Director: Lorcan Finnegan
Lorcan Finnegan, an irish director is making quite a name for himself with such new and singular horrors as Without Name and his debut short Foxes.
“A young couple looking for the perfect home find themselves trapped in a mysterious labyrinth-like neighborhood of identical houses.”
Reviewers have been seeing the horror of domesticity, suburbia etc I will go another route allude to by friend Ion Dumitrescu “the home-grown alien”. I will also try to go into a more biological, even address the Neo-Darwinist frame. As such again, I am not trying to interpret, to tease out the various layers or let alone do a synopsis, analysis, but explore ideas, tendencies and directions where the Vivarium movie points at without any explicit references.
- One would be to see how this movie fares in the post Covid-19 era, or how somebody already called it the BC and AC, Before Covid and After. Inside the ‘safe’ environment one is a (reproductive) reproducing target of societal mores, demographic fears & cultural conventions – at de same time the larger West (including Japan with loneliness on the increase) growing more & more oblivious to its aging & still vulnerable population, most of the care work done by invisible, robotic & imported others (especially from eastern Europe, Philippines but not only). Full surrogacy for all indeed, still surrogacy is still reserved for privileged few. Also this surrogacy seems to to be built on the most exposed to abuse, disenfranchised, most exploitable of grounds. The alien (virus) is kept outside while also keeping ones fears indoors, risking to become trapped into all sorts of OC behaviors and subroutines. There is a strong peformative power to Vivarium, the living is being played, the whole family is but a facade a stage play of caring & nurturing, in fact the nuclear family risks is becoming serialized, and each time of the day seems to get lost inside other same gestures, repeated tooth brush and morning rituals.
- Vivarium is also about the lack of an outside, but only because the inside has been invaded, taken over completely and subverted by the outside. There is an incredible knot, where one lets in exactly what one does not want to. There have been always changeling creatures, entities that have switched children, that have swapped theirs for yours, within most fairy ((f)eerie) tale traditions (Irish, Scottish etc one especially I am pretty sure) and also within the classical Romantic canon the Erlkönig from Johann Wolfgang von Goethe poem steals the children or condemns them to an early grave. There is always the dark possibility that you are raising such a Wechselbalg being that ties in with subsistence farming and infanticide as A L Ashliman has been recording. The new gloss sa that child is only a way to be hooked into chains of debt & credit card ownership right after birth & ways to affect parent purchase patterns (see below).
- The obvious references to Darwinist dark vitalism, cuckoos nesting habits early on is great. Cost benefit calculations have applied assiduously to biology and now have finally managed to cast offspring as parasitic, as utterly alien bodies both in the sense that the child is really competing for resources with the mother in the womb, but also from the pop science perspective of the “Selfish gene” replicator 80s stemming from R Dawkins. They are also utterly alien in the sense of being something else, with a language of their own, brain patterns, Net literacy even to their millennial parents not only their Boomer grandparents. The dream of helicopter parents breeds merciless if not only successful little competitors.
4. Capital as a real estate agent with a human face, as the ultimate alien parasite is using human caretakers so it can replicate itself, but only if it can maintain its integrity and mission to sell even more of its own. Only if it can learn to pretend it is human, to be able to find its next host, and only if it can maintain low mutation rates and keep redistributing the same encapsulated, self-contained creepy clean dream worlds, the same maze of pristine hoods and home ownership plans.
5. Enclosure of the commons has been a clear trademark of modernity, jump-starting the Industrial Revolution. The important thing is that it does not matter that the inhuman other breaks trough, that it is always showing & covering reality up the horizon. At the same time this normie uniformity has to be understood at another level that thethe suburbia model of the Fordist production line does not cover. Now the real uniformity does not lie anymore in the standardized units but in the standard of being sold and serialized difference, more of the same kind of newness, of showing one can avoid this 50s model that has been in a steady disrepute since both insider reactionaagainst company men & 60s counterculture has weirded it out and infused the mainstream with a steady stream of ready made otherness and non- similarity which in itself is neither good nor bad in itself but has come to signify stasis.
6. Same time, children have taken center stage in capitalism, the commodification of childhood has made them the principal port where the new desires, fears and commercial pressures jack in. Once you get to the children, the road is free to their parents pocket. Again not trying to pasre over, over interpret or look into what’s not there only trying to see why the movie is revealing in our current predicament.
7. What an incredible contrast between thus Vivarium (Mortuarium?), its closed systems (all food is introduced miraculously via outside delivery fro an unknown elsewhere – a pun on food home delivery/increasing Amazonification) and the self sufficiency of eco-technological Biospherics. One has to consider this contrast of two encapsulated models of living with pink self identic clouds(cloud computing?) – one that recreates (and reproduces) the desertification of the real (to take a Baudrillard phrase) a timeless unsustainable lifestyle, the earthly 50s golden age, by the way one that has been preserved even in the Scientological paradise myth & the search for a new possible life that takes into account all tbe synergistic & newly formed & evolving relationships within closed systems potentially on other planets and settlements elsewhere. One interesting absence are computers, desktops, thr internet per se even mobile phones are somehow absent, muted and only pre internet TV ëerieness is the favored medium.