Vivarium is a rare film that employs nightmare logic and is thoroughly uncompromising in its bent vision. The film opens with disturbing footage of hairless baby birds pushing each other out of a nest. For a film about the complications of human nests, this is a fitting metaphor.
After she finishes exuberantly playacting with her kindergarten class, Poots’ and Eisenberg’s characters, a happy-go-lucky couple at the dawn of their involvement, merrily skip to a real-estate office to flirt at signing away their lives in a contract of drudgery, or, in layman’s terms, consider shopping around for a tract house, which of course, isn’t really them, and, if purchased, will just be a starter house on the road to something much better. Yet the robotic real estate forcibly assures them that this is most certainly not a starter house but will be theirs forever and ever.
The real estate agent disappears around a corner and the intrepid home shoppers decide to make their escape, but there is no escape: they circle endlessly through the empty tract house labyrinth, finally running out of gas precisely in front of the original house. In the intervening days, a box of supplies is mysteriously dropped of to them. Then a baby. Raise the child to be released, reads a cryptic note affixed to the box containing the baby. Although the kid turns out to be immensely unsettling (is that an adult dubbing his voice? what exactly is he implying by the fragments of the couple’s carnal scene he’s reenacting?), he ages so rapidly one thinks this day of release might come soon for the increasingly unhinged couple.
Could the child be an alternate version of the real-estate agent with which he, by some sort of time-bending operation, hoped to right the wrongs done to him? Hoped to repeat his childhood with his fundamental essence? Hoped reimagine the past by being raised by ideal parents? Yet this theory is squashed when the behavior of the previously hopeful couple turns out to be anything but ideal, unless you consider child abuse ideal.
There is an especially mind bending sequence in which Boots travels beneath variously colored layers of different realities, leading credence to theories of aliens being behind it all, but the film leaves several unanswered questions. You will most likely leave your home theater with your own theory. We’d love to read your comments if you have one 🙂
Today is April 26th, 2020, and Vivarium is currently streaming VOD on multiple services.