Listening to the Sounds of the Forest

It is a real discovery to listen to the imaginative and delicate thoughts of Lauri, a privilege for which we should thank Niina Brandt, the director of My Secret Forest. Presented this year at Verzio, it is a poetical story of love, silence, deep and powerful feelings, self-determination and understanding.

The documentary reveals us the secret world of Lauri, a young man who suffers from autism and who communicates with others with the help of Pirjo, his patient and kind helper. He is in search of love and of an independent life and his words are something that the director transforms into an art performance.

To tell the story of Lauri, a 20 something young adult from Finland who happens to live with autism in his daily life, Brandt created a movie with sensitive aesthetics where Lauri’s thoughts find their central place in an evocative combination of space and words. Lauri is in fact full of words to say: questions about himself and about his relationship with the world outside of his “autistic chaos.” His deep and beautiful blue eyes, which we can clearly see in many close-ups, are two open windows to an overflowing soul of desires, hopes and questions. These close-ups are only some of the more observational instances in the film which are juxtaposed with footages of Lauri’s everyday life: being at school or with his mother. These bits seem almost too intrusive at times, especially when there is an indulgence on his moments of struggle and of rage. Still, Brandt balances this observation with moments where instead of seeing Lauri, we see (and hear) his words floating on the background in the forest and this is when we truly discover his inner world.


Therefore the forest is a key element in the film. On the one hand, it appears often out of focus, which implies the confusion that autism creates in Lauri: in his world not everything is clear and well defined. On the other hand, with its silence and its hidden life the forest is a place to which our protagonist feels a special connection, a relation which is rendered amazingly by the manifold shootings. Lauri understands the language of nature and appreciates its beauty.

Beauty is then the key word through which to read this movie. My Secret Forest is not simply a good visual aesthetics exercise, but more importantly, it is a movie capable of showing us the beauty of a mind we would not have discovered otherwise. Lauri is an interesting person who happens to be autistic, he is interesting because of the poetical ways through which he expresses his ideas, and the questions he asks.

In a world full of sound My Secret Forest asks for some attentive silence, for some time to let thoughts unfold, for a more careful communication to capture others’ inner forests. How many beautiful minds are there hidden and waiting to be discovered, or simply to be carefully listened to? How many pre-concepts do we need to destroy, one by one, how many fears do we have to conquer?


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