AFI Fest 2013
By Don Simpson | November 12, 2013
Director: Joanna Hogg
Writer: Joanna Hogg
Starring: Viv Albertine, Liam Gillick, Tom Hiddleston, Harry Kershaw
D (Viv Albertine) and H (Liam Gillick) reside inside a James Melvin designed modernist house in west London. They have lived in this house together for over 18 years, but have presumably been a couple for longer than that. They are both visual artists who work at home, and they rarely leave the house. The house has become a part of them, like a child that they never had — or, maybe they have become a part of the house. With all of the clinking, clunking and banging that is inherent within a structure that was designed more for exhibition than for habitation, the house is essentially a living and breathing organism. This unique home is the framework in which this couple’s narrative almost entirely exists.
D’s presence inside the house is practically catlike, both in her cautiously calculated movements and her affinity to snuggle up against walls and windows. Something about the house makes D scared and standoffish, while it seems to perpetuate a certain confidence within H, as he prances around like a dog in heat. The museum-like frigidity of the house has nearly frozen their interpersonal communications, as D and H rely almost solely upon the home’s intercom system to communicate with each other. The creativity of their individual artistic careers may be flourishing, but their relationship is rapidly disintegrating. This could be the reason that H wants to sell the house — or, the sale of the house might be contributing to the downfall of their relationship. No matter how timid D appears to be while inside their house, she has developed an intrinsic connection with the space, despite her vague references to something horrible that may have happened in the past.
Rather than relying upon dialog or music, writer-director Joanna Hogg develops the moods and tones of the film with a magnificently mixed audio collage, accentuating the creepy ambient sounds of the home as well as the outside noises that penetrate through the glass exteriors. Every sound has a menacing or antagonizing quality to it, fostering an ever-increasing sense of tension. Exhibition is an artfully rendered meditation on a modern marriage that unravels into a purely psychological horror story.