Joanna Hogg made her first film when she was already 47.
Unrelated (2007), shot with an amateur videocamera,
Exhibition (2013), that features the Slits' guitarist Viv Albertine and conceptual artist Liam Gillick, is a simple story: the story of a house that
is put up for sale and of the owners moving out.
The best scenes are still photographs of the house.
The protagonist is often this exquisitely photographed house, not the owners.
We are never told why they are selling the house and where they are moving,
we are never told what she is afraid of when she is worried about the husband.
We only know that they are a wealthy couple and that, at the end,
she gets her first solo exhibition.
The film shows that the details of our lives are often dictated by the place
where we live. Even the relationship between the couple is determined by
the Le Corbusier-ian architecture of the house: they work in separete rooms and communicate via intercom. The architecture divides them and maybe causes estrangement.
The house, on the other hand, is the effect of their lives as intellectuals:
because they are intellectuals then they have that kind of unusual home.
They don't have children and their friends insinuate that it is because
their house is not suitable for children, but this is clearly not true because
at the end we see that the new owners have three children. What is more
likely is that not having children made them choose that kind of cold,
The director tells the story mostly through silent scenes. There are few
conversations and a lot of staring. This seems a critique of the life
of urban-sophisticated intellectuals.
In fact, the director often tells the story through scenes viewed from the street, as if the couple was on display in a shop window.
The film focuses on a new social class, which is both bohemian and bourgeois,
bohemians who have become bourgeois, and on the anxieties that such hybrid
elicits as creativity is constrained by structure, just like their modernist house is.
The film is also an analysis of female alienation located somewhere between
Antonioni's Red Desert and
A woman works at her desk, picks up a mirror and stares at her face while
we hear sounds of footsteps and of an office chair upstairs,
which we learn later is her husband's office.
She tries poses on the chair, and later we realize she is a struggling
She has breakfast with her husband.
At night, while they are in bed, he reads a book to her.
We see the deserted street outside through the half-closed blinds.
The following day they show the house to real-estate agents:
they decided to sell it after 18 years.
The woman swims naked in a swimming pool. She has breakfast with the husband
again and he rationalizes again why it is the right time to sell.
There is tension at the table.
At night she stares at the deserted street through the blinds.
She wanders around the house. She chats over the Internet with a friend
and gets nostalgic about the house.
The husband gets angry at someone who parked in his parking spot.
She works at her desk again. He works in a different room and they communicate
She goes to bed, he undresses her. She remains passive as he caresses her naked
body and stares at it.
The following day they discuss his work. He is unsatisfied by how it is received
by the public.
She does some kind of yoga curled like a cocoon against a rock in the garden.
A couple of friends come over for dinner. She faints (or pretends to faint)
as they are discussing the benefits of selling the house.
After the friends left, we see the couple hugging through a window.
Late at night he wants to go out and she begs him not to go claiming that it
is dangerous. We are not told where he wants to go. She follows him in the
Another time she is doing yoga on her office chair and the exercise turns into
something almost bondage-masochistic.
She hears screeching sirens outside and runs out in a state of panic, probably fearing that something happened to her husband.
When she goes to bed, she masturbates next to him who is already asleep.
Another time they walk into a park. Back home, he locks himself in the bathroom
and she is worried. We see her through the blinds from the street.
There is construction outside.
She walks out and takes the bus alone. She stops to watch a street performer.
Then she seems to have a dream or daydream in which she enters a theater and
sits alone in the audience while on stage her husband interviews her and later
they have sex backstage.
The agents come back to inspect the house.
Alone again, she dresses sexy in front of a mirror in a room that seems to
be ready for professional photography. He stares at her from the street.
The screen goes black and we hear her sobbing.
Another time she walks outside and meets old friends in the street.
The couple takes a bath and then has sex.
They throw a farewell party for the house. Then they start packing.
She informs him that she has been invited to stage her first solo exhibition
(we are not told by it's called "exhibition" instead of "show" since she is
a performance artist),
and he congratulates her. She stares from the window to the familiar
neighborhood, to random passers-by, a scene that presumably she has seen many
times. She tries weird yoga poses. We see a new family, a happy couple
with three children, inside the house
from the street through the glass walls.
On the surface, the autobiographical Souvenir (2019) is simply a melodrama, a
doomed love story. However, there is obviously a psychological obsession
at work, as the young innocent protagonist is oblivious to all bad omens and easily
seduced by her lover no matter what he does to make her life miserable.
There is also a metaphor about making films: the experts tell her that
she needs to relate the experience of her film's plot to her own personal
experiences, and her love story parallels precisely the "love" story in her
film between a boy and his mom.
The story is set in 1984, in the Margaret Thatcher era, during the IRA bombings and the Libyan hostage
crisis in London, in the age of typewriters, pay phones and chain smokers.
Julie is a young student of cinema who wants to make a film about a 16-year-old
boy, Tony, who is morbidly attacked to his mother and lives in fear that one day she
will die. We see still black and white photographs of the boy's neighborhood.
She types her script on a typewriter. Her mother Rosalind is supportive.
She meets Anthony, a chain smoker who introduces himself as working for the foreign office.
He invites her to a classy cafe and psychoanalyzes her passion for the
story of Tony. She falls in love. They visit his parents. Anthony asks her
to stay two nights at her place to work on something mysterious, but mostly
seems to play opera
(Bartok's "Bluebeard's Castle").
Anthony keeps psychoanalyzing her. Then he suddenly leaves for Paris.
He sends her a love letter. Julie's housemate Frankie moves out.
Julie defends her idea for the film on Tony at a sort of audition at
her film school. Anthony returns from Paris with a gift, sexy lingerie.
While they make love, Julie notices needle marks on his arm.
Julie borrows money from her mother saying that it is
to pay for her school. Anthony and Julie visit her parents, who are
wealthy and live in a giant mansion in the countryside.
Then they have dinner with Anthony's friend Patrick and his wife. While
Anthony is away, Patrick reveals to Julie that Anthony is a heavy heroin user.
She is shocked and at night cries silently. She pays the next dinner at a classy
dinner, during the Christmas holidays. Anthony moves in with her. It looks like
Anthony is penniless, despite his boasting that he works for the foreign office
to protect citizens from terrorists. One day Julie comes home and finds that
burglars broke into her apartment and stole everything of value. At the same
time Anthony pays for an expensive train trip to Venice, hotel and opera.
Julie finally understands that he is the thief and he paid everything with
her money. Back home she confronts him about the theft but he calmly smokes
his cigarette in front, until eventually she's the one apologizing to him.
The radio broadcasts news about the 1984 Libyan hostage and Anthony
pretends to be involved in the negotiations.
Julie starts filming her project at her film school.
She also attends a meeting of former addicts who talk about their rehabilitation.
One day she finds a trail of paper on the steps to her apartment leading to
the window, and then she hears a loud explosion. The radio broadcast talk
about a car bomb. Another day she gets home to find a stranger, who tries
to talk about Anthony, but she kicks him out. She calls her mom: she needs
more money. She catches an infection and doesn't tell the doctor that most
likely she got it from Anthony. Then Anthony's mom Barbara calls that he has
been arrested. When he reappears, she asks him to leave.
Filming continues, but schoolmates notice that he's not focused, and she
confesses that she's had six difficult months because of her love story.
Now that Anthony is gone she writes a lot. She also has sex with another man.
Anthony's mom calls that Anthony has disappeared. He reappears and invites
her at the fancy restaurant. Anthony cries at the table. She welcomes him
again in her life and her house, but in the middle of the night he is
shaken by shivers, injures himself, crawls like a madman. She writes in
her diary of six days of pain, and that Janet (presumably
Tony's mother in her film) will have to die within 12 hours.
Anthony and Julie have a picnic and he tells her that he's fine.
Her parents come to celebrate her 25th birthday. Her mom Rosalind stays and Anthony
moves downstairs. The filming continues. One night Anthony doesn't come home.
Julie is worried. Then the phone rings and Rosalind picks up: it's Anthony's mom
announcing Anthony's death for overdose.
The giant door of a hangar opens slowly. A woman walks out, occupying only
a tiny portion of the opening.