Joanna Hogg’s third feature is a rich and complex portrait of two London artists
With her first two films, Unrelated and Archipelago, Joanna Hogg explored the inner lives of those who initially appeared to have it all. Her latest film Exhibition continues in the same vein, a skillfully assembled portrait of an artistic couple who are preparing to sell their impressive London home.
Hogg eschews plot in favour of a series of static shots which gradually build up a picture of the complex lives and relationships of her subjects. Much of Exhibition takes place in the central couple’s modernist townhouse, a backdrop of clean lines and large windows (the latter frequently used to beautiful effect, several times reflecting small details and forming rich, multi-layered images). It’s between these walls we begin to understand D (played by former Slits guitarist Viv Albertine) and her relationship with her husband H (conceptual artist Liam Gillick). Initially D appears to be a melancholic, house-bound woman in an unfulfilled marriage but the reality is far more nuanced.
A real joy of Hogg’s filmmaking is her choice of shots; often unexpected, the images in Exhibition take a while to figure out. The opening shot, for example, of D lying along a window sill, is an odd sight. Is she asleep, casually gazing out the window, or is there something wrong? Sometimes it appears that the audience has entered half way through a conversation, or part way through an event. Hogg succeeds in adding an element of intrigue to the most mundane of actions, making her films compelling to watch.
It would be too easy for Hogg to satirise her characters (unhappy, privileged people don’t immediately inspire sympathy), yet instead she portrays them without judgement, and in studying them closely and spending time with them she inspires a rare understanding. This is sensitive and intelligent filmmaking which aims at a truthful representation of its subject matter.
Reviewed at London Film Festival 2013.