Joanna Hogg fits nicely into the list of recent British female directors with a flair for realism. Her latest film Exhibition, depicts the lives of an artist couple as they make preparations to sell their house. Exhibition follows along similar lines to her previous film Archipelago, even containing another Tom Hiddleston cameo after his stunning turn in that story about a family trip to the island of Tresco. The same style and touches are apparent in these two films, but where Archipelago’s drawn out awkward silences took place mostly between people, Exhibition plays out these silences in solitude.
The film is a snapshot into the lives of two artists who live together in a Grand Designs style house, but work separately and on different floors. The house itself becomes very important in the film, not only is it the part of the plot, as our story revolves around their preparation for selling. But it also comes to reiterate aspects of their emotional states. The house, with its many floors and ever-reaching spiral staircase emphasises humanity’s ability to ‘reach’. It marks the boundaries of creativity and the film questions that idea of space, what it comes to represent and the home as both comforting as well as alienating.
The film itself focusses a great deal on this idea of solitude, and the separation of two people who life under one roof but can’t connect anymore. This disconnection results in a number of scenes which portray a character in isolation, in this way often dispensing with the human interaction which Hogg excels at, in favour of a more thoughtful and silent musing; not always to great effect. Exhibition is full of wonderful snippets of intrigue and conversation, but fleshed out with these slow and drawn out images of a person’s internal thoughts. Whilst the crafting of these scenes is clear and incredibly good, you can’t help but miss the moments when the two protagonists were connecting, either metaphorically or literally.
Overall the film is certainly a carefully crafted and cleverly constructed depiction of life which is at once incredibly relatable and utterly alienating. Although it doesn’t always work and you can’t help but long for the images of human interaction which Hogg is so good at, the film is about separation. The portrayal of individuals who are once together and disparate forms the tale of the film and in this way perhaps the silence is unavoidable.