Robinson in Ruins

"Very Good"

Robinson in Ruins Review


A sequel to Keiller's London (1994) and Robinson in Space (1997), this is a witty and sharply observant exploration of the English landscape. It's also a fiercely artistic film that's impossible to categorise.

The premise is that several cans of film and a notebook were found in a crumbling caravan in Oxfordshire, and as we watch the footage a narrator (Redgrave) guides us through the story of the mysterious Robinson. He shot these static scenes of civilisation and nature, noting how businesses and cultures have come and gone in these places, leaving small reminders behind. In addition, the narrative includes the fact that the film was shot during the financial turmoil of 2008, which Robinson can't help but link with various uprisings that have taken place since the dawn of capitalism in the 16th century.

Robinson's theory is that, by examining the landscape closely enough, he can understand the "molecular basis of historical events". And the film is packed with startling observations about human progress, clashes and the fact that nature will always win in the end, no matter how we destroy ourselves. Many of the locations are sites of former military operations, nuclear research, missile silos and even a cement factory, all of which have fallen into disrepair. And the point is that this pattern is as old as the world itself.

While the narration is packed with vivid stories, quotes and some hilarious commentary, there are also long moments of utter silence. Well, not complete silence, as the film is accompanied by a soundtrack of quiet ambience. The camera never moves, but the editing provides inventive perspectives on each location over the course of nearly a year through all four seasons (small changes that echo much larger shifts through the centuries).

And while it's really only for adventurous filmgoers, there are some wider observations that eerily important. Early on, we hear a telling quote from Frederic Jameson: "It seems to be easier for us today to imagine the thoroughgoing deterioration of the earth and of nature than the breakdown of late capitalism; perhaps that is due to some weakness in our imaginations." Of course, it's nature that will survive long after our civilisation has turned to rubble. And it's impossible to escape the overriding theme that humans are essentially writing themselves into extinction both by constantly fighting and by refusing to face the truth.



Facts and Figures

Genre: Documentaries

Run time: 101 mins

In Theaters: Friday 13th January 2012

Reviews

Contactmusic.com: 3.5 / 5

Rotten Tomatoes: 79%
Fresh: 11 Rotten: 3

IMDB: 7.6 / 10

Cast & Crew

Director: Patrick Keiller

Producer: Patrick Keiller

Starring: as Narrator

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