‘Bird Box’ direc­tor on fierce mom­hood

Orlando Sentinel (Sunday) - - PEOPLE & ARTS - By Leo Bar­r­a­clough Va­ri­ety

A blind­folded woman, ac­com­pa­nied by two young chil­dren with their eyes sim­i­larly bound, guides a row­ing boat down a fast­flow­ing murky river with trees crowd­ing in on ei­ther side.

It was this im­age that hooked the at­ten­tion of Su­sanne Bier, direc­tor of Emmy win­ner “The Night Man­ager” and Os­car win­ner “In a Bet­ter World,” lead­ing her to take the helm of “Bird Box,” the hor­ror film star­ring San­dra Bul­lock, which is now avail­able for stream­ing world­wide on Net­flix.

How­ever, when Bier first read the script seven years ago she passed, as did Bul­lock. What changed in that time, Bier told Va­ri­ety in London, en route to her na­tive Den­mark, was the po­lit­i­cal and so­cial “at­mos­phere,” and the height­ened sense of threat that per­vades the world. “It feels more rel­e­vant now; it feels like a more dystopian point in time.”

(This ar­ti­cle con­tains spoil­ers.)

“Bird Box” por­trays a so­ci­ety ter­ror­ized by a ma­lign en­tity — which we never get to see our­selves — that makes peo­ple feel sui­ci­dal if they look at it, hence Bul­lock’s need to wear a blind­fold and the rea­son for her jour­ney along the river in search of a sanc­tu­ary.

The char­ac­ter Bul­lock por­trays, Malo­rie, does not con­form to the tra­di­tional im­age of moth­er­hood — nur­tur­ing and gen­tle. This is a war­rior mom, fiercely de­fend­ing her young from both the evil force and the ma­raud­ing gangs of de­ranged in­di­vid­u­als who are im­mune to the sui­ci­dal im­pulses that af­flict or­di­nary folk.

So re­luc­tant is she to em­brace the norms of moth­er­hood she hasn’t even given her chil­dren names — in­stead she calls them “boy” and “girl.”

“When I read the script I felt there was the po­ten­tial to por­tray a dif­fer­ent pic­ture of moth­er­hood than that which is usu­ally por­trayed. I guess I’ve al­ways felt that moth­er­hood is mainly de­fined by men and for many hun­dreds of years is au­to­mat­i­cally thought of as be­ing soft, car­ing, nat­u­rally nur­tur­ing, calm,” Bier says.

“There are a lot of things that are part of our ide­al­ized vi­sion of moth­er­hood, but I al­ways thought it was much more com­plex, much more fe­ro­cious … I think that’s what San­dra gives it.”

To­ward the end of the film there is a piv­otal scene where Malo­rie is forced to change the way she treats her chil­dren if they are to sur­vive.

Bier’s de­ci­sion to not show the mon­ster has been crit­i­cized in some quar­ters.

“The big­gest artis­tic chal­lenge was how you main­tain the ten­sion and not re­veal any­thing,” she says.

“I al­ways felt the mo­ment be­fore you see the mon­ster was su­per scary and sus­pense­ful, and I wanted the whole movie to have that sense of sus­pense.”

“It feels like a more dystopian point in time.” “Bird Box” direc­tor Su­sanne Bier, with San­dra Bul­lock


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