Quarantine. Five months and counting. No end in sight. The average person needs the stimulation, warmth, touch, and rapport of fellow human beings. People need to go out into the world and exchange ideas, collaborate, and converse with like-minded individuals. But all of that has changed with the advent of the pathogen known as the novel coronavirus. Sickness, economic hardship, and even death have followed the path of the pernicious little germ—not to mention the loneliness of the long-distance runner and the ennui of seclusion.  

But there is some respite for the weary. And it comes in the form of really interesting movies which make it clear that things could be a lot worse! So let’s have a look at three intriguing films that take place in desolate, hopeless, grim quarantined worlds. Shall we? 

Vivarium

The indie film Vivarium is not for everyone. It is an allegorical story within a metaphorical romance within a symbolic family drama within a parallel universe. Confused? Well, this one’s definitely a bit confusing. 

Imogen Poots (28 Weeks Later, Green Room) and Jesse Eisenberg (The Social Network, Zombieland) play a young couple looking for a starter home. Tom and Gemma are shepherded to a community of identical tract houses in a suburban maze, and when they try to leave, all roads lead back to tract house number 9. Quarantine! They eventually settle into a mundane existence of eating prepackaged food and laying in wait to ambush their captors, until a baby boy arrives at their doorstep. What follows is a masterclass in experimental film and sci-fi horror.

Check the comments section on Vivarium, and you’ll notice folks either love this film or they hate it. And there are any number of theories as to what Vivarium actually means or what it’s even about. But one thing is for sure, if you’re feeling lonely, isolated, depressed, cut-off from the civilized world in the age of COVID-19, just watch Vivarium and realize … you got it pretty good where you are!

The Lodge

The Lodge takes place during the Christmas holiday season, but it is anything but festive. Grace, a young woman who had survived a Jim Jones-like cult episode in her youth, finds herself stranded in a remote cabin with her boyfriend’s creepy kids. The power goes down in the lodge, and a blizzard rages outside making it impossible to get to town or to call for help. Quarantine! Yes, there is a Shining vibe to this one, but it eschews the personality and dynamic nature of the Stanley Kubrick-helmed thriller in favor of a slow burn dread that gets deep inside the marrow of your bones. The Lodge is definitely psychological horror, but be forewarned, there are images of graphic violence and disturbing depictions of apprehension and fear. It’s not for everyone either. But if you like horror movies and you want to feel better about the coronavirus quarantine, The Lodge might do the trick!

Spaceship Earth

For those of you who remember the ‘90s, the Biosphere 2 was a pretty big news story. The concept of eight scientists living in an artificial, self-sustaining environment for two years captured the imagination of a nation infatuated with the idea of space exploration. In Spaceship Earth, the documentary filmmaker Matt Wolf actually begins with news footage aired at the time of the experiment, and the energy and anticipation of the event is palpable. But all great experiments come with their own unique set of risks. And when you put a group of flawed human beings in an enclosed space with no contact with the outside world, things can definitely go sideways. Quarantine!    

Spaceship Earth is essentially the story behind how things went terribly wrong in the Biosphere 2 experiment. It’s both a testament to the idealistic American spirit and the folly of human ambition. In these trying times, it’s difficult to be stuck in an apartment waiting for groceries to show up at the front door, but it’s a whole other kettle of fish to be stuck in an ill-conceived terrarium while suffocating and starving with a would-be cult leader.

The confinement and heartache visited upon all of us by the novel coronavirus is nothing to dismiss or even to take lightly. However, this can be a time to count blessings and take stock in the opportunities that are still within our collective grasp. It’s really a matter of perspective. Let’s all be grateful we’re not living in a dystopian suburb called Vivarium; we’re not quarantining in the woods with a frightening, unhinged individual; and we’re certainly not gasping for air in a harebrained human terrarium. 

 

 

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