We stay close to young couples searching for a home proposing on the topic of this bizarre and little-known 2019 movie, Vivarium.
Indeed, the protagonists of this story are precisely the cheerful Tom and Gemma, sweethearts who approach the unusual real estate agent Martin, a man apparently cordial yet at the same time slightly disturbing in appearance and behavior.
Martin then takes them to Yonder, a residential neighborhood still under construction and uninhabited, surprisingly uniform, and ominously alien-looking.
The perfectly tidy environment, with emerald green lawns and homes all looking the same, is at first glance the image of the paradise idealized idyll that every couple is looking for.
However, while they are visiting the house, Martin suddenly disappears, leaving them alone, and they can’t get back.
It is useless to drive around in circles until they run out of gas in the car, as well as to venture out into the gardens on foot in search of an escape route: one way or another, they always return in front of the damn door number 9.
At the height of despair, they even try to destroy the house, but the next day not only is it as good as new and without a single scratch, but they also find in front of a box containing an infant with a cryptic message: Raise him and you will be free.
Having no choice, they begin to live in Yonder’s endless void, with this baby growing at a phenomenal rate, developing increasingly strange and disquieting habits.
As they become increasingly detached from reality inside that purgatory, they begin to behave more oddly, along with the strange creature who becomes more and more like Martin as he becomes an adult.
The alien fear of the ordinary
Drawing free ideas from various Star Treks and The Twilight Zone, director Lorcan Finnegan introduces us to a bold feature packed with elements of uncanny sci-fi, with a pace that perfectly balances the thrill of the unknown with the suspense of discovery.
The use of the color palette is remarkable, recalling the work of Rene Magritte‘s masterpieces with a selection of vibrant and evocative hues for a visual world that screams surrealism in every frame.
Vivarium challenges our misconceptions about reality and perception with a slow and provocative approach to stimulate critical thinking, prompting the audience to question what is really going on in this 2019 movie.
Finnegan collaborates closely with Garret Shanley, creating a minimalist but effective script that tells a lot with little, carefully dosing the (few) revelations to keep curiosity and tension alive.
I prefer to leave you to search for subtle social metaphors, as intelligent as they are cleverly disseminated in this atmosphere suspended between the real and the imaginary.
Far from being arrogant and didactic, Finnegan and Shanley blend these ideas about the anonymous repetitiveness of modern life into the Yonder world that holds up a mirror to the great trap of the post-millennial lifestyle.
Not surprisingly, the world we see is a paradox: a Vivarium that, rather than seething with life, feels like a lonely place, inhabited by a few people condemned to slow agony, whose urban desert contrasts strikingly with the original meaning of the word.
Familiar elements and all the objects and gestures of daily life take on a sinister tone in this unexpected context, highlighting the uncertainty and disorientation provoked by an environment openly hostile to its guests.
Are they aliens? Interdimensional beings? Humans from a dystopian future experimenting on us? Your choice, any hypothesis, is plausible.
Mother and father and whimsical wit
In the enclosed environment of the Vivarium, where time and space seem to have no end, the universe revolves around three characters, each appearing to fragment a giant enigma whose solution continues to elude the viewer.
The most resilient figure turns out to be the female one, embodied with intensity by Imogen Poots.
She is the last bastion of sanity in a world that seems detached from reality and the only one who tries to struggle openly against the oppressive circumstances of this madness, desperately attempting to escape.
Involuntarily, she instead becomes a forced mother enduring the harassment of the little one entrusted to her by unknown forces, a little being far from representing the idyllic image of innocence associated with youth.
What should be the joy of having a child becomes instead a slow torture, as unbearable as it is cruel, its various stages of growth brilliantly rendered by young Senan Jennings and Eanna Hardwicke.
In contrast to his companion’s resilience, Jesse Eisenberg is instead a resigned man, immediately drowning in the inevitability of his fate and, after initial vain attempts, seeming to accept passively the impossibility of escape.
Distant and apathetic, this character ends up being almost as irritating and repulsive as the child and stupid enough to even go so far as to dig his own grave.
I had already admired the brilliant Eisenberg/Poots pair in the unusual The Art of Self-Defense, and in this movie, they are even better, delivering a performance that goes beyond the real by slowly slipping into an endless nightmare.
In conclusion, Jonathan Aris deserves mention as Martin, the mysterious real estate agent whose performance is as funny as it is creepy, with his cold (alien?) demeanor that seems devoid of any possible human empathy.