Describing Archipelago as dreary would be a gross understatement. The plot (in the most liberal definition of the term) revolves around a middle class family renting a cottage on one of the Isles of Scilly for a holiday. The father isn’t there and the only other people on the island with the mother and two adult children are their hired cook and a paint instructor who also doubles as the most jejune, uncharismatic philosopher ever given a platform. Deep-rooted and unresolved conflicts are suggested but left unexplored.
Instead the viewer is treated to two hours of small talk and would-be evocative but in effect exasperatingly dull scenes. With its sparse dialogue, impassive characters and isolated island setting, the film is evidently striving for an expression of existential angst in the vein of Antonioni or Bergman.
The characters, however, are a blend of constipated and emasculated, failing to induce even the slightest sympathy or interest, and the film’s incredibly drab colour palette saps all beauty from the potentially stunning panoramic shots. Even the production design is bland to the point of caricature. With the camera always immobile and the interior shots endlessly depicting characters walking through the house or reading in bed, the film increasingly feels like watching CCTV outtakes from the most uneventful Big Brother imaginable.
Archipelago | Directed by Joanna Hogg (UK 2010) with Tom Hiddleston, Kate Fahy. Starts May 24