Joanna Hogg’s art of perseverance
“You do all the things that are not right, but they all contribute to the thing that will be right in the end.”
Joanna Hogg (b. 1960)
Our society routinely celebrates youthful talent, but, really, aren’t late bloomers a million times more interesting? I certainly feel that way about the British filmmaker Joanna Hogg, who went to film school in the early 1980s but didn’t release her first feature until 2007, when she was 47. Hogg has made an additional four films since then—her latest, The Souvenir Part II, is in theaters now—and I can’t help but feel that it was Hogg’s long years of not making films that enabled her to make these kind of films, which are so much about atmosphere, suggestion, uncertainty, and awkwardness, and which are suffused with a wry sense of the fundamental inexplicability of human relationships.
Watching Hogg’s 2010 film Archipelago last week, I was struck by a speech made by one of its characters that seems almost like a message from Hogg to her younger self, and which I think is a useful reminder for any of us trying to wriggle through by subtle maneuvers. In the scene, the film’s twentysomething protagonist, Edward (Tom Hiddleston), has confessed to a middle-aged painter, Christopher (played by the real-life painter Christopher W. Baker), that he really has no idea what he’s doing with his life. He’s on the verge of leaving to do humanitarian work in Africa, but now he thinks it’s the wrong path. Maybe he should be a writer instead, somehow? Christopher says: