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Joanna Hogg interview: ‘I tend to draw from my own life’

The British director discusses her new film, ‘Exhibition’, which explores the lives of two middle-aged artists living in a house in west London


In ‘Exhibition’ you show us an artist couple living in a modernist house who are about to sell up after 18 years. How important was it that this couple were artists?
‘I was interested in two creative people trying to be in a relationship and trying to make work at the same time. I was interested in that from a female perspective: balancing your work with being in a marriage. I’m an artist of sorts, and I’m also in a relationship with another artist, and I tend to draw from my own life.’

The woman seems reluctant to leave this house. Sometimes it feels like she’s literally attached to it in her performance art pieces.
‘I’ve always been very interested in people who fall in love with buildings. They’re called “objectum-sexuals”. Famously there was a woman who married the Eiffel Tower. Sometimes you don’t know if it’s her work as a performance artist or if she’s getting turned on.’

Do you think it’s a good or bad relationship in ‘Exhibition’? It seems ambiguous.
‘I was interested in depicting a relationship in a very realistic way. If you’re in a good relationship, it doesn’t mean communication is always going to be great. I wanted to show the ups and downs. For me, it’s healthy. Some people think the film is about the break-up of a marriage, but I don’t see that.’

Did you always want to shoot the film in the house you used?
‘I knew the house because I knew the architect who built it in 1969. I got to know him and his wife in the early 1990s, and he died aged 99 a few years ago. I was always fascinated by it. I looked at other houses and flats but it was hard to visualise the film happening in those places.’

Tom Hiddleston has been in all three of your films, but he only has a small part here as an estate agent. Did you write it for him?
‘I might have told him I wanted him to be in the film in some shape before I knew what the character was. When I came up with the estate agent, I thought: Yes, Tom could do that. If his fans come, I hope they won’t be disappointed that it’s a small role. It’s a key role, though. He had a lot of fun with it.’

Exhibition’ opens in UK cinemas on Fri Apr 25

Watch the ‘Exhibition’ trailer

Read ‘Exhibition’ review

  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • Film
  • Drama

‘Exhibition’ is a compelling study of a relationship, but one that demands patience. It’s curious and mysterious, as if we don’t have enough information to make a judgement call on them. That’s not to say this film is inaccessible or aloof. There’s sly humour to it, and some of the bursts of talk – especially meetings with the neighbours – are spiky and funny.

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