When I was fifteen years old, I remember sitting in Homeroom in High School when my advisor expressed that I should look into a leadership program called, "People to People." He was informed that it was an organization developed by Dwight D. Eisenhower back in 1956 after he had experienced and witnessed the tragedy that WWII and the Holocaust had brought the world. With the intention and understanding that the only way fear could be washed away and peace could be made, was for people to understand one another. Mr. Eisenhower expressed that this mission would not be fulfilled by the government, but "...through the hearts of those who yearned for dignity, freedom, and peace. " This involved young adults traveling throughout the world, taking the time to learn about and live through each other's customs and ways, and ultimately share their own while building genuine relationships with those from all around the world.
Needless to say, my parents agreed and I went on to apply to become a student ambassador of Wisconsin, who would travel to six countries in Europe over the course of one month, at fifteen. As I was going through the process of applying, and throughout the school year before the journey I would take, I was going through depression. I was my own worse enemy for so long, and it felt like nothing could take the pain away. I was wrong.
Discovering the world through People to People changed my life forever. It is an enormous reason I am where I am at today and am the person who I've become. Actually, now that I think about it, People to People didn't only change my life, it saved it.
At fifteen, everything is very impressionable. I didn't know who I was, and I had no idea where to begin looking. When given the opportunity to venture 4,000 miles away from home with other people my age, though, it was an opportunity I sure didn't want to pass up. And who knows, maybe I'd find myself along the way?
This opportunity meant the chance to begin truly thinking for myself. Upon hearing or seeing something, what made my eyes and soul light up? Would something I read help me to understand what I'm interested in? What kinds of questions am I asking, and what does that mean about me? Am I brave? Am I willing to get up and go out there in front of everyone? The truest teller of all, though, is throughout the time spent with 29 strangers of the same age group, how will they see me? Which talents and gifts will they see I have? Most of all, what kind of person will they think I am?
Of course, before leaving, I had no idea this journey would do all I said above for me, nor did I know it until after I returned home. Following my acceptance into the program, I found myself in a room at a state-central high school with 28 other high school students, of whom I've never met, from around the state of Wisconsin. I was number 22 (we were assigned numbers to count off by on the trip). In this room, and prior to, via quizzes at home, we went over the courses in government, culture, geography, architecture, religion, daily life, and a small portion of the history of each of the places we were scheduled to visit. These countries included Belgium, The Netherlands, France, England, Wales, and Ireland. The 29 of us met every two weeks for about six months before our trip, learning different lessons along the way that would prepare us for our journey and the purpose it served.
When July 3rd, 2011 rolled around, we all said our goodbyes to our parents at the airport, hopped on a plane and made our way over to Amsterdam. The Netherlands was our first stop on the journey. Here, we learned how to make clogs, visited a local farm where they taught us how to make cheese, the significance of tulips there, and created a giant hay bale maze we were able to crawl through (it was absolutely awesome). We also experienced Anne Frank's Annex and further imagined the tragic life she endured - but found a way to make beautiful, made our way throughout the city of Amsterdam, learning how to speak basic Dutch, meeting locals business owners who told us about their way of life and what living there meant to them.
We saw the Heineken factory, learned that cycling is the main form of transportation - and that road rage is a very real thing on any form of wheeled transportation, along with the fact that there are 165 canals within the city of Amsterdam, and besides bicycle, traveling by boat is the next highest form traveling from place to place. In fact, Amsterdam is regarded as the "Venice of the North!" I remember as I sat outside the place we were staying, writing underneath a willow tree by the river, and explaining in my journal that I had been opened up and found my true love - learning of new places and people and showing only love and light along the way. It was the first time I was truly happy with knowing who I wanted to be, and what got me to that state of bliss.
Next stop on our journey was us learning how to make chocolate in Belgium, visiting different WWII war zones there - being told the history of the area and what it meant to their country, as well as being taken to a monument erected in 1950, dedicated to the United States Armed Forces who fought at the Battle of the Bulge during WWII, and there, understanding the true power of working together.
This lesson further continued when we were taken to the beaches of Normandy, France, where we stood in the ruins of D-Day on Omaha beach, and continued on to visit a cemetery and memorial for those who died there that day. While we were there, there was a tribute to the U.S. soldiers, and because I had expressed my interested and love of singing with those I was on the trip with, I was asked to lead the group in singing the National Anthem, which was such an honor in a place with so much meaning. We also got to go through the Caen Memorial Museum, which touched on the Holocaust and its horrors. Traveling to Paris was also included in our trip through France, so, we also tried frog legs, escargot, visited the Louvre, Eiffel Tower, Notre Dame, the Champs D'Elysee, walked through Montmartre, visited Sacre Coeur, along with many other historical landmarks and locations "The city of lights," had to offer.
England was next, where we met members of parliament and were able to enter the building and discuss their role in the government. We experienced many of the ventures of London including the Elizabethan Tower (Big Ben), the London Eye, the Tower of London, Tower Bridge, along with Westminster Abbey and saw Blood Brothers at the Phoenix Theater. We ventured to Warwick Castle, where we learned how to joust, sword fight, launch a flaming ball from a catapult, and battle with Batons (this was one of my favorite days). Prior to this, we visited the Isle of Wight, where we stayed at the United Kingdom Sailing Academy (or UKSA) and learned how to windsurf and sail a dingy boat. Throughout our trip, it was mandatory we kept a journal - one for the organization (which they read), and a personal journal for the things we didn't really want to share with anyone else. After going through and learning all of these opportunities of growth in England, I was absolutely blown away by how much my life had escalated in value, and how my mind had opened at the age of fifteen. Little did I know that where we were headed next, would truly impact my life forever and be the beginning of the paved path leading to who I would become.
After we were taught how to become medieval warriors, we made our way to Wales, where we learned how to speak Welsh, where I found my new favorite meal - Bangers and Mash, and where I gained the confidence and inner strength to break a board with my bare hand and repel down a castle wall (doing the Bernie). This proved to me that I could do anything I set my mind to as long as I believed in myself.
The last stop on our journey was Ireland, where the biggest difference was made in my life. This is because Ireland is where we spent the most time with the communities and creating relationships that truly involved being with one another and building on human connection. Here we took boat rides through the lakes between the mountains and horse and buggy rides through them. We made our way to the town of Cahersiveen where we stayed and did chores at a local bed and breakfast, spent time with local teenagers, learning the music of Ireland's past, the Gaelic language, how to jig and dance, and where those who wished could get up and sing in front of the community. I did - I sang Jar of Hearts by Christina Perri. The next day, we went out and dug peat for homes in the community, played Gaelic football with a local youth group, and from there, we chose to do different acts of community service throughout the town - a friend of mine and I chose to go to the nearby retirement home and sing the song we learned, " Isle of Hope, Isle of Tears," to a few of the tenants there. To say it was rewarding would be an understatement.
We ended our journey with a scavenger hunt around the town of Cahersiveen, which under the circumstances of a sudden death round, my team - "Team 15% Off," won. ;) We were each given an "Ireland," hat as a prize.
After countless bus rides, friends and memories made, and lessons learned, I sat there, within my own world, at the airport waiting for my parents to come to pick me up after my journey. I thought to myself, " I'm not ready to go home yet. I feel like my life has only just begun." And that it had. People to People changed my life in terms of having me discover that connecting with the world, the people in it, understanding who they were, where they came from, and what made them, them - is what I yearned for to take up each and every one of my days. To listen to them, make them smile, create with them, and open their minds as they had in mind, through who I am, is all I could ever want. The promotion of peace through taking the time to understand and be present with another human being from who you differ from (which is everyone besides yourself), without only listening to respond with one's opinion, is really what this world needs to become stronger and less torn apart.
Being able to see the world through my own eyes, and myself through the eyes of others and experiences I had over that month, taught me more about myself and this life than I had in those previous fifteen years. That month prepared me for the rest of my life in terms of having an open mind, finding differences beautiful, and taking the time to truly understand and ask questions when something didn't quite make sense to me. That month taught me that a life lived with passion and doing what I truly love is a gift well spent - and the gift of giving it to others as often as I can with as much love as I can is its purpose. Traveling at that young age to places I've never been before with people I had barely talked to, taught me to be brave, have faith in myself and the opportunity at hand, and to never ever give up on something that my gut told me was the right thing to do.
People to People encouraged me to always try new things, even if they scared me because that's what life is all about - constantly discovering who you are and how you can impact the world in the best way, just by being yourself. A daunting thought, that really isn't that daunting at all if you open your arms to it.
That next summer I traveled with People to People to Harvard University on a week-long leadership summit, where high school students from over 48 different countries were present. While we were here, we did community service, learned to work together, and on our own, build a community service program of our own to take back to our hometowns to implement in areas of need.
Throughout both of these experiences, I have made friends from all around the world, something not many 16-year-olds could say. These experiences taught me to live my life in love, in service, and in courage - standards I live by each and every day and will continue to do so for the rest of my life.
So, if you, or if you have a child, is looking for a way to see the world in a new light with learning, peace, and growth beyond measure that will impact the rest of yours or their life - People to People programs are the way to go. I owe them so much for helping me become the human being I am today.
Mary Gabrielle Strause
Click below to find out more information about the People to People programs:
Good Tuesday to you my dear friends and family, worldwide! Today, I'm sharing a re-cap on what my life is looking like nowadays and just what Vagabond et Virtuosa is, and is to me. Tomorrow, January 16th will mark six months since I've launched this blog. Back in July, this notion was a leap of faith into a place where I would further discover myself. I quit a job at a company that was seemingly "perfect" for me, but just as I left with the intention to create a life that revolved around who I was and what I loved most, that's what I found and continue to develop as each day passes (with the help of some guardian angels I call my family). Now, let me tell you a bit more about what this life consists of and what the future has in store.
Where I was
In May, I graduated film school with a degree in Film and Digital Content and a concentration in directing and screenwriting, from Studio School LA (formerly known as Relativity School). Being a part of the inaugural class here (which overall was 21 students and seven film majors), with no previous experience in film, was definitely eye-opening and life-changing. I grew up writing and illustrating my own books, drawing and painting, creating and performing fun skits at our school's Cabaret, and from time to time, filming myself singing, "The Phantom of the Opera," on our family's camcorder, alone in my bedroom. That was the closest thing I got to filmmaking growing up. I guess you could say editing together fan videos from the couples in Harry Potter and Twilight on Window's Media Maker would be something I could add to my preliminary skills as a filmmaker as well! ;) Either way, the point is, I grew up in a very small town, where I was able to do so many things and had a lot of opportunity for its size, but never enough opportunity in the area in which I would give my future to.
I moved to Los Angeles, California from Rio, Wisconsin at the age of 19, to be the underdog of my peers at a school that wasn't even accredited at the time. I left my little town and everything I knew, with the dream of creating these immaculate stories that would engage people's imaginations and minds. I envisioned theaters jam-packed with audiences watching my movies, crying, feeling, allowing themselves to be vulnerable towards their feelings. My largest hope was to create a sense of belonging in something make-believe, creating friendships with the characters on screen, understanding the beauty of being human, and most of all, give those watching the courage and inspiration to create a life for themselves that would consist of them going after their dreams and opening their minds to others. This still stands true for me today, but after growing through the beginning of my adult years of life within the entertainment industry, I've come to understand that I'm not going to give my life to it in the way so many end up losing theirs.
Through five years of being immersed in many mediums of which this industry is built on - working on sets in multiple positions, working for companies involved with production, sales, distribution, etc., acting, modeling, working to become a writer, the list goes on and on, I've realized that it's a place where magic does happen, but it comes at a price.
The price is losing sight of who you are. It's changing everything from the inside out to be what other people want you to be. It's becoming cold over periods of time so no one can try to manipulate you, so other's know that you're the powerful one, or maybe it's because you haven't had someone genuinely ask you how you are in a matter of years. It's the matter of living a life by a set of check points and expectations that tear you apart inside, in hopes that someone, someday will read your script. The biggest price tag of all, though, is the idea of having to depend on someone else to dictate your future.
This being said, I have met some incredible, down to earth, talented people who are just bright balls of sunshine ( I love them to death), but ask them how this industry's changed them, and they'll agree. That's why I left. That's why I built and am continuing to build this platform as each moment passes. When it came time for me to leave my industry job, I was told that I was doing the right thing. Coming from someone I look up to, they said they wanted to be a director/producer after they finished college, but then they wound up in an industry job that they still are currently at. Of course, they are executives now and are extremely successful and talented, but they never truly achieved that dream.
Where I am Now
I graduated with the same intention as I had going into Studio School, but had a much deeper understanding of who I was and what I truly wanted to do with my life. During my four years there, I had taken so many classes in acting, musical theater, illustration, and concept art on top of my filmmaking and screenwriting classes. Compared to being dedicated to just one of these crafts, I found myself whole when actively doing them all. I became friends with dancers and we shot concept dance videos together. I started taking headshots and editorial photos of my other classmates after a while. I was in musicals, directed "The Wild Party," and pieced together and student directed "Tarantino Night." I was introduced to Tom Southwell, the illustrator behind so many incredible films such as Bladerunner and The Goonies, concept artist for The Sandlot and Star Trek: Nemesis, and storyboard artist for X-Men among many other epics, who became a teacher, a mentor, a friend, and someone much like family to me. With so many things that were like magic to me, I couldn't choose just one. I wanted my work to mean something, and I knew I wanted to share myself with the world through who I was, not through who people wanted me to be.
I also understood that through screenwriting, there was a chance that my stories might never be made into movies, and if you have read a typical screenplay, they aren't exactly literary masterpieces. Directors usually make what they will with them - they're a blueprint. I realized I didn't want that. I wanted to give the story to the world to imagine for themselves before anything was to be imagined for them. Therefore, I decided I'd go back to my childhood roots and write the book of the stories I've created first - then I'll adapt them into screenplays if the world wanted to see the movie. Also, if I wanted to make a movie, I would write it and make it myself.
With all of these things compiled together along with my love of travel, meeting new people, learning new things from those all around the world, inspiring young women, and the need to constantly create, I decided I'd take matters into my own hands and shape my own opportunity. So, I created Vagabond et Virtuosa.
The mission of Vagabond et Virtuosa (or V&V), is to inspire female artists to go after their dreams, travel the world, and create wherever they go. This ideal came from so many thinking they had to move to a big city in order to become a successful artist. Of course, it doesn't hurt, but through this platform I've made it my purpose to share my experiences and my journey along the way to prove that needing to bend to the mold isn't necessary. Also, I find it extremely crucial for any artist to go out there and immerse themselves in as many different cultures as they can, as frequently as they can. This allows a chance to grow as a human being, the opportunity to create experiences to build off of in creation of any work of art, and to live a full life.
This blog is made up of my travel tips, stories, and guides, learning experiences as an artist out in Los Angeles and how to succeed sooner than later, information on how to create a business for yourself and understanding the entertainment industry, analysis on different forms of artwork (mainly films) and how to learn to analyze them for yourself, and of course, healthy doses of inspiration and reminders that you are a gosh darn superstar who needs to share their gifts with the world.
Where Vagabond et Virtuosa is headed
Yes, Vagabond et Virtuosa is a blog right now, but come the end of this week and into the foreseeable future, V&V is about to be so much more. With currently 10.3K visits to the website and six months of building under my belt, Vagabond et Virtuosa is about to become a community where my lady artists come together, create with one another, and take the leaps they need to in order to get out in the world sharing their gifts with it!
This will begin with my Youtube Channel, where I will be posting cover videos and hopefully some original music down the road, along with vlog videos about my travel experiences and tips with working in different artistic mediums, behind the scenes to my photography sessions, the different films, concept dance pieces, and music videos I create, and especially videos of me on my different trips around the world, what inspires me while I'm gone, what new things I learn along the way, and of course, me creating while I'm on the road and sharing it as I go.
From here, I will create different contests and challenges to have everyone be a part of, to inspire them to get their work out there into the world, and maybe join me on a trip or two! I would also love to collaborate with all who are willing!
What's coming next is extremely exciting for me, and I absolutely cannot wait to start this journey! I hope you come along for the ride! <3
Here's to making dreams come true!
Sign up for challenges, guides, travel tips, and updates here!:
Photo by: Johan Erik Lallerstedt
The unknown can be a scary thing, and I think that's what we fear most. Not knowing where we'll be in five years, five months, five days, heck, even five minutes. How do we get to where we want to be? If we even know where that is? We might have an idea, and man it might sound like a dream come true, but is that possible? Gosh. Where do I go from here?
If I would rather live my life traveling the world and writing books about my adventures, teaching yoga through my own phone application, learning new languages and about people from different places, and sharing my art and soul to those willing to listen...is that practical? Would my family approve? How would I survive? How would I make money? Where do I even start something like that? Worst of all...what if I fail? Do I stop trying to achieve that dream life? Do I instead go for that 9-5 job where I know I'll have a stable living, but never actually having the life I want? The answer is: time isn't guaranteed - life can be taken away from you at any moment, so why wouldn't you use what moments you have doing what excites you compared to doing what you believe others' think is right? Just breath.
Chances are, they'll be equally as excited for you if you tell them what you want to do, and if you have some sort of idea on how you want to get there. If they're not happy for you, who cares? Find a way to open your mind and go for it anyway.
The unknown is an exciting place. Each moment into the future is a part of your journey. Who knows what will happen? Maybe you'll meet someone today who will suggest that, "Hey, have you ever thought of singing?", or perhaps come across an old book in the library that has a forgotten letter inside, which maybe will lead to your next story? What's even more fun though, is that if you spend each of these days doing what makes you happy and spending this time taking one more step towards where you want to be (or where you think you want to be) your life will ultimately be that more fulfilling. If your biggest wish in life is to be happy, it goes along the lines of the saying, "life is a journey, not a destination," - if you're doing something each day that makes your heart smile, your life will be a happy one compared to the wish of it being a byproduct of what you hope will be a good life. What I mean by this is: don't date that guy just because "he's got the qualities that every other girl would love, he will definitely treat me right and I'll have a happy life" - if it's not what you love, don't force yourself into a relationship where you don't feel something. Same goes for giving your time towards something that truly doesn't speak to you.
Also, if you're spending your nights home after a long day of work, continuing the work of a job that doesn't fulfill you - quit it. If you'd rather be reading, or writing - painting, or maybe refurbishing that dresser that you found at the dump - do that instead! Create space or a business for yourself that will allow you to take a leap towards what you want your life to become. Life is made up of the moments and how you spend them - not how you wish you had used them with the outcome you only imagined. Life won't change unless you do. Have an open mind, open heart, and always believe in the possibilities of a better tomorrow.
The biggest and most important part of this life is to be true to yourself and understand the gifts you've been given. It doesn't matter what others think. Get that out of your head. Listen to yourself. Ask yourself the question, "What is it that I was put on this earth to do? How can I impact just one person at least, through who I am and who I want to be? What am I good at? What absolutely sets my heart on fire to the point of tears? How can I make that my life?" Take into consideration how the things you love make you feel. How do you feel? Picture yourself in that life and understand that it is absolutely a possibility to live that life - just as long as you take action towards it. Be realistic - and with that, I mean be realistic in your goals. You can't become a master chef in a day, or a week - things take time, but understand if you take action every single day, that life is much more possible and a million more times likely to happen - sometimes in a way you wouldn't expect.
Just like the saying, "You miss 100 of the shots you don't take," you're not going to win a Grammy if you never sing your song and put yourself out there. Just like if you have an idea for a book, but never write it. It will always just be an idea if you never sit down and do the work. The universe won't make its magic unless you take action and tell it to.
Take it. Take the life you want, don't expect it to be given to you.
Don't let fear overcome you, especially the fear of failure. It's one of life's greatest teachers, and it actually moves you forward to where you want to be faster if you think about it. You just have to embrace the friend that failure truly is. It tells you what's not working, and if you ask for feedback - it tells you where you went wrong, so you're able to move forward without making that same mistake - just as long as you keep moving forward. That's the key. Also know, nothing has to to be permanent. If it doesn't feel right, don't stay. That's not to say that if something doesn't work, give up, it means, if you thought something would be one way, and it's doing you more harm than good, or it's not what you were expecting - spend your time trying something else. You won't move forward if you're staying in the same place for no purpose.
There is never a clear path on how to achieve your dreams, but as long as you lean into opportunity, think of what makes you happy, and truly go for it with all of the confidence in the world - you can never say you didn't try and chances are, you'll be living the life beyond what you dreamed. Everything takes time. Your life is constantly under construction. It may look ugly sometimes, and you're unsure of what's actually underway, but know you have the ability to build something beautiful with it and things aren't always what they seem from an exterior point of view. Don't analyze it too much. Trust your gut, your soul, and just go for it - one building block at a time. You'll thank yourself in the end and see every day was an accomplishment.
Take your time. Breath. Enjoy each moment and take it in as it passes - making the most of it.
There's nothing to be afraid of besides not allowing yourself the chance to live the life you've always dreamed of.
As Jim Carey said, "I learned many great lessons from my father, not the least of which, was that you can fail at what you don’t want so you might as well take a chance on doing what you love”
“Life opens up opportunities to you, and you either take them or you stay afraid of taking them.”
Go for it, lady Jane. I have faith in you, and you should have faith in you, too.
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! <3
Mary Gabrielle Strause