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‘Vivarium’ Review: From Hometown To Nontown

Updated: Apr 5, 2020

By: Iman Rezaei

Lorcan Finnegan’s latest film is a social statement, which is both fantastical and mysteries. The film demonstrates the story of a young couple hoping to find the perfect place to live and travel to a suburban neighbourhood in which all the houses look identical. However, when they try to leave the labyrinth-like development, each road mysteriously takes them back to where they started and that they can not escape. “Near enough and far enough” is a comment made by Martin (the real estate agent) to describe Yonder, a new residential development, where is near enough and far enough. Perhaps somewhere near, something like an actualized dream is a thought that becomes real. In fact, Yonder is the hell that Finnegan’s characters walk into it in order to display the director’s metaphoric vision of the world. Yonder has a similar geography to the works of René Magritte and M.C. Escher: Small and perfectly-shaped clouds, which strangely look like cubic green-coloured houses that are placed one after another in rows. A place, where has no beginning or end and it circles itself. Yonder is a prison without any border or walls. It's modern design and silence are both vexing and perplexing that swallows its prey. The world that Vivarium creates includes numerous features and elements, the centerfold of which is in order. An invisible system delivers a box full of necessary items at a specific time of the day and takes back the garbage in the same box.

Yonder is probably the same world that one must enter to have a house. Finnegan has talked about the difficulties and hardship that Irish people had to endure to get a house. Yonder gradually becomes the same dominant system. A system giving you a house after many attempts and promising you peace and calmness, then starts bothering and annoying you in its unique way.

After entering the house, Tom and Gemma immediately find themselves lost and miserable. The house works as a heavily controlled shelter, which is a metaphor for a repressive dictatorship system and becomes their only choice. It is the same system that makes choices for their characters. It is same like that blue room which gets occupied by the infant Tom and Gemma find at their door with a letter that tells them to raise him. Another metaphorical point regarding Finnegan’s critical view of life becomes clear here. The couple raises another ‘Martin’ so he would be able to bring more victims to Yonder. It’s a cycle that operates through its victims and continues its chain of making more preys. Vivarium basically follows this goal in its structure: Creating a system, a cycle, a strong complex narrative with socio-political implications disguised as a surreal and fantastic story.

Perhaps the most outstanding part of the film is when it reveals the existence of other victims like Tom and Gemma. It’s when Gemma finds a way under the pavement, in a fluid atmosphere and void of space/time, where she sees other people in a similar situation. A desperate woman is sitting at a table and staring at a corner or a man who commits suicide in the bathroom. All narrative features in Vivarium work to create the dystopian world in an exaggerated manner and all the metaphorical aspects of the film create a surreal symbolic atmosphere to make Vivarium a horror film with deep thoughts provoking themes, which holds its own.

* Vivarium, directed by Lorcan Finnegan, is available on demand beginning Friday, March 27.


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