What happens after you have a brain injury? How does it feel? How do you continue with your life? How do you pick up the pieces? In the documentary “My Beautiful Broken Brain” (2014), Lotje Sodderland searches for the answers to these questions. The 34-year-old filmmaker Lotje suffered from a stroke, which, amongst other things, altered her ability to use language. To keep herself together, she started to film her own experiences after her stroke, together with director Sophie Robinson. The result is a touching, incredibly interesting and, most of all, beautiful account of Lotje’s journey back to herself.
Before her stroke, Lotje had it all together. She was a young filmmaker, living a vibrant, social and creative life in London. Her biggest passion was to create and appreciate art, whether this was through shooting a film, writing a story or reading a novel; a passion which she would share with her friends and family. Only one night, Lotje is brutally awoken by an excruciating pain in her head. Confused and barely conscious, she tries to find help and ends up in a public restroom, where she is found and taken to the hospital. Here, it becomes clear Lotje has had a stroke, and her ability to use language has been severely altered. The articulate and cultured Lotje can’t find words anymore, nor connect concepts to actual objects nor express her thoughts properly. Determined to get back the woman she once was, Lotje undergoes therapy and treatments. In the end, Lotje finds her way back to herself, after she has accepted that she’s not the woman she once was anymore. She is someone new, and most certainly not someone less.
“My Beautiful Broken Brain” (2014) is an incredibly fascinating documentary for anyone who has an interest in cognitive science, linguistics or film. The subject of the film is all about the brain, about consciousness and cognitive science. Both Lotje’s mind and brain are put under a microscope, exposed and vulnerable. From a more cognitive perspective, it is interesting to watch Lotje visit the specialist and doctors, who explain to her what happened while she tries to make sense of in her scattered head. The stroke caused Lotje’s ability to use language to be severely altered and she has to learn how to use language again, just like a child acquires language. From someone who studies linguistics, this is incredibly interesting to watch, especially because Lotje’s case of language acquirement is different. She as already acquired language, only because of the effects of the stroke, Lotje can’t seem to connect to it.
And finally, the documentary is an interesting and unique watch if you’re interested in film. Lotje is a filmmaker herself and thus she films the majority of the material herself, with just her iPhone. This gives the documentary a very gritty and experimental, but also really vulnerable and honest feel. Lotje is actually telling her own story, together with Sophie Robinson. The latter interviewed Lotje’s friends and family, who have been with her through her period of recovery. The result is a very well-rounded documentation of Lotje’s experience. And a great of part of Lotje’s recovery was actually a fellow filmmaker, David Lynch. Lotje’s describes her impaired vision and her thoughts as the Red Room in Lynch’s “Twin Peaks”, confusing, weird and strangely bewitching all at the same time. One of the most interesting aspects is that “My Beautiful Broken Brain” (2014) actually has a very Lynchian feel to it. The imagery is gritty, always moving, while the coloring is overexposed, ranging from the brightest green to the fieriest red. It leaves the viewer as confused and bewildered as Lotje, which really helps the audience to engage.
“My Beautiful Broken Brain” (2014) is an absolute must-see for anyone with an interest in cognitive science, linguistics or film, because it gives an honest, beautiful and, at times, haunting account of one of the scariest experiences in life: losing parts of yourself. The documentary is a big part of Lotje’s recovery and the viewer feels privileged to be a part of that wonderful experience to her finding herself again.
Are you interested in watching the documentary? You can watch it on Netflix!