Joanna Hogg’s latest offering is as intriguing as the modernist labyrinth its characters call home. Conveniently it’s also as uncomfortable to watch, as the house would be to inhabit. The late architect, James Melvin, designed the stark, minimalist building that provided the inspiration and setting for the film. And as Hogg explained at the film’s New York Film Festival premiere: “Had we not got the house, there wouldn’t have been a film at all.” The film takes place almost entirely within the claustrophobic confines of the house, documenting the lives of a middle-aged performance artist, D, and her architect husband, H. But the existence of a narrative beneath the artifice of this unconventional, microcosmic world is, for me, still up for debate.
I’m all for a restricted chamber piece, especially when an exploration of ‘Britishness’ is at its heart. Unrelated, Hogg’s debut, is a strong example of this type of ‘reduced’ cinema but in order for this technique to take effect, the ingredients must be just so, and Exhibition’s arid, eviscerated combination of minimalist script, non‐actors and alienating setting make for unrelentingly labored viewing.
Despite sensitive treatment of a delicate theme, namely childlessness, the shot selection was repetitious and verging on contrived. And while her approach to plot is overly minimalistic, the same unfortunately cannot be said for her choice of imagery, which appeared crass and lumbering in its portrayal on screen.
In conversation after the screening, Hogg expressed admirable intentions; yet this time unfortunately artifice and theatrics get in the way of the experience.