‘We’ve been here so long. There’s no children, there’s nothing to stop us doing it.’
Age Rating: 15+*
Genre: Contemporary Drama
Overall Rating: ★★★★
(*NB. Strong language and several scenes of a sexual nature.)
Sitting in the warm darkness of my local ArtHouse Cinema with the director herself just visible behind four or five rows of heads, I arguably had one of the best seats possible for Exhibition. The immersion in the film was so immediate that it seemed to hook me behind the naval and drag me into the sculptural modernism of James Melvin’s architectural masterpiece. This 1969 house – a strange, open-plan, clean space in the middle of Kensington – plays a dual role, both as the nucleus of the film, but also as a character in a three-part marriage. From the offset, we are greeted with D (played by Viv Albertine) wrapping herself around parts of the house, blending into window sills, the spiral staircase that winds through her and H’s (Liam Gallick) offices like a strand of DNA, and the garden. There is a pressing sense of quiet that pervades these moments, which reappear several times over the course of the film, and seemed to fill my head as I watched.
This relationship, portrayed with an expertly intimate finesse by Hogg’s direction, is so real and raw that it almost adds the viewer as a fourth member of the marriage. The house becomes a warm cocoon for us as D’s paranoia of the bright external city life reflects off dark window panes, or gusts in through an open front door. Her use of non-actors for the main roles adds to the visceral quality of the film. Slow-moving though it was, there are moments of comedy, romance and melancholy that tugged at my emotions constantly, keeping me thoroughly involved with both characters and the house. Their dysfunctionality and constant separation creates this pervading atmosphere of isolation within intimacy, two electrons revolving inescapably within those four white walls; it is an in-depth exploration of marriage, of emotional stasis and escapism, producing a true exhibition of a childless relationship from the inside, out.
Despite the excellency of the cinematography and the truly monumental emotional atmosphere, as an arts film, it has the potential to bore less patient viewers with its almost entirely action-less plot, dropping it one star. Despite this, though, it is fascinating and captivating, excavating not only into the bowels of the house and D and H’s marriage, but into the farthest reaches of our own thoughts and feelings. Another masterpiece from Joanna Hogg.