Oct 7, 2010

LFF 2010 review: Archipelago

NB: Sorry about the picture, I can't find any larger.

DIR: Joanna Hogg
CAST: Tom Hiddleston, Kate Fahy, Lydia Leonard,
Amy Lloyd, Christopher Baker

I haven’t seen Joanna Hogg’s acclaimed first film, but after overhearing someone else describe this insufferable film – currently the one to beat for the worst of LFF wooden spoon – as UNRELATED 2 I doubt I ever will.

ARCHIPELAGO is exactly as far up its own arse as the title makes it sound. Like its characters this is a film that is incredibly impressed with itself despite its many hobbling shortcomings. Let’s begin, shall we, at the most basic level? Nothing happens. Ever. Okay, so nothing really happens in the excellent WHAT I LOVE THE MOST either, but at least there it happened… or didn’t… to people I didn’t want to punch in the mouth every time they spoke. It’s not so much the lack of incident, plenty of good films have been made in which nothing or next to nothing happens, it’s the sheer, bludgeoning tedium, and most of all it’s the fact that I just don’t care.

I don’t care because I hate these people. This family of entitled, pretentious, banal, upper middle class twats, holidaying on one of the Scilly islands are exactly the sort of people I’d cross the street to avoid. Well, lucky me, I got spend 100 minutes in their company as the Mother (Fahy) learned to paint from an excruciatingly earnest teacher (Baker), the son worried about whether going to Africa to teach sexual health for 11 months is ‘the right thing to do’ and about the ethics of employing a cook (Lloyd) and the daughter (Leonard) pissed and moaned about everything. Every time one of these people opened their mouths I sank in my seat, willing them just to shut up, but they wouldn’t; on and on and on they bleat, saying nothing of wit or consequence.

In what the assembled critics seemed to view as the comedic highlight of what I suspect may be intended as a comedy (laugh count: 0, so it’s hard to tell) the family take their cook with them for a meal in a restaurant, and the daughter makes a scene about her food apparently being undercooked, sends it back, and all but insists that her Mother do the same. Guess the punchline. If you said that the mother says “Actually, mine’s rather nice”… well done, I suppose. That crashingly obvious joke won a roar of laughter, perhaps out of sheer relief at the presence of something so downmarket and common as a joke.

Even at the most basic technical level Hogg fails with ARCHIPELAGO. Her shots aren’t badly chosen, but her decision to use only natural light results in an often ugly and horribly underlit film. In any interior scene the film seems composed out of murky shades of grey, which make it difficult to pick out much detail in many of Hogg’s frames and make this an unpleasant experience visually as well as at every other level.

I hated this movie. HATED it. Hated the script, hated the characters, hated the visuals, hated the endless wait for something to happed, hated the pace, which made me expect to emerge from the screen somewhere in my mid 50’s. I hope it’s the worst film of LFF 2010, because if it’s not then whatever is will have to be quite monumentally hideous.


  1. ARCHIPELAGO is a wonderfully observed and powerful film.
    Go watch the film and make your own mind, and sorry about Sam Inglis' review, I can't find any shallower.

  2. just watched a screener of this last night- if watched was the right word - it was like the Ludovico treatment in A Clockwork Orange - so painful was the visual images on display. If uninvolving, dramatically flaccid Cinema heralds a new talent to British Film, can someone call Michael Winner and tell him all is forgiven. Tedium has more emotional purchase than this tripe!