Review of ‘Exhibition’ starring Viv Albertine…
I have been meaning to get a copy of ‘Exhibition’, the 2013 film by Joanna Hogg ever since I heard it was in production. As a self-confessed Viv Albertine fan I was curious to see how her acting debut would turn out in what was always going to be a challenging role regardless of acting experience.
For those who do not recognise the name, Viv Albertine was one of the original punk musicians, an original member of the all-girl band, The Slits, she became a leading role model in liberating young women to express themselves artistically in an era overwhelmingly biased to male musicians in particular. In her brilliant memoir ‘Clothes, Clothes, Clothes,Music, Music, Music, Boys, Boys, Boys’ she talks candidly about the struggle to get recognition as female musicians when the attention was aimed at her relationship with Mick Jones of The Clash and her platonic friendship with Sid Vicious. Fast forward to 2013-14 and Albertine, who is now sixty has enjoyed renewed critical success as a solo artist, writer, commentator and now actress and this film would seem to have been made for her.
It is a complex film which takes a very stark and honest look at relationships. Albertine plays ‘D’ an artist living in an overtly modern London townhouse with her husband ‘H’ played by Liam Gillick. They occupy two separate parts of the house where they work in private, often communicating via the inter-com whilst they both try to come to terms with selling the property they have owned for eighteen years. It is a remarkable study in not only marriage but the style of marriage two artists would have, the complexities of their characters and how that shapes their relationship. The marriage is often strained, she refutes his sexual advances whilst continuing to explore her own sexuality and fantasies within an artistic context. The bedroom scenes make for a compelling insight into a stale, soulless relationship where physical affection feels laboured and pointless.
There are moments when the scenes shift to acts of sheer banality, they accentuate their childless marriage and their transition into another period of life, marriage and the ageing process. Hogg deliberately sets out to ask questions of the audience, nothing is spelt out, it is the viewer who is left to decide how the marriage and house sale will fare. There are poignant reminders within the film for anyone who has experienced a long term relationship and the inner battles to justify its continuation.
Albertine’s acting was understated and extremely effective, her character was at once dull yet alluring, she makes little effort but we are in doubt what difference a little effort would make. It’s a film and acting debut to be applauded.
Categories: The Honey Trap