Brief synopsis :
Tragically blinded in a random street mugging, Hugues de Montalembert defied expectation and continued to travel the world, alone. In Black Sun film-maker and composer Gary Tarn constructs a poetic meditation on an extraordinary life without vision.
Black Sun documents the artist’s will to live a full life, free of fear and impediment. Opening with aerial shots of New York, Montalembert describes the violent events that left him sightless. As he does, identifiable images meld together into a palette of colours, finally becoming little more than a spectrum of lights, slowly dimming, until we are left with the ‘dark honey’ glow that Montalembart tells us he has lived with for the last twenty-eight years. He candidly describes his refusal to go through the motions that doctors told him were the steps to his recovery – nervous breakdown, acceptance of disability, rehabilitation and adapting to a new life full of restrictions – instead setting out his own plan, which would see him travel alone to Indonesia within 18 months of the attack. From there he journeyed to Bali, where he began to write down his experiences. The resulting book became an international bestseller. Since then, Montalembert has continued to travel and write.
Gary Tarn’s film continues in the tradition of Jarman’s Blue (and Chris Marker, whose Sans Soleil is strongly evoked throughout the film), in its balance between document and cine-poem. At its simplest, it offers a lyrical visual accompaniment – through conventional travelogue images, simple computer graphics and optical manipulation – to Montalembert’s voiceover. However, Tarn’s film is no mere translation of the artist’s thoughts into image. It succeeds as a remarkable work in its own right. As composer, Tarn has created textures that carve out an expressionistic treatment of the artist’s life. Like the New York painter and friend of Montalembert’s, for whom “to paint is to see beyond”, Tarn’s film transcends the limitations of conventional film practice, and in doing so conveys an awe at the world around us, in both its ferocity and beauty.
Never less than insightful in discussing his experiences over the last three decades, Montalembert also proves to be an entertaining companion. His humour has never left him, nor has his humility. Like the Jarman of Blue, blindness has given Montalembert a clarity of vision that many of us with sight do not have.
In the years following the attack, Montalembert wrestled with the notion of existence – the point of life. At times he found himself alone or treated with unwanted pity, or he has met others whose scars are less evident but no less painful to deal with. His conclusion is simple, ‘The sense of life is life. Once you know that you can relax. There is no eternity. There is now.’