes out?
Shall I come with you into this world?
I somehow feel
that if I were to accept this thing
if I were to enter into acquiescence,
then I would die...
because it would be as if my ability
to resist,
my will to resist, were broken.
On the other hand,
not to accept seems futile,
because what one is refusing to accept
is a fact.
And now what I have to face is
the thought that there is no escape.
The thought that I shall now just go on
with another 20,
30 or even more years of this.
One fights back by adopting tiny techniques.
Familiarity, predictability,
the same objects,
the same little movements of the hand.
One has to establish
some kind of environment,
a study, a room, a route, a passage,
over which one can establish
some kind of territory.
I am not particularly conscious
of being blind while I'm at work.
When I'm at work, all my students
have to come into my world
of ideas and concepts and language.
OK, let's start with the very
oldest or most ancient of these.
That's the very first conflict, faith.
The essence of the thing is planning,
initiatives, and active participation.
The moment
I sink into passivity and irrelevance...
then I'm done for.
Tomorrow it'll be reasonably sunny,
reasonably cold, reasonably hot,
reasonably everything.
In fact, I don't know at all!
And that is the end of the news.
Dong! Dong! Dong!
A note on the experience
of hearing rain falling.
This evening, I came out the front door
of the house and it was raining.
I stood for a few minutes,
lost in the beauty of it.
Rain brings out the contours
of what's around you...
in that it introduces a blanket
of differentiated and specialised sound...
which fills the whole
of the audible environment.
If only there could be something
equivalent to rain falling inside.
Then the whole of a room would take on
shape and dimension...
instead of being isolated, cut off,
pre-occupied internally.
You're presented with a world.
You are related to a world.
You are addressed by a world.
Why should this experience
strike one as being beautiful?
Cognition is beautiful.
It is beautiful to know.
Well, I must thank you again
for your tape,
from all of you.
From you, Thomas, and Lizzie,
and Imogen, too.
How are you getting along?
We'd love to see you sometime.
We don't realise how the time passes.
Anyhow, thank you again.
I hope you'll have the time
to come out here to see us.
Hello, Grandpa and Grandma,
I hope you're fine,
cos we're having a wonderful time here.
Do send love to all the other relatives
in Australia.
Now, it's time for the morning concert.
# Sparkle, evening star, I see you there
# High above our land, you sit and stare
# Star bright
# Gleaming white
# I wonder if you hear my song tonight. #
That was good, Immy, worked quite well.
I've got one of them!
That was good, Immy, worked quite well.
Well, Mum and Dad,
I hope you enjoy that as an authentic
bit of children's production!
I should perhaps also add
we will not be able to come to Australia...
because I do feel that the lack of
mobility and of activity
would be difficult for me to put up with.
I'm sure you'll understand that.
Well, I must stop now
and get this off to you.
Lots of love to all of you, from all
of us. Bye now.
Read on.
"The grass and the plants
"and it was..."
What does that little sign mean?
Do it again on my hand.
It's going...
with a...
Like this?
It's a comma.
- What does that mean?
- A pause.
- Oh.
- Where does it have it?
One night, putting Thomas to bed,
I had a long
and detailed discussion with him
about my blindness.
"Will you always be blind?" he said.
"Yes, always."
"Couldn't the doctors stop it?"
"The doctors tried."
I explained about the retina,
how it sometimes tears and comes
off from the back of the eye.
"What did they say?"
"Well, they just said, "Sorry, Mr Hull,
we can't do any more for you.""
"Why doesn't God help you?"
"God does help me,
"in lots of ways."
"Well, he makes me strong
and gives me courage."
"But he doesn't help you to get
your eyes back?"
Our, Father
Who art in heaven
Hallowed be Thy name
Your kingdom come
Thy will be done
On earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread.
Yes, there have been times
when I have been angry with God.
Unreasonably so, I suppose.
Sometimes one's emotions spill over.
But I don't regard faith as a sort of a...
a shield against the ordinary ups
and downs of human life.
Why shouldn't it happen to me?
So now at last we've come to this...
great problem, this question.
The problem of mutual understanding.
How can blind and sighted people
truly understand each other?
How can men understand women?
How can the rich understand the poor?
How can the old understand the young?
Can we have insight into other people?
This is the great question upon which
the unity of our humanity hangs.
The last two days have been
particularly peaceful and happy.
Two long days with Marilyn
and it was one of the best times
I've had playing with the children.
Up a tree!
Yes, Thomas, wow!
Don't go falling off, will you?
My health is very much
better than it was at Christmas time.
Perhaps blindness won't cut me off,
after all.
Was I going to live in reality
or live in nostalgia?
Over a period of weeks, months maybe,
the decision hardened in me.
I would not live in nostalgia,
but would live in reality.
And would become blind.
Wow! Look at this.
It's a really long drop.
What's that bit in the middle? Is that...
- Are you all right, darling?
- Yeah.
I wanted my parents to know
me as a blind person.
I wanted them to somehow recognise me.
And accept me.
Every year we used
to go and pick cherry plums
and bring them home.
Mother made cherry plum jam by the dozen.
I can remember rows and rows of the jam.
- Say, "Hello, Grandma."
- Hello, Grandma.
Of course, they were delighted
with the children,
but I think they were shocked.
Absolutely scandalised!
It was like
having to get to know me all over again.
- It's a nice photo, that.
- Yes.
Here we have a photo of us all sitting
up in this car out in our back yard.
That's right.
Well, how strangely
coloured photographs fade.
It's all laid out like a professional poet.
"Poems, to my mother."
Oh, to my mother...
Not to my mother and father.
- Interesting.
- To my mother.
I never had a close relationship
with my father.
I don't know what he thought of it all.
I walked down to the shops with him.
We went to buy some bread and butter.
It was the first time I'd touched him
on that visit...
and I was shocked at how fragile he was.
How slowly he moved along.
And as we went along,
he with his blind son on his elbow,
I wondered what was going on in his mind,
but we didn't talk about it.
I wish I had known.
I wish I did know.
# Da-da-da-de-duh! #
Even Grandpa!
Go, Grandpa!
Strange thing, John, wasn't it?
That Dad came from England
and married an Australian girl.
You were born in Australia
and married an English girl!
Yes, it is strange.
He's a good father, though.
I remember, she sitting next to me,
cuddling up quite close.
"John," she said,
"I have to come up close to you now
"because there's no other way
we can get in contact, is there?"
I said, "Yes, Mother, but that's all right."
Dear old Mother,
what's it like for you?
Hang on!
It's all right!
Is she hurt?
It was awful, wasn't it? Oh, dear.
What's happened?
She shut her finger in the door.
I remember taking her little hand.
Painful for the child,
but no harm done really.
Good girl.
Try to stretch out
your fingers a little bit.
It'll be fine, love.
That was a frightening moment.
The discovery that you re useless
is not a nice discovery...
for any father to make.
- You all right?
- Yeah.
You just look a bit...
Do you want some water?
No, I'm all right.
- When will it come?
- When will what come?
Speaking bit.
It doesn't speak, darling, not like a phone.
- Can't hear you.
- Do you know what it is?
A tape recorder.
You see that going round inside there?
It's making little records
and your voice and my voice are on it.
- Say, "Hello, hello, hello."
- Hello, hello, hello.
I knew that this was
the first time I'd seen her.
I stared at her, full of wonder,
taking in every detail of her face.
I thought, "So this is her.
"This is she.
"These are those lovely,
luminous brown eyes.
"This is that smile that they all
talk about."
Everything went black again.
I was back in consciousness.
And in blindness.
And I realised with a shock
that it had been a dream.
I've got sick of recording this one
so I've stopped.
When I was last here,
many of my best remembered places
were already fading.
I expected Melbourne to be there.
That's stupid, isn't it?
Just move in.
Just move in.
You want to take your kids and say,
"This is the beach we used to come to.
"That's the place
where we used to play footie.
"This is the school I went to."
But... there was nothing there.
Just people's hands and voices.
Feel of the car on the road.
The wind, of course.
Walking along somewhere,
never quite knew where.
That's really all there was.
I didn't somehow expect it.
I didn't anticipate that.
I don't know why.
Come along! What are you doing?
The house itself.
What was it like?
Where did I sleep?
I can't remember much.
This is too difficult.
I don't remember.
Isn't that strange?
Oh, I just don't remember.
It was exactly that moment.
A world is lost.
And it wasn't just
the Melbourne I knew that was lost.
I myself was lost.
I began to be terribly afraid...
that something would be broken
between us which could not be healed...
that you were disappearing into a world
where I could not follow.
Everything was just tumbling down.
We knew we wouldn't go back, didn't we?
We will never do this again.
I have returned home
with a feeling of immense relief.
To be again in a familiar house,
surrounded by familiar objects...
to have in my mind a mental picture
of the environment in the streets
and city around me
is like having the world
restored to me again.
Here I come, ready or not!
Now... Let me see.
Never have I done
the washing up with such happiness.
I got up this morning
and made Marilyn a cup of tea.
Would he be...?
Feeling so grateful...
...that I could move freely,
that I knew where things were,
that I could act.
Is he behind the curtain?
No, not there, either.
That I was coming out of
that shadowland of passivity...
Where could he be?
...into personal action and life again.
Got you!
September 22nd, 1985.
I love the smell of him.
The way I can slightly sense
when he's looking at me now.
I also like feeling his little nose
and holding one foot.
I love holding his little hands
and putting my own hand
on the warmth of his head.
The feel of him as I have him
over my shoulder.
It's 7.00 am and time for Radio 8
and here's your host, Immy Hull!
It will be drizzly today,
with occasional intervals of sun.
Later on in the day...
Two or three times this week,
I have taken Thomas to school.
Or perhaps I'd say he has taken me.
And he is getting quite good
at guiding me, although unreliable.
Right, let's look at you.
We also have a way of saying goodbye
which is the equivalent of waving.
As he runs off through the playground,
he shouts out, "Bye!"
And I shout, "Bye!"
And we keep up this
- echoing chorus...
- Bye.
...until his voice becomes faint.
I love this.
I had said to myself that I would
learn to live with blindness,
but I would never accept it.
Now I find that there's been a strange
kind of change in the state of my brain.
It's as if now, being denied stimulus
of the outside world,
the thing has turned in upon itself
in order to find inner resources.
Occasionally I go home in the evening
and I feel as if my mind is almost blown
with new ideas and new horizons.
I find myself connecting more,
remembering more,
making more links in my mind
between the various things I've read
and learned all my life.
I now feel clearer,
more excited,
more adventurous,
more confident intellectually
than I've ever felt in my life.
There is something so totally
purging about blindness
that one either is destroyed or renewed.
Your consciousness is evacuated.
Your past memories, your interests,
your perception of time,
place itself.
The world itself!
One must recreate one's life.
In my case, fortunately,
I had a central core
around which to recreate it.
That was my good fortune.
You all right there, John?
Anything I can help you with?
No, I'm fine.
The whole place was just throbbing.
You know, you could feel the pews
vibrating with it.
Suddenly, I had the most intense feeling
that God was approaching me.
And I just had this vivid, vivid sense
of the Divine Presence.
Now He'd come sort of swooping in
from some great business
He'd been up to, intergalactically.
That's ridiculous, darling!
Well, you know, that's how it seemed.
He'd made a special visit.
And He threw a dark cloak over me.
And then
the most remarkable thing was
that He didn't leave, He couldn't leave.
He was there just waiting.
And I said, "I'll be fine.
"Don't worry about me."
And in that pause, I had a sense
of such grace.
And I thought,
"That's it. It's a gift.
"It's not a gift I want.
"It's not a gift I want my children to have,
"but it is a gift.
"So the question is
"not, "Why have I got it?"
"but, "What am I going to do with it?""