Warning: This article contains spoilers for the film Bird Box.
Article by: Samer Battikhi
“Loneliness is just incidental, it’s really about people’s inability to connect.” One of the first lines of dialogue in the new Netflix original film Bird Box. The line sums up one of the film’s important themes, how language and communication is incompetent between people, even if they are from the same land. The thriller/survival film was released at the end of 2018, and tells the story of how five years after the breakout of a worldwide terror in the form of a creature that provokes people to commit suicide upon sight, a blindfolded Malorie Hays (Sandra Bullock) embarks on a survival journey, with her two children, to reach the last place where safety might still be an option.
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The film is divided into two different parts: The first part is where Malorie, the film’s protagonist, doubtfully prepares herself and two children to go down the river to find a community of survivors, led by man named Rick. While the second part showcases the beginning of the whole epidemic where Malorie’s background is established, how she initially escapes the creatures after her sister’s death, and how she ends up being stuck in a house filled with terrified strangers.
Danish film director Susanne Biere, and Oscar nominated writer Eric Heisserer brought back Sandra Bullock to a low budget arthouse-like film, and also gave the classical alien/zombie film fans a twist that forced them to wonder, throughout the entire film: Who the hell are they?!
The film brings to life a group of orchestrated characters that supports Bullock’s character, ranging from Douglas and Cheryl, other survivors trapped in the same house, played by John Malkovich and Jackie Weaver respectively, and Tom, who happens to become Malorie’s love interest and the second caretaker of the two children as we go further in the story, played by Trevante Rhodes.
Throughout the whole film we never see the creatures. We just learn minor details here and there about them. One character mentions that the creatures take the form of the person’s biggest fear and/or the person’s greatest loss. Continuous fear of the unknown and/or whatever is going to happen after death. Death is a huge worldwide stigma, and the fact that the filmmakers chose to go with some kind of a creature that provokes suicide, is actually to show that the most common fear among humanity is death. Moreover, covering your eyes to avoid the urge to travel towards the end of your life, shows the state of denial that people are willing to dive into in order to forget that life ends this way; as if by blindfolding yourself, you can stay alive forever.
On another note, the characters introduced to us at a later stage of the film, starting with the introduction of Gary, played by Tom Hollander, represent what we can call “The Believers”. The believers are a group of people driven by a different kind of fear, who are willing to drop their own persona in order to survive. They are not affected by whatever force the creature has, hence they are controlled by it. Which makes them call for everyone to believe that the creatures are saviors for the human race. Kind of like what is practically happening all around the world in our real lives. People have different opinions, beliefs, and ideologies towards several aspects in our day-to-day lives, ranging from following various socio-political parties, down to supporting a football team. Yet people tend to get aggressive towards each other who stand at a different point.
In addition to all that, the film shows us how humans always have the will to be greedy and selfish, and are ready to sacrifice what is not theirs, just for their own sake. In one scene of the film, Malorie describes the nature of the river they are traveling in, and that at one point she has to let one of the two children let go of their blindfold in order to help her steer in the right direction. Despite the fact that Malorie raised both children, we learn that “girl” is actually Olympia’s daughter. Olympia, played by Danielle Macdonald, is another survivor who stayed with Malorie at the house. In that river scene, Malorie was more likely to choose “girl” over “boy” to guide her way, opting to save herself and her biological son only. This hesitant moment shows that even if we think of “girl” as Malorie’s own daughter, Malorie would always place “boy”, a real biological piece of herself first. As a viewer, you might even sympathise with Malorie and “understand” that she would choose to save “boy” and let “girl” die.
The characters in the film are diverse, and offer different statements of various perspectives towards a common state. Although actors’ performances vary from a three-dimensional performance by Sandra Bullock who delivers a strongly emotional motherly figure, to a stereotypical John Malkovich type-cast for the conventional, stubborn, selfish, and rich middle-aged man, the characters mixed up together, and locked in the same house, provide interactive representations that can be both entertaining and appealing to the viewer.
Despite the fact that the filmmakers wanted to show the creature at some point during the film. The scene was omitted during the shoot due to the fact that some actors thought the creatures look funny. And although this decision might call for a controversial backlash, the decision actually made the film far more suspenseful and interactive, not just because this would place the audience in the characters’ shoes as they stayed blindfolded for more than half the film, but it allows the viewers to reflect and project their ideas and perspectives as what would the creature look like, and what it refers to.
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