Danish Filmmaker Susanne Bier Leads with Strength & Tenacity

Five years ago today, Bird Box was released in theaters. This gripping psychological thriller about a mother determined to get her children to safety during an apocalypse, this film could only have been made by someone with equal amounts of strength and gumption as Sandra Bullock’s character in the film. That person is Susanne Bier, who has had an extensive and hugely successful career spanning over twenty years. 

Susanne Bier is a Danish filmmaker, born in Copenhagen, Denmark in 1960. At first, Susanne studied architecture at the Architectural Association School of Architecture in London. However, she soon switched her focus to film, later graduating from the National Film School of Denmark in 1987. 

Freud’s Leaving Home is known to be the first film to depict Swedish-Jewish culture.

After graduating, Susanne went to Sweden to direct the 1991 film Freud’s Leaving Home, which follows a young girl named Freud who comes from a Jewish family in Sweden. The film was widely acclaimed by critics and known to be the first film to depict Swedish-Jewish culture. She did not stop shaping the film industry there, though. One of her next films was the Danish comedy The One and Only, released in 1999. The film depicted two married couples who, facing infidelity, must now navigate becoming first-time parents. It marked a transition in Danish romantic comedies by depicting a more taboo and scandalous side of relationships. 

With her 2004 film Brothers, Susanne continued her success at an international level. The film is a war drama which revolves around the lives of two Danish brothers whose paths diverge when one is deployed to Afghanistan. The narrative delves into the profound impact of war on both the soldiers on the front lines and the families left behind. This was the first film by Susanne that FF2 editor-in-chief Jan Lisa Huttner saw; she said, “Film masterfully counterpoints his family’s grief with his fight for survival, then depicts the consequences of his return.”

In 2010, Susanne won an Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film for In a Better World, which interweaves two parallel narratives — one set in a Danish community and the other in a refugee camp in Africa, following a physician who splits his time between the two places.

Susanne’s transition to Hollywood saw her directing Serena (2014), a period drama starring Jennifer Lawrence and Bradley Cooper about a timber baron and his ambitious wife. In her review of the film, Jan Lisa Huttner said, “The direction is elegant with gorgeous sets, costumes and cinematography capturing not just the trauma of the Great Depression, but also contemporary debates about long-term environmental degradation in the service of short-term profit.” 

Susanne’s subsequent project, Bird Box (2018), a post-apocalyptic thriller starring Sandra Bullock, became a global sensation on Netflix. In the film, Sandra Bullock plays a mother and her two children as they navigate a world where mysterious entities cause people who see them to go insane and commit suicide. To survive, the characters must blindfold themselves whenever they are outside. The film, a stark departure from any other film Susanne had done, was further testament to her ability to create a riveting film in any genre. In her review of the film, FF2 contributor Bea Viri praised Susanne’s direction by saying, “Not to be unnoticed, Sandra Bullock’s performance as Malorie was riveting, especially in her regards as the hardened, slightly unwilling mother. It’s clear that this movie isn’t directed by a man, as her struggle to show love to the kids is raw and very real.”

Susanne was born into a Jewish family in Denmark. Before she was born, Susanne’s family had moved across Europe due to the Holocaust. This history led Susanne’s family to raise her with resilience, dignity, and strong principles, values which clearly shaped her incredible career in film. Susanne has reached many corners of the film industry, in locations all across the world. In genres spanning from romantic comedies to suspense thrillers, she has made her mark in everywhere. 

© Julia Lasker (12/14/23) FF2 Media


Read Bea Viri’s review of Bird Box here.

Watch Bird Box here.

Watch The One and Only here.

Read Jan Lisa Huttner’s review of Brothers here.

Read Jan Lisa Huttner’s review of In A Better World here.

Watch In A Better World here.

Read Brigid Presecky and Jan Lisa Hutter’s review of Serena here.

Watch Serena here.


Featured Photo: Trine Dyrholm in the film IN A BETTER WORLD (2010), directed by Susanne Bier. Photo Credit: Moviestore Collection Ltd / Alamy Stock Photo. Image ID: C2M3NP

Middle Photo: Director Susanne Bier backstage with her Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film of the Year, from Denmark, IN A BETTER WORLD (2010), during the live ABC Television Network broadcast of the 83rd Annual Academy Awards from the Kodak Theatre in Hollywood, CA ON Sunday, February 27, 2011. Photo Credit: PictureLux / The Hollywood Archive / Alamy Stock Photo. Image ID: PMKJP9

Bottom Photo: Julian Edwards and Sandra Bullock in the film BIRD BOX (2018), directed by Susanne Bier. Photo Credit: © Saeed Adyani – Netflix – Bluegrass Films – Chris Morgan Productions – Universal Pictures. TCD/Prod.DB / Alamy Stock Photo. Image ID: R9PJJX

Tags: Bea Viri, Best Foreign Language Film, Best International Feature, Bird Box, Brigid Presecky, Brothers, Danish filmmaker, female Danish Filmmaker, female Swedish filmmaker, Freud's Leaving Home, Holocaust, In a Better World, Jan Lisa Huttner, Jennifer Lawrence, Jewish Culture, Julia Lasker, Oscar Winners, Sandra Bullock, Serena, Susanne Bier, Swedish Jews, The One and Only, Trine Dyrholm

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As an associate for FF2 Media, Julia writes reviews and features for films made by women. She is currently a senior at Barnard College studying Psychology. Outside of FF2, her interests include acting, creative writing, thrift shopping, crafting, and making and eating baked goods. Julia has been at FF2 for almost 4 years, and loves the company and its mission dearly.
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