We delve intimately into the relationship between two modern artists D (Viv Albertine) and H (Liam Gillick) who find themselves asking questions of their marriage, as the imminent selling of their house works as a catalyst to expose some of the unhealthy aspects of their relationship, as the idea of sex, at times, seems almost repellent – while their conversations seem without conviction or depth. Both working from home, it seems they rely on their surroundings to work as a third wheel in their relationship, and given they are soon to pack up and move, it leaves them lost and alone, as the only other consistent presence in their life is that of their estate agent (Tom Hiddleston).
Though you can’t help but admire filmmakers who attempt a realist, minimalist approach that give the audience much to ruminate upon, Exhibition suffers from being almost too reflective of real life, and as such, too tedious and monotonous at times, as so little actually occurs. The dynamic between D and H is intriguing and certainly multilayered – such as how they struggle to interact with one another, lacking exuberance and a comfortability when they talk, as most of their substantial conversations seem to come on the phone, despite both being in the same house. However at times it feels as though you’re just watching your neighbours go about their daily lives and routines. Nothing extraordinary takes place, and as such you question what it is about this particular couple that we’re supposed to care about. They’re just like you or me, and let’s be honest, we wouldn’t expect anyone to care about us, either.
Hogg seems hellbent on deterring from the more fascinating elements to this film. D is an artist, and yet we never once see her work, while in one scene she gets anxious at H leaving the house after ‘what happened last time’ – and yet we never find out what actually happened last time. The director must be commended from a visual perspective however, somehow managing to give the viewer a flavour of London life, despite the fact the vast majority of this film takes place inside this house. Perhaps it’s the consistent sound of sirens and cars beeping their horns that provide such a feeling. There are various sequences presented through reflections in windows too, or from outside the building, peering in. Such a technique adds to the voyeuristic aspect, as though we’re illegitimately and candidly watching on. The couple do feel like strangers somewhat, despite the fact we’re getting so up close and personal to them, and such a notion is enhanced by the fact we don’t even discover their full names.
Exhibition may well speak to many people, but the characters are too detached emotionally and thus difficult to invest in. That’s the simple difference between caring about their predicament, and not – if there isn’t anything to be said, there isn’t anything to hear. It’s too arduous a piece of cinema, and at one stage when they’re asked how long they’ve lived at their current residence, D answers ’18 years’, and you feel like you’ve been with them the entire bloody time.