Vivarium (2019)

I remember when I watched The VVitch years ago and was amazed at how it made somewhat standard scenes seem creepy and scary. A shot of a tree would somehow be one of the scariest moments in film and you have no idea why, it’s just great film-making. This is similar. It has a moment where they drive up a street to a house, that’s it. Nothing happens to them, nothing jumps out at them, it’s just them driving up a street. It’s also the creepiest scene I’ve seen in a LONG time. The houses are identical, like they’ve all been copied and pasted in an unnatural manner. The whole film is like that, the mundane made incredibly creepy through FANTASTIC film-making. Normally in horror it’s darkness that makes things creepy. This is the opposite, everything is so well-light and normal and bright that it’s that that makes it creepy.

The story is good, but ultimately frustrating sometimes as there are multiple questions which don’t get answered. Normally I’d call that annoying and lazy, but with this it works. The tone is perfect for that kind of narrative. It’s supposed to be a confusing mess as that’s what the characters are feeling. It makes you feel as helpless and trapped as the characters. There’s not enough focus on how character empathy can be tied into the narrative structure. I’ve made a conscious decision to do this when I made Poppy Blooms. I intentionally kept everything in that building so that the audience would feel as limited as the character was. The best case I can think of where the opposite has been the case and the narrative structure has been hurt by it will be The Mercy, aka, the film where Colin Firth is stuck on a boat. As I said here the film was supposed to be about how isolated he felt, but it kept cutting back to other characters, and had a lot of flashbacks of him interacting with people, as such you never felt as isolated as he did.

This is the opposite, it’s a confusing mess, because the characters are confused. I refuse to believe the confusing nature isn’t intentional, the film-maker is just too talented for that to be the case. I’m basing that off one film, yes, but it is a very good film. Plus, anybody who made this scene is certainly one of the most talented film-makers the world has.

I highly recommend this film, I’m not going to want to watch it again but I’m very glad I watched it. Well, maybe “glad” isn’t the correct word but you know what I mean, if you have shudder (and if you don’t, you should), it’s available on there.

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