Jesse Eisenberg’s New Film is a Lockdown Nightmare
You’d think that when faced with the prospect of being locked away from society for months on end, that I’d want to watch films that help me escape, right? Wrong. This week I doubled down, and tried to find something that would make me feel even more cut off and claustrophobic, and boy did I succeed. Why did I do this to myself? Honestly, I don’t even know anymore.
Vivarium (2019), directed by Lorcan Finnegan and starring Imogen Poots and Mark Zucker- sorry, Jesse Eisenberg, is a story of a young couple whose attempt to jump on the housing ladder lands them trapped in a surreal, endless labyrinth of newly built model homes. Having been shown into a house by a creepy estate agent, they soon realise that they can’t leave the complex; no matter how far they go in any direction, they always end up back at the house where they started.
Conceptually it’s incredibly reminiscent of 20thcentury horror like The Excorsist, Stepford Wives and The Twilight Zone, and though Vivarium isn’t what I would consider overtly scary, the scenes of repetition and tiresome routine that the couple end up having to live through day-in-day out does have a certain nightmarish quality to it (given what we’re all going through right now). Shortly after their arrival, a cardboard box arrives at their front door containing a baby boy – they’re told that if they raise the child, they will be set free. It’s around here that the fairly transparent metaphor for adulthood begins to show. Get a house, get a kid, can’t leave. See what I’m saying?
Vivarium isn’t a long film, but it really started to drive me crazy around the 45 minute mark. In my own life, I’ve been somewhat able to wake up each day, brush my teeth, shower, eat, watch TV, etc. without yet going insane, but watching someone else go through that same routine really freaked me out. I caught myself looking at these characters and saying “God, what kind of a life is that?” before realising that my life at the moment isn’t too different to the story I was watching unfold in the film.
As I was writing this blog I heard the news that Boris is supposedly going to allow the lockdown to be eased somewhat. Having finished Vivarium, I can say, hand on heart, that it’s the best news I’ve heard in months. I’m glad I watched Vivarium, but I think I’ll pick something a bit less likely to cause me existential dread next time.