New York Film Fest 2013 Review: Joanna Hogg's EXHIBITION, Exceptional 'Scenes From A Marriage'

Dustin Chang, Contributing Writer
British filmmaker Joanna Hogg, along with Mexico's Fernando Eimbcke, has been chosen for FSLC's The Emerging Artists Program, part of this year's New York Film Festival. They are playing all three feature films by her, the latest being Exhibition. Having recently discovered her films and impressed by her talent in portraying human (dis)connections related to specific environments, I was eagerly awaiting her new film. Complex yet subtle, innovative yet basic, it's absolutely one of the best films I've seen at the festival.

A three-story modern house is just as much a character in Joanna Hogg's Exhibition as a married artist couple (played by non actors - Viv Albertine of the punk rock band Slits and artist Liam Gillick) who inhibit it. Equipped with floor to ceiling glass windows, a small lift, a spiral staircase, curtains and dividing screens, the building possesses strong sense of utilitarianism. The childless, middle aged couple have their own work spaces and talk to each other through intercoms whenever they need each other's company. He is a successful architect and she seems to be an artist who is still looking for her voice. At the moment, she is obsessed with recreating Ecstasy of St. Teresa with her own image. For hours on end, she poses almost acrobatically on a stool, looking at herself in the mirror for sketches.

Accompanied by amazing sound design, Hogg often creates and takes away these dividers, figuratively and literally between the couple, inside/outside. The large windows reflect what's inside as much as it shows what's out. We hear everything as she works in her space which is located underneath(!) his space- from heavy footsteps to sliding doors, shutters, sirens outside, street noise, people fighting, construction....

These people are still very much in love and tell each other so (through the intercom). They even take bath together. She fakes fainting so they can be excused from a friend's boring dinner party. They really want to be together and left alone most of the times.  Yet they have problems communicating their feelings verbally. Each needs his/her own space too. Just like real life couple, they are complicated people.

They are in the process of selling the building which they have been living for over a decade. Their only condition to a real estate agent (Joanna Hogg regular Tom Hiddleston) in selling is that the building should remain intact and never get demolished. At the party celebrating their leaving, they ironically serve the guests the cake- the mini replica of the building.

Without much expositional dialog, Hogg paints the complicated picture of relationship brilliantly using other means. The result is exceptional. If her previous films (Unrelated, Archipelago) showcased her as a promising writer/director of subtle emotions and family dynamics, Exhibition proves that she is also very much in tune with cinematic language.  The film announces the arrival of major cinematic talent.

Along with her two previous films, Exhibition plays as part of this year's NYFF. (The second viewing is on Oct. 8.) Please visit FSLC website for tickets.

*I've just learned that Kino Lober just picked the film up for distribution. Hooray!

Dustin Chang is a freelance writer. His musings and opinions can be found at www.dustinchang.com
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