Analysis of Netflix’s “Bird Box,” a Deeper Meaning
Next up on the popular film analysis radar is of course, Netflix’s, “Bird Box”. I mean, with 45 million views within the first week, how could I not dive in a little bit on this “post apocalyptic” phenomenon starring Sandra Bullock? Obviously, the answer to that is, “You have to,” so here she blows, guys! Don’t worry, don’t worry, it’s much shorter than my analysis on The Haunting of Hill House, but if you guys want to check that out too, the link is at the bottom of the page! ;) WARNING: there are spoilers involved in this piece…major spoilers, so if you haven’t watched it yet, get out of here… then come back and read it. This film truly blew me away after diving in deeper that what met they eye of the film, so please, without further adieu, let’s dive into “Bird Box:”
Photo from Netflix
WHAT IS IT ABOUT?
“Bird Box” revolves around the story of, at first, a pregnant and emotionally unavailable woman, Malorie, who ultimately finds herself in the midst of an apocalyptic attack. This attack involves “beings” whom when you look at them in plain sight (yet they are invisible until the point of them approaching you — but they are still invisible to those watching), force you to commit suicide…which ultimately causes a mass killing of the human race. From here, Malorie is brought into this house with a group of people, because being indoors with any view of the outside world blocked out, keeps you safe…but not safe enough.
After all but one of her group survives within the house and she has her baby, Malorie flees with her baby boy, the newborn child of another housemate who died, and the one surviving member of the house to find a place where they could be safe together. They ultimately find themselves living in the middle of the woods, having trained themselves with blindfolds on how to survive, and in pursuit of discovering a community of which they could live with permanently. The story continues on with Malorie rafting down the river with the two children, having lost her lover (once housemate) right beforehand, with their blindfolds on, journeying forward against a battle with death in hope of finding a place where they can call home and live in peace.
WHAT IS WITH THE NAME, “BIRD BOX?”
Though the name “Bird Box,” is a curious one at first, if you look into the symbolism of birds along with the underlying message of the film, this flick and name have a much deeper meaning. As you know after watching the film, there is a box of birds that Malorie has kept safe after finding them in the supermarket . She heeded to their warning of danger there and used them as a tool and ally ever since. Though they protect her, and are a common physical importance to her throughout the film — you may wonder why such a small part of the overall story is the title of the movie? Well, my dear friends, let me tell you why.
Birds are regarded as messengers of the Gods and Heavens and represent a multitude of incredible things such as freedom and perspective, along with being the connection between the mundane and spiritual life. Their ability to fly is symbolic of the light of the spirit of hope, beauty, and transcendence. Birds are the sign of liberty to the soul and mind. They are full of spirit and are said to be the forecasters of future events, and the soul taking flight — which their flight is a metaphor for human emotions and moods. This brings us to our meaning of “Bird Box.”
Do you remember at the beginning of the movie when Malorie is explaining her painting to her sister? All of these people are sitting together in a dark room in the painting, looking at their phones and paying no attention to each other. Her sister explains that, “It looks like a whole bunch of people sitting together, but they all look incredibly lonely.” That painting is the base meaning of the film. In the painting, the dark room is representative of the box, and the people within it are representative of the birds. Just as the homes are the boxes that the humans are forced to stay and are able see within, and the humans along the way are liberated within the dark spaces with their emotions. This way, they aren’t able to see the “light,” or the outside world and it’s distractions such as comparison to others through their phones, paying more attention to work instead of family, and failing to relate to people as everyone seems to be emotionally unavailable and unwilling to be vulnerable. By being forced to sit with others, in the darkness of their homes and pay attention to one another, they are able to emotionally progress and feel their feelings, as well as understand who they are, more so.
Just as when they are outside, needing to have their blindfolds on because their fate would rest in the hands of seeing one of those creatures, they base their trust in the box of birds, like I said above, represent freedom and perspective, to be their eyes for them. This makes them rely on their other senses, such as touch, smell, hearing, taste, and when they can see — their emotions are heightened. I have a lot more to elaborate on regarding this and the meaning within my personal response further down.
HOW DOES IT COMPARE TO OTHER
“Bird Box,” uniquely differs compared to other post-apocalyptic films such as, “The Quiet Place,” “It Comes at Night,” “I Am Legend,” and quite honestly, even, “Zombieland.” Within all of these films, you are introduced to the characters in a non-linear fashion, where you meet them in the post apocalyptic world. This forces you to pay attention and pose the question, “How did they get here?” and you keep watching to find out. Just as the the rest of these films, “Bird Box,” shares with you the rules of the world, such as, you’ll see them if you look into the outside world, or like in “A Quiet Place,” if you make a loud enough noise, even while you’re inside, they’ll come after you. Also, something these films have in common, besides in “I Am Legend,” is that there are other survivors with the lead character that could be either enemies or allies throughout the film.
How “Bird Box” differs, though, is that you cannot see the monsters within this film, nor do you really know how they got there (this is true for A Quiet Place too, actually), or really how the apocalypse even started. There is a deeper meaning behind this that I will flesh out in my personal response as well (for A Quiet Place, I believe the monsters represent the government, but we’re not talking about that movie, so let’s move on). Also, the lead, Sandra Bullock as Malorie is emotionally unavailable and lacks any form of human connection at first and throughout most of the movie. This kind of makes the audience dislike her and creates the thought that they’re not even sure they want her to survive. There is a stronger thought to this as well regarding our society today and how we judge people without even asking them what they’ve been through, nor what they care about, or who they are. She doesn’t say much or reach out, because she’s afraid of not being able to connect, but you discover along the way, that she’s wrong and she understands how to grow — which ultimately is the point of the movie.
From a filmmaking perspective, suspense is created through not being able to see what’s coming after the characters in the story — meaning that they can strike at any moment for any character. This is also true for using the blindfolds and shooting through them. You don’t know where your character is. All you hear is them breathing heavier and heavier — their anxiety rising, probably along with yours as well. Also, they take you through houses and buildings that have previously been untraveled. This is true for most post-apocalyptic films, but arriving there without the sight or energy of knowing what’s inside or whether it’s safe creates the journey for the audience to join the character in not knowing what’s going to happen next. Overall, this film relies heavily on sound design and editing to relay the story in pieces with the answers being laid out before you at just the right time. The cuts are moderately paced, allowing you to spend time with the character and their thoughts and feelings, compared to most of these films where there are fast cuts — which don’t allow you to sit and think about what’s going on half of the time. With really focusing on Malorie’s character throughout the film, you’re able to witness and feel her emotional journey, which is really what the movie is all about.
PERSONAL RESPONSE — THE DEEPER MEANING
Like I said above, the film is based off of Malorie’s painting that we see in the beginning of the film. Malorie’s sister, Jessica, explains that the painting “looks like a whole bunch of people sitting together, but they all look incredibly lonely.” Malorie then replies, “ Loneliness is just incidental, it’s really about people’s inability to connect.” These two answers are completely relative to the painting, to us as human beings, and the world we live in.
Many people have been upset about the fact that we can’t see the monsters, nor is there any explanation about how the apocalypse even started in the film. Well friends, my answer to that question is that the monsters are our personal demons that only we can see, such as comparing ourselves to strangers on the internet, hurting someone you loved so badly then them passing away, looking at yourself and hating what you see, or really anything under the Sun that could hurt someone. This is why we can’t see the monsters. It’s the personal demons and pain of the characters following them. This is related to our inability to connect has human beings. This is why we are so lonely. We don’t take the time to ask people how they are doing and what’s going on in their heads. We don’t take the time to care enough or listen. We have become a selfish society, who thinks the world only revolves around ourselves, but if we got off our phones and truly saw the world for what it was and the people in it, and gave reaching out a chance, then possibly we wouldn’t be so lonely anymore. This refers to what Charlie was talking about in the movie, that “demons come in all shapes and sizes…that once judged…will be the end of us as humans.”
Did you know that by 2020, it’s predicted that worldwide, a suicide will be committed every 20 seconds? We put so much pressure on ourselves these days regarding work, a love-life, a social-life, what we need to accomplish, etc., and we never give ourselves enough time to understand that we are growing, along with time to practice self-love, take a walk in the park, eat a proper meal that is healthy and nutritious, and see the beauty of this world for what it simply is. Everyone is so afraid of being alone that they don’t open themselves up to be vulnerable, to actually live life — the most beautiful gift we’ve been given. Therefore, what “Bird Box,” is saying is that the apocalypse comes from ourselves — from the human race. Suicide is spreading like wildfire across the globe, and if we have to have that plainly explained to us, there’s no wonder we can’t connect. We don’t look into the deeper meaning of things anymore. It’s been expressed to me that “Bird Box,” is an “okay” movie, I look at it and say, “wow,” the writer really had something important to say, which will take me to my last point.
The sense of sight is obviously a very important aspect of this film, as well as an extremely important lesson. We depend too much on it. We don’t allow ourselves to use our other senses to enhance our lives and emotions, nor do we allow ourselves the time or chance to be introspective and discover who we truly are and how we feel. That was Marlorie’s biggest struggle. Though she was an artist and painted her perspective on the world, she didn’t have any perspective of herself and didn’t share who SHE was with others. This is the point where she is the bird, and her soul takes flight throughout the movie, meaning the perspective of what she needed was not through her sight, it was through her mood and emotions — which eventually helped to free her at the end. This is why the term “Bird,” is so important, because she is in her own “box” meaning her own body — seeing herself for who she truly is, to the point where they reach the School of the Blind — the community of hope and a place they can call home — and she gives Boy and Girl names based off emotions she felt for those she named them after, and she called herself their mother — which she was. Being that the place of solace in this world was a school for the blind, and once arriving, Malorie saw everyone talking and sitting by one another — happy, says so much. Most people there didn’t and couldn’t take an exterior point of view on who they met, they saw with their heart, not their eyes, which is why they survived and aren’t lonely. They didn’t allow the distractions of life to get in their way, they went with what they felt.
This is why, at the end of “Bird Box,” Malorie looks up while in the courtyard, to the birds flying around the covered terrarium after letting her’s go. She has achieved freedom — freedom of emotion, spirit, and journey of finally being able to connect — she was let out of her box, and so were her birds.
That’s it for now, guys. If you want me to analyze another film, comment below! This was a lot of fun for me, as it always is, so keep em’ comin’! Also, if you wanted to check out my last analysis on “The Haunting of Hill House,” click the button below and it’ll take you there!!
Thank you for reading!!! See you next, Monday! ❤
Mary Gabrielle Strause