Exhibition (London Film Festival 2013)
A few critics walked out of Exhibition, with their clanging footsteps breaking the unsettling silence hanging over the third film by Joanna Hogg; Archipelago seems like a holiday in comparison. Hogg once again examines middle-class relationships and architecture, but with a closer inspection on one particular home: tall glass windows, an unnecessary spiral staircase, inhabited by an inert couple.
The two unnamed artists are played by Viv Albertine and Liam Gillick, although they don’t exactly dabble in watercolours. Albertine is particularly experimental, with her own room upstairs devoted to posing sexually, often in front of her window. Downstairs is Gillick, who works more conventionally at a desk.
When the couple have sex, Albertine lies still and motionless, like a statue waiting to be undressed. The lack of intimacy is reflected outside the bedroom; they communicate during the day through an intercom, with Albertine even asking, “Are you cold?”
However, the protagonists don’t dislike other, nor do they pang for anyone else. Instead, their positioning within their sparse, shiny house suggests they gradually merged with the furniture. At least, that’s my interpretation of Albertine’s sleeping lions game in various rooms and a peculiar intimacy with a ribbed chair.
Exhibition requires discipline, especially with the sheer length of scenes that are unfathomable or repetitive. But the architecture of both the film and the house unravel as a complex retort to middle-class aesthetics – by eating an edible model of the estate, the decadence leaves behind a few crumbs. Whether in view of a street or inviting friends to a party, the couple are forever in performance – their love is expressed by not being artists to each other. If walls could talk, it might be like this.
Exhibition is part of the London Film Festival’s “Dare” strand. Screening information can be found here.
104 mins approx