In this paper I explore two remarkable documentary accounts of blindness: Gary Tarn’s Black Sun (2005), based on the experience of the artist Hugues de Montalembert, and James Spinney and Peter Middleton’s Notes on Blindness (2016), inspired by theology scholar John M. Hull’s diary record. The filmic response to the aural narratives of both Hull and De Montalembert is visually rich, conjuring the world of blindness sensitively, perceptively and imaginatively, but it is the role of the image-making capacity of the imagination that concerns me here. De Montalembert and Hull describe vividly the persistence of mental imagery in spite of the loss of sight, and they reveal a continuing capacity for conscious visualization, as well as dream images. I focus on such mental images as they are imagined now through film, probing the contours of blindness with the light of the mind.
Sarah Cooper is Professor of Film Studies at King’s College London. Her books include Selfless Cinema?: Ethics and French Documentary (Oxford: Legenda, 2006); Chris Marker (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2008); and The Soul of Film Theory (Basingstoke: Palgrave MacMillan, 2013). She has also edited a Special Issue of the journal Film-Philosophy: ‘The Occluded Relation: Levinas and Cinema’ (2007). Currently she is writing a book on film and the imagination.