An adaptation of the book attributed to Naoki Higashida, The Reason I Jump is a film about Autism. It’s about how it is experienced by those affected by it, but is also an attempt to communicate the actual reality of autism through words, sounds and image. The film, and book, presents Autism as a foreign country with it’s own customs. It exists tangentially to our own but is unrecognisable. The autistic experience of our world is entirely unique and the cause of much of the misunderstandings around autistic people.
The film resembles Notes on Blindness in it’s attempt to express a subjective experience of the world in a visual medium. The film focuses on texture and vivid colour to demonstrate an experience of the world that is first and foremost based on detail and in which it can be difficult to relate these details to larger concepts. Fantastic and innovative camera work helps to shape this insight into a different world.
The film utilises an experimental structure to replicate the described experiences of Autism. Time is said to be a continuous thing, without significant distinctions between recent events and the distant past. So to the narrative of the film moves around in time and between subjects. Young people in England, India, Sierra Leone and America are interviewed and although the narratives are typically presented by their carers, the camera sticks close to the autistic subjects and clearly seeks to articulate their view of the world.
Throughout the film the words of Naoki Higashida are calmly spoken and make sense of the behaviour we are seeing, confirming these experiences as universal amongst those who experience Autism. The book is described as a map or guide to a hidden world. It is a film that has been made by neurotypical people and is first and foremost an act of understanding of this impairment from an outside perspective.
Another aspect of the film is exploring Autism as a communication issue. People exhibiting certain behaviours are the victims of assumptions. If a person cannot communicate well they are othered and assumed to have cognitive issues. This film portrays the revelation of communication aids in revealing the intelligent and sensitive people too often obscured by society’s perception of their impairments.
One of the most interesting and affecting sequences portrays the friendship between two of the young autistic people. It’s a non-verbal friendship in which they communicate in a method that may seem mysterious to others but is clearly significant and meaningful to the friends. However the film also explores some of the discrimination experienced by disabled people. Superstitions and prejudice play a part in their lives. The film is good at exploring the motives and fears behind this prejudice.
The film, like the book, may well achieve three things. Firstly it may act as a reassurance to autistic people that their experience is not unique or wrong, that many others are seeing the world the same way as they are. The second is that it may just be able to articulate the moment to moment experience of Autism. Finally, and most adventurously it suggests that neurotypical people may be able to benefit from the understanding of autistic perceptions of the world. One in which detail is most evident first, and in which time works differently. This film is a powerful work of understanding and communication.