Directed by: Joanna Hogg
Starring: Tom Hiddleston, Harry Hershaw, Viv Albertine, Liam Gillick
Premiering in the UK at this year’s Film Festival, Joanna Hogg’s latest continues to carve the director’s individualistic niche that she has been developing since Unrelated was released in 2007. In that first film and her follow up Archipelago, Hogg intimately examined the building frustrations within a family circle. For her third film, Hogg’s approach is notably more minimalist, focusing her story on artistic couple D & H who share a beautiful multi-story flat in West London. After spending two decades there, they are deciding to sell for unknown reasons. However, as their moving day draws ever closer, the anxieties of the situation and memories of the past begin to exemplify the growing cracks in the couple’s relationship.
Sparse in narrative but rich in character, Exhibition is continuing proof of Hogg’s superb eye for human interaction. The writer/director has a fantastic talent for honestly capturing the more negative nuances of relationships. Her observant style, complete with lengthy takes and a distinct lack of non-diegetic sound, gives the film a remarkable sense of realism that makes it impossible to resist.
Both leads give remarkable performances, with Viv Albertine being particularly impressive. In her first acting role, Albertine poignantly captures the growing anxieties that come with closing a major chapter in your life and moving on to pastures new. When onscreen with Liam Gillick’s H, the pair create a remarkable feeling of insecurity that inhabits their character’s relationship. Their tragic inability to be able to express themselves face-to-face meaning that most of their communicating is done via an intercom system.
The talent of the actors can also be seen through Hogg’s style, which refuses to adhere to a script and encourages the performers to improvise much of the dialogue. It is through this that the director creates the powerful emotion that drives her film. At times funny and at others poignant, Exhibition explores the reality of a relationship that’s uncontrollably starting to crumble.
The remarkable flat where Hogg sets her story, designed and lived in by the late architect James Melvin (whom the film is also dedicated to), is almost a character in itself. Its astonishing interior of sliding doors and spiral staircases are what inspire our central couple, but is it also what’s keeping them together? The outside world, mostly unseen but always within earshot, is treated as a vast labyrinth that can prey on our darkest fears when we’re alone. Hogg’s superb sound design demands specific recognition; the amalgamation of sirens, voices and the elements creating this unrelenting atmosphere of dread that particularly haunts D whenever she or H journey outside.
Peppered with wit and driven by sadness, Hogg’s third feature may well be her best yet. The superb exploration of intimate emotions makes Exhibition a very honest film about love and change, carefully woven with exquisite direction and note-perfect performances.