Written by: Joanna Hogg
Starring: Viv Albertine, Liam Gillick, Tom Hiddleston
Houses have always represented more than a structure labeled as a potential asset in your portfolio. It creates a home where one stores all of their belongings, builds memories, and grows with the people living in it. Even with the simplicity of selling it, the lasting emotional connection may make the process more difficult than one can anticipate as captured in the slowly-moving but completely immersive Exhibition.
Getting ready to sell their home after a few decades, D (Viv Albertine) and H (Liam Gillick) begin the process of putting it on the market. As they prepare for the sale, they begin to dwell with the idea of leaving a place they have poured their lives into and what that means for them moving forward into the future.
For someone who felt emotionally connected to my room in a college residence hall, the power these structures hold over us contains a wonderful level of beauty. Eventually, someone else will move into it and occupy the same walls, but the moments of growth one has experienced within the structure will always remain. Considering at this point in life, I have not lived in an apartment for over a year, I cannot begin to reckon with what it means to vacate a space after living there for nearly 20. This hits both D and H at different levels throughout this film as they try to navigate their feelings in a fairly cold environment.
In classic Joanna Hogg style, through her filmmaking, she relishes having the audience feel like outsiders. Her camera placement remains static at times with the characters moving about, which means we cannot see every movement and conversation taking place. The scene where D enters H’s office expresses it proficiently. The camera gets placed looking at an open door where we see D enter and gets out of our sight. We hear them discussing something but cannot see them because we’re only allowed to be out in the hallways and not in that specific room. It serves its purpose in reminding the audience that we’re merely here for the ride and not part of the decision being made by this couple as it has already been decided.
This tactic creates an isolating feeling and ties in well with the atmosphere Hogg wants to create throughout the narrative. This couple does not receive even a name but merely classified as D and H. They have been together for decades but the amount of emotion they express with each other feels dried out and without passion. D and H both work from home and have offices within their residence. Their primary way of communication essentially becomes a telephone, which feels weirdly office-like as compared to what a home should represent. Hogg perhaps is making a direct point in this set up as to what this house represents for them. Not only just a home where they grew together emotionally but also a place where they must also perform in order to live. D works as a performance artist and very much utilizes the space to capture some of her pieces. While using a specific room for it, the house itself serves as its own art piece.
Unique in its construction and compared to its location, what the audience sees in this home became part of a labor in love as any home would be after 20 years. It’s what makes the whole selling process such a mentally strenuous experience. Creating this home became a project for this couple and the thought of having another buyer come in, tear things down, and alter it leaves a discernible impact understandably. The emotional moments sit right under the surface with no big outbursts about the ongoing struggle between them. This effort gains its appreciation from me but it makes it difficult for the general audience to sit through and remain patient to process. I cannot imagine Joanna Hogg thought this film could translate to the average audience members considering its slow pacing and coldness. I found myself challenged to stay engaged with the material and I consider myself a fan of her work.
Even with the coldness this may leave audience members with, Joanna Hogg has a specific message she wants to instill with Exhibition and certainly delivers it. Undoubtedly her least accessible film but one with a specific message put together in the way only she can. I can only recommend this to someone who already knows this particular style and can vibe with it, seeing as I found myself respecting it more than finding enjoyment.