Exhibition (2013) | Joanna Hogg’s minimalist drama is a beguiling affair that requires your full attention
From Unrelated/Archipelago director Joanna Hogg comes Exhibition, a minimalist arthouse drama about fifty-something artists, D (Viv Albertine) and H (Liam Gillick), going through the anguish of saying goodbye to their beloved ultra-modernist West London home which they have loved like the child they never had.
Writer-director Hogg is certainly one of British cinema’s most unique filmmakers, and her speciality is depicting human relationships in a very realistic way and finding expression and communication that lie between words. For her new film, Hogg invites the viewer to observe her two characters alone or together, but not necessarily engaging, as they go about their daily lives in their beige-hued abode. It’s a beguiling study of a long-term relationship, but one that demands our full attention. I almost switched off after 20-minutes as the two characters (she’s sad, he’s a bit of a dick) did nothing and said very little, before I found myself seduced.
The house (built in 1969 by modernist architect James Melvin, who lived in it with his wife until he died aged 99 in 2011) is the third character in this acute dissection of upper-middle-class life; an enclosed space that provides both comfort and confinement for D and H, whose intimacy Hogg shows to be as much about apartness as togetherness. An air voyeurism permeates their glass-box bubble as we are forced to watch the couple’s awkward sexual fumbling, do mundane things, act out performance art, and tinker on computers. But its all part of Hogg’s design, as is the use of non-actors (Albertine was in the seminal punk band The Slits; Gillick is a Turner-nominated artist) which adds to the realism that Hogg strives for.
Slow-moving it certainly is, but it’s the little things that count (like the sounds within the house and in the street); and these give substance to the anxieties that the couple face as the reality of their decision (to sell) dawns. This is especially felt when the real estate men (including Hogg favourite Tom Hiddleston) turn up and start nit picking at making the house kid friendly for the new wealthy Chinese tenants. Dry humour abounds, with particular aim at bourgeois Londoners and intellectual arty types; while Hogg shoots her sleek drama with a painter’s eye (there’s a Lucien Freud vibe in the sex scenes) and a surrealist’s imagination (Luis Buñuel would have loved the cake cutting scene).
Exhibition certainly requires repeated viewing to fully appreciate the director’s unique vision. It just requires patience. But stick it out and, like me, you too will be falling for its beguiling charm. Plus, the house is pretty cool too!
Posted on June 23, 2014, in Avant Garde, BFI Player, British Film, Must-See, Performance Art and tagged Arthouse cinema, Artifical Eye Films, British Film, Exhibition, James Melvin, Joanna Hogg, Liam Gillick, Minimalism, Modernist architecture, Must See, The Slits, Viv Albertine. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.