She learned empathy and ethics from her Jewish parents who were displaced during the Nazi Occupation in Europe
Even if you haven’t seen Bird Box, the Sandra Bullock film released by Netflix in late December, then surely you’ve seen the memes or (heaven forbid) tried the Bird Box challenge (which involves attempting everyday activities while blindfolded). In any case, viewership tallies are in, and it’s official: Bird Box is Netflix’s biggest hit yet.
The film—which is mostly compelling and action-packed interspersed with maudlin interludes—is the perfect accompaniment to a bowl of popcorn on a cold winter evening. The post-apocalyptic-thriller is based on the 2014 literary debut by Josh Malerman, a musician from the Detroit rock band The High Strung. Film rights to the novel were hotly contested and sold off before the book was even published. After Netflix purchased the story, Danish director Susanne Bier signed on to helm the shoot. At age 58, Bird Box is Bier’s 18th movie, and her name is well-known among film buffs and critics. In 2011, she won the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film for In a Better World, and in 2016, she was awarded an Emmy for Outstanding Directing in a Limited Series for her American TV series The Night Manager.
The basic plot of ordinary people caught in a maelstrom as society around them deteriorates has been a mainstay in most of Bier’s films, but it is also part of her family’s history. In 1933, Susanne’s father, Rudolf, a German Jew, fled his homeland after Hitler’s rise to power. After a decade in Denmark, the Biers emigrated to Sweden to escape Nazi occupation once again. The family returned to Denmark after the end of World War II, where Susanne’s parents met. Susanne’s mother is a Russian Jew, and her family followed a similar path to escape the horrors of Nazi death camps in Europe.
After their harrowing experiences during the war, Rudolf and Heni Bier raised their children to be resilient and kind, with a strong respect for religious and cultural freedom. Bier, who is now the mother of two grown children, studied art in Jerusalem and architecture in London before graduating from the National Film School of Denmark at age 27. Her graduation film, De Saliges (The Blessed) was awarded Best Film at the Munich Film School Festival and was picked up for international distribution. Bier’s filmography has been on a steady ascent ever since.
Bird Box isn’t necessarily Bier’s best film, nor have the critics been overwhelmingly generous in their assessment of it. But now that she’s given Netflix a blockbuster opening week (27 million viewers strong), we suspect that she’ll receive more autonomy—and a bigger budget—on her next project. And we predict her best work is still on the horizon.