Vivarium Director Lorcan Finnegan

Jesse Eisenberg and Imogen Poots star in Vivarium

When the curtain rises at the Virgin Media Dublin International Film Festival on February 26th, it will be an Irish movie that has the honour of kicking things off. Vivarium, directed by our own Lorcan Finnegan, will be the first of more than 100 films to screen across the 12 day festival – and in the most recent issue of PLAY Magazine, we chatted with the Dublin director to get the inside scoop.



While film fans are counting down the days to the beginning of the festival, Lorcan reveals that there’s another group eager to see Vivarium hit the screen.


“A lot of the people who worked on the film haven’t seen it yet!” Lorcan laughs. “We shot more than half of it right here in Ireland, and it’s funny that it hasn’t screened here yet. So the Opening Gala is going to be a cast and crew screening too – everyone’s dying to see it.”


The film has wowed festival audiences since being unveiled at Cannes in May, with its winning blend of science fiction and psychological horror. It follows a young couple on the hunt for their first home, as they land in the middle of a mysterious new development – and realise they can’t find their way out. The central roles are played by Imogen Poots and Jesse Eisenberg, previously seen together in The Art Of Self Defence (available to rent on Virgin Movies from €4.99 until March 3rd). A pretty special pairing to have involved!


“Imogen came on board first,” Lorcan explains. “We met and talked about movies, and art, and photography, and influences, and everything apart from the script! When she accepted the role, we were listing potential actors to play Tom, and it was her suggestion to ask Jesse. She emailed him the script, and he read it in two days before asking me to meet in New York.”


For a director making his second feature, what was it like to have a man who’s portrayed everyone from Lex Luthor to Mark Zuckerberg as part of the team? “By the time you’re shooting, you’ve already been talking together for ages,” Lorcan says. “But that first phone call, or the first time you’re saving ‘Jesse Eisenberg’ in your contacts? Yeah, that is kind of surreal!”


“I wasn’t sure how to take his sense of humour at first,” he continues. “I got the impression that he was serious – from seeing his work, and his interviews, and whatever. Well, it turns out he’s a total messer! Imogen too, in fact; they’re both hilarious. Even though the film goes to some dark places, the set was a fun place to be.”


Much of the action was filmed at Ardmore Studios in Wicklow, at the other end of the DART line from Lorcan’s hometown of Howth; Liege in Belgium provided the setting for additional shots. While the cameras started rolling in the summer of 2018, the film had been in the pipeline for years – Lorcan and his long-time writing collaborator Garrett Shanley had to be patient.


“You’d love if it was just, ‘ta-da, script’s done, let’s make a movie!’” he laughs. “But that’s not how it works. It took a long time to finance, and during that time it was changing as we went; that’s just how the development process works. It can be painful, but at the same time it’s necessary. It also distills the idea – and that’s certainly not a bad thing.”


Without giving too much away, there’s loads of social commentary worked into the sinister story, something Lorcan says is vital to his style. “The films I work on usually have some social or political angle. I think if you’re going to make a movie, it has to work on a number of different levels. So, on one level Vivarium is a weird, scary, sci-fi movie – but it’s also a commentary on what’s happening in the world. I think it will mean something special to Irish audiences too, since it takes an influence from what’s happened here over the past 10 or 15 years.”


He admits that the red carpet treatment is something of a change from the day-to-day: “It can be a little strange when everyone’s in black tie and it’s all glamour – the reality of making films is usually the opposite!”


But, the suit is pressed and ready to go? Lorcan stops and grins. “Oh, actually, that’s a good point…”


Getting into the spirit for the Virgin Media Dublin International Film Festival? Check out the latest PLAY Magazine for more to get you in the mood! right here!