CS interview: Imogen Poots on the insane sci-fi thriller Vivarium
ComingSoon.net got the opportunity to talk with Imogen Poots (The Art of Self-Defense) to discuss Vivarium, the upcoming sci-fi thriller in which she stars alongside Jesse Eisenberg for their third big screen outing after Solitary Man and Self-Defense! The film is now available to rent or own on Digital HD!
In Vivarium, on their search for the perfect home, Gemma (Imogen Poots) and Tom (Jesse Eisenberg) visit a new house in a labyrinthine suburban neighbourhood. When they attempt to leave, each road mysteriously takes them back to where they started, leading them on a mind-bending trip, trapped in a surreal nightmare.
The film stars Oscar nominee Eisenberg (The Social Network), Poots, Jonathan Aris (Radioactive), Danielle Ryan (Professionals), Senan Jennings (Royally Ever After), and Eanna Hardwicke (Normal People).
Vivarium is directed by Lorcan Finnegan (Without Name, Foxes) who co-wrote the screenplay with Garret Shanley (Without Name, Self-Assembly). Fantastic Films’ Brendan McCarthy and John McDonnell produced in association with Lovely Productions, in co-production with Belgium’s Frakas Productions and Denmark’s Pingpong Film. XYZ executive produced the film.
When she first got the script, Poots found many of its deeper elements jumping off the page to her and that while its messages held a different kind of weight when she initially read it, the film proves to be even more prevalent to what’s happening in the world today.
“When I first read it the tangle metaphors were right there, with the housing crisis across the world, but specifically in Ireland, where they had these things called ghost estates where they had built many housing constructs and then they laid empty,” Poots described. “Because our director’s Irish, it was sort of clear that was a nod towards it, and on top of that there were some elements that had to do with gender roles and what is your identity when you’re taken out of the rest of society and on top of all of that is was just very much a fever dream, just like Jesse refers to it as. I think as it bangs on it sort of has a Machiavellian and sinister feel to its atmosphere, it’s kind of neither here nor there. It’s a hardcore genre, but it’s spooky and I think it certainly has the ability to kind of connect with any hardship or absurdity humans find themselves in, especially right now with the claustrophobia of it ringing very true.”
The 30-year-old English actress also agreed with her frequent collaborator Eisenberg that the film feels very reminiscent to The Twilight Zone and Black Mirror, believing that the sci-fi genre is one that can brings a number of opportunities for its storytelling and characters.
“I think those are both very enticing reference points for these films, because sci-fi is such a malleable genre in the sense of what opportunity it creates for characters and the threshold, the emotional thresholds, or mental and emotional health to be going through something totally absurd,” Poots said. “I think Lorcan, our director, has worked alongside those filmmakers as well, I think he was affiliated with the Black Mirror people, so that sort of is in his bag, as it were, which is very much mine as well. Cool to get to go there with them both.”
Eisenberg and Poots first worked together in the 2009 drama Solitary Man, right before the 36-year-old broke out with his Oscar-nominated turn in The Social Network, and the actress finds it “so cool” to have reunited with him again so soon after their last collaboration, the acclaimed dark comedy The Art of Self-Defense.
“I really adore Jesse in a very, very deep way and we first did a film together ten years ago in New York and he had done The Squid and the Whale and stuff, but there was a bunch of other stuff he hadn’t done and it’s kind of crazy how far back you can go with another actor and then we did Art of Self-Defense a year prior to Vivarium, and I loved making it,” Poots said “I really had the best time and loved everyone on that film, so to reunite with Jesse was the coolest, it was easy-peasy. It’s so great, so rare, but so cool to get to share time with someone who you totally trust. It makes everything very entertaining.”
She laughs as she describes her friendship with Eisenberg, telling a story of how “Jesse will tell you ‘I have one friend called Jim,’ he always says he has the one friend” but that when the two aren’t running back and forth for movie shoots and their homes across the pond, they keep their friendship alive.
“We keep in touch, I’m back and forth from New York a bunch and I know his wife, Anna, really well and they’ve got their young baby, so they’re a very familiar trio of people in my life, I think the world of them,” Poots says warmly. “He’s definitely got more than one friend, I’ll tell you that much.”
Despite much of the film’s darkness, Poots had a lot fun just in the reunion with the Justice League star, as working alongside someone “so smart and so funny” makes for a great working environment on any set.
“For some reason he loves talking in Australian accent, most of the time when we weren’t filming,” Poots laughs. “He’s really a great person to spend bonkers hours with because you’re just doing really crazy scenes together. The repetition as well sort of makes you feel a bit crazy because we had three houses, three facades, that was our whole set and everywhere else was like green screens and cables everywhere. Day one was so fun, it was like being in a dollhouse, and then day two was like, ‘What, we’re going to be here for seven more weeks.’ It was interesting having such a simple set in that way and it certainly felt like a Sims game sometimes, walking around the film set in the same costume. Luckily we had a very upbeat Irish crew, so it made a lot of difference.”
One of the actress’ first films was the hit 2007 apocalyptic horror sequel 28 Weeks Later and though the world isn’t quite going through a zombie pandemic at the moment, Poots did find the parallels between having starred in a film about an epidemic of sorts and seeing one come to life as “haunting” and in “someway inevitable.”
“It’s come around quite soon, the situation like this, but I don’t think we’re ever so far from having a moment of real lockdown, whether it’s due to climate dictating things or unknowable times,” Poots said. “I can speak for the generation above having been through things like The Troubles in Ireland or Cold War in Vietnam, but this is difficult. I think that it comes down to survival and it comes down to that in a clinical sense is to have to survive and it also comes down to how do people prove themselves in times like these. I think even if they’re just movies, you’re watching people fight against something and you’re watching them often come together to overcome something. I think that there is hopefully something to be learned, but don’t get me wrong, it’s fucking weird. I’ve really been on quite a few films where people were trapped somewhere, so I’m like ‘Jeez, I really need to switch it up.’”
Vivarium is now available on Digital HD and VOD!