Archipelago (Joanna Hogg, 2011)

15Mar11

Tom Hiddleston (Edward), Kate Fahy (Patricia), Lydia Leonard (Cynthia), Amy Lloyd (Rose). Screenplay by Joanna Hogg. Directed by Joanna Hogg. Rating: 15. Running time: 115 minutes.

Insufferably slow and definitely of the arthouse variety, Archipelago tries so hard to look so quiet that it’s almost painful. Still shots from one angle for every scene is the consistent norm here, as is the complete dullness throughout of watching people do absolutely nothing. Since when has this been the stereotype for an ‘original’ and ‘special’ film? The intention seems to be some kind of Sofia Coppolla-esque reflection on the perils of bourgeoisity minus the fame (and minus the humour) – fair enough, but at least appreciate and safeguard against how inevitably uninteresting this will turn out to be. At two hours in length it verges on self-mutilation. Time after time again we watch banal small talk or awkward silences indicating that our block characters have nothing to talk about (I gathered that in the first ten minutes), or otherwise we listen to the reflections of the local art teacher on the nature of painting. Please. Nothing develops here. The purpose seems to be to show the tension amongst a mature family having a farewell holiday before the son travels semi-permanently to Africa, and yet only one aspect of this entire scenario stands out as even remotely worth noting: the mother judges it a good idea to hire a cook (slave) for the week, presumably so they don’t have to bother sharing that joyful activity of preparing food and instead can sit in silence while a stranger cooks for them. The son’s not comfortable with this. It’s not like employing someone to work impersonally for you before going home in the evening; this woman’s living with them, and ignored almost as if she were a robo-chef rather than a person. The mother and daughter sit safe in the knowledge its consensual paid labour; the son is incapable of abstracting from the human aspect of the situation. Scenes playing around with this problem are as close as Archipelago gets to being worthwhile. But they’re far from a saviour. Ignore the praise and give Hogg’s snorefest a miss, assuming it even reaches your local cinema anyway.

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