Homegrown horror / thriller hybrid Vivarium is the 2nd film from Irish director Lorcan Finnegan. It follows Tom (Jesse Eisenberg) and Gemma (Imogen Poots) a young couple whose attempt to buy a home leaves them trapped in a nightmarish parody of suburban life, leading to a truly weird experience that leaves the viewer with so many questions. Movies.ie met with the two leads to try and get some answers.
VIVARIUM is available to watch from March 27th across a number of digital platforms including: Volta.ie, iTunes / Apple TV, Amazon, Sky Store, Microsoft Store, Playstation, Virgin, Google Play, Rakuten, BT, Curzon Home Cinema and BFI Player.
It is currently available for pre-order on iTunes.
How was it working on what is essentially an Irish film even though it doesn’t sound Irish?
Imogen Poots: We didn’t get to see a lot of Ireland because we were so busy shooting this film. We built a set and everything to replicate suburbia inside a very dark, fumey Studio (laughs) but it was really cool getting to work with Lorcan Finnegan who has done beautiful work beforehand and in his hometown. That’s pretty cool.
Where was it shot? Imogen: In Bray, and then we went to Belgium as well.
What was it like working with Irish director Lorcan Finnegan?
Imogen : I met Lorcan and we spoke about movies we loved for a long time and then remembered to talk about ‘Vivarium’ right at the end. And then I just loved his vision for the film. Which I thought was so unique and he obviously seemed like such a wonderful person. And he was talking about actors for Tom and Jesse and I had just worked together, and I love Jesse. And so we sent it his way and he agreed, and there you go.
How would you describe ‘Vivarium’? Is it sci-fi or horror, or both? Imogen:It has elements of sci-fi in it. Sometimes it’s quite hard to choose a specific genre for film but I think it has elements of the supernatural and it’s also realistic in its exploration of a marriage and the pressure of being trapped in suburbia. But, yeah, I don’t know. You’ve been calling it a fever dream, which I think is very apt
Jesse Eisenberg: Yeah, it kind of feels like it reminds me of a nightmare that you’d have like where there’s all these like symbolic things that you can relate to, but they’re all skewed a little bit. So like, the story is about this couple who wants a house and a child and to get married, and all of those things appear in the movie, but in ways that are kind of like skewed for the worse. Like they have an adorable kid. But he’s seems like a parasite or like, I mean, he’s physically adorable but he’s like this terrifying, parasitic monster. And they have this house, which looks like, possibly beautiful, but it’s actually this kind of like hollow soulless trap. It reminds me more of like a nightmare rather than kind of like a thriller in the sense that these real people are being pursued by some real thing. It all feels like a little bit removed from the real world.
What was it about the script that appealed to you? Jesse : The thing I love so much about the movie is that it was consistent all the way through in its oddity. Like it didn’t suddenly become this obvious political commentary on the suburbs or on child rearing. It felt to me like this brilliant nightmare that was consistent all the way through and that had like real characters that were actually playable. I was telling Imogen this, like the week she had sent me the script I read two other scripts that were kind of commentaries on Trump’s America. And the characters were just thesemouthpieces for political statements. And I just don’t like that stuff because it just seems less artful. And this movie seemed totally like a completely creative, brilliant, consistent aesthetic. And that’s what I love about it. And it comes across even more in the movie because it’s this beautiful visual scary medium.
Imogen: I thought it was so unique and Lorcan was such a lovely person, but making such a sort of mysterious project that was very intriguing, and such terrible things happened to these characters, but he’s just such a lovely man. (Laughs) But I was really, really just into it. I always, with projects like this, you never really know what to expect, you know? So you have to look at it more like an experiment in a lot of ways. But knowing that I will be doing with Jesse was really, really wonderful. And it just spoke to me as a woman and as an actor and the endurance test of humanity. And all of those things. Yeah, I just thought was really exciting and would be an interesting project to do.
Both of you executive produced the film. What brought you to decide to do that as well as star? Jesse : Truthfully, it was a nominal thing like in order for the movie is produced by like 15 European countries. And so, by virtue of our citizenships or something, we had to be executive producers, so something like that, but that said, we both loved the movie so much and a lot of times with a movie like this, which is a kind of labour of love kind of movie as opposed to like a big Hollywood thing, which is also could be a labour of love, but oftentimes is a labour of hate… we want to support getting the movie made in any way possible. And so that’s how we felt about this movie. And so I guess they put put our names there, but we didn’t have to lift any equipment or anything.
You know, I’ve never known exactly what executive producers do so thank you for explaining to our readers
Jesse : Executive producers sometimes are like kind of gifts to the people who did it. You know that you can get a credit because you, you know, pass the script along to somebody or something to help get the film made whereas when you see just the name producer, those people typically were like there every single day. Yeah, this is gonna be great for your viewers to get a full glimpse at what actually occurs (laughs).
The house in the film is Number 9, and I wondered was that a reference to the TV show ‘Inside Number 9’, which is a horror anthology where awful things happen in different Number 9s every episode? Jesse : I actually asked him why and I didn’t get an answer. Maybe cause he plagiarised it (laughs). It must be related to that then.
VIVARIUM is available to watch on March 27th across a number of digital platforms including: VOLTA.ie , iTunes / Apple TV, Amazon, Sky Store, Microsoft Store, Playstation, Virgin, Google Play, Rakuten, BT, Curzon Home Cinema and BFI Player. It is currently available for pre-order on iTunes.