‘Bird Box’ director on fierce momhood
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