Vivarium is a 2019 horror and science-fiction movie directed by Lorcan Finnegan, starring Jesse Einsenberg as Tom, and Imogen Potts as Gemma. In the film, the couple wants to look for a starter house. They are led by a peculiar real estate agent to Yonder, a suburban neighborhood, and visit house number nine. They are clearly uncomfortable throughout the entire visit and cannot wait to leave. As they turn towards the agent to tell him they are not interested, the couple are surprised that he has suddenly left. They leave the house to go back home, but soon enough accept that they are stuck in this suburban nightmare. The couple reluctantly settles in the house and are flabbergasted when they find a baby at their doorstep.
As time passes, Gemma is forced to assume the traditional mother role, such as raising, feeding, and taking care of the baby, that seems to grow rapidly and speaks in a cartoon voice, that deeply unsettles the pair. Tom realizes that he can try to dig a hole in their front-lawn, a possible escape route. He dedicates all his time to digging, even when sickness is destroying him. He ends up dying because of the sickness stemming from his excessive labor, and Gemma follows him soon after.
This unnerving ending might seem absurd and anti-climactic, but it is actually a clever analogy to life in a capitalist society. The worker is forced to labor himself to death, at the expense of his happiness, his health and his life. Life in suburbia might appear to be the unattainable goal, but once you settle in, the dull and monotonous routine takes every last bit of spirit out of you and turns you into this lifeless robot, that has for only goal to eat, work, sleep and repeat. Vivarium is a brilliant analysis of the subtle ways by which capitalism forces us to conform to its norms and how it obliges us to be stuck in the cycle of working, getting married, having kids, and raising them, who will soon enough grow up and start working, so long and so forth. The movie pushes the viewers to question their purpose in life. Do you want to end up like the lead characters, insignificant coils in the death machine that is capitalism?
By Meriem Terzi