Robinson in Ruins

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antnield
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Robinson in Ruins

#1 Post by antnield » Thu Jan 20, 2011 9:27 am

Robinson in Ruins

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Patrick Keiller's latest essay-film in his Robinson series (begun with London and Robinson in Space) combines ironic, witty denunciation of society's domination by markets with homage to the wonders of the biosphere. Newly released from prison, mysterious would-be scholar Robinson has been haunting the Oxfordshire countryside with a ciné camera. A few months later, film cans and a notebook are discovered in a derelict caravan: the results of his search for the origins of capitalist catastrophe in the English landscape. Researchers assemble the material as a film, narrated by their institution's co-founder (voiced by Vanessa Redgrave).

Extras
- Optional effects – soundtrack only.
- Panel discussion: Patrick Keiller, Doreen Massey, Patrick Wright and Matthew Flintham, on their project The Future of Landscape and the Moving Image (2011, 15 minutes, DVD only).
- Original theatrical release trailer (DVD only)
- Downloadable PDF of Doreen Massey’s essay ‘landscape/space/politics’ (DVD only).
- Fully illustrated booklet with introduction by Patrick Keiller, essay by Doreen Massey, and review by Mark Fisher.

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John Cope
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Re: Robinson in Ruins

#2 Post by John Cope » Fri Jan 21, 2011 4:36 am

antnield wrote:Patrick Keiller's latest getting a release on 15th June according to Central Books.
Too long to wait!

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antnield
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Re: Robinson in Ruins

#3 Post by antnield » Tue Feb 01, 2011 10:16 am

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MichaelB
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Re: Robinson in Ruins

#4 Post by MichaelB » Tue Feb 01, 2011 10:51 am

Wonderfully straight-faced BBFC "review", justifying its U certificate:
ROBINSON IN RUINS is a film featuring views of modern Britain - the towns, its countryside and all the various forms of life that exists here. Vanessa Redgrave provides the narration. The film was classified 'U' and contains no material likely to offend or harm.

At 'U', the BBFC's Guidelines state that there should be 'Mild sexual behaviour (for example, kissing) and references only (for example, to ‘making love’)'. ROBINSON IN RUINS includes a passing comment by the narrator about meeting her former lover at a conference, with no further elaboration. The film also features sight of some graffiti in a long shot which shows a crude and rather unclear drawing of a penis. There is no focus on this image, with it appearing incidental in the shot, and for this reason it was permissible at the 'U' category.

The Guidelines at 'U' state that there should be 'No references to illegal drugs or drug misuse unless they are infrequent and innocuous, or there is a clear educational purpose or anti-drug message suitable for young children'. In the film, there is a brief remark about the US government wanting to limit the production of opium around the world for fear of an increase leading to the availability of heroin in their streets. At no point is actual drug use shown or endorsed.

Finally, the film contains a passing comment about three men being hanged, drawn and quartered for a crime. Again no visual detail is used to accompany this information.
It's good to know that I could have taken my five-year-old daughter to this, but I'm not sure she'd have got much out of it. She'd have liked the spider and the combine harvester, but I suspect she'd have got fidgety well before the end.

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Re: Robinson in Ruins

#5 Post by perkizitore » Tue Feb 01, 2011 12:27 pm

I was hoping for a Dual Format release.

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antnield
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Re: Robinson in Ruins

#6 Post by antnield » Wed Feb 02, 2011 9:35 am

Specs, courtesy of Amazon.co.uk:
Robinson in Ruins

A Film by Patrick Keiller

Newly free from prison, mysterious flâneur Robinson has been haunting the Oxfordshire countryside. Rusting film cans found abandoned in an old caravan turn out to contain the results of his research a visual investigation into the historic ruins of the English landscape and the reality of late capitalism. These beautiful pictures have been compiled by his research associate (voiced by Oscar®-winner Vanessa Redgrave). Contrasting past English radicalism and reaction with the 2008 banking collapse, Patrick Keiller's latest essay-film in his Robinson trilogy (London and Robinson in Space) is an ironic and witty comment on the sustainability of market forces and a profound tribute to the power of nature.

Extra Features:

- Original Theatrical Trailer
- Deleted scenes and Alternative takes
- Extensive illustrated booklet featuring essays and film notes

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foggy eyes
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Re: Robinson in Ruins

#7 Post by foggy eyes » Fri Feb 11, 2011 5:21 am

No Blu-ray for this, only DVD? Seems a little odd not to go for the former, especially as Keiller bothered to shoot on 35mm.

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MichaelB
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Re: Robinson in Ruins

#8 Post by MichaelB » Tue Feb 15, 2011 7:33 am

Patrick Keiller is one of the panellists at this BFI Southbank discussion on Saturday 19th February, in which he'll be joining forces with silent film curator Bryony Dixon, historian and Docklands Museum founder Chris Ellmers and maritime historian John Graves to explore the subject of the disastrous launch of the battleship HMS Albion on June 1898 from various angles, beginning with the two surviving films that were shot on the day.

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souvenir
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Re: Robinson in Ruins

#9 Post by souvenir » Sat Feb 19, 2011 3:38 pm

Now listed at Amazon as Dual Format

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MichaelB
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Re: Robinson in Ruins

#10 Post by MichaelB » Mon May 16, 2011 7:34 am

It is indeed Dual Format, and here are the full specs:
Robinson in Ruins
A film by Patrick Keiller


Premiered at last year’s Venice Film Festival and the 54th BFI London Film Festival, and shown in cinemas in November, Patrick Keiller’s third film-essay in his Robinson series, after London and Robinson in Space, is released by the BFI on DVD and Blu-ray on 20 June, in a Dual Format Edition. A 2-DVD set containing London and Robinson in Space is also being re-issued on the same date.

One of Britain’s most intellectually stimulating filmmakers, Patrick Keiller is widely acclaimed for London (1994), his extraordinary portrait of the UK capital, and Robinson in Space (1997), his highly original meditation on ‘the problem of England’. In Robinson in Ruins, his eagerly awaited follow up to the earlier films, Keiller revisits the English landscape, this time applying his beguiling wit and acute powers of observation to our current environmental and economic predicament.
An intriguing blend of fiction and documentary, Robinson in Ruins presents the findings of the trilogy’s mysterious would-be scholar and original narrator, Robinson, who, after having been released from prison, has been haunting the Oxfordshire countryside with a ciné camera. When his film cans and notebook are discovered in a derelict caravan, the results of his search for the origins of capitalist catastrophe in the English landscape are assembled as a film that is narrated by their institution’s co-founder (voiced by Vanessa Redgrave).

The resulting film – reflecting the range of Robinson’s preoccupations, as well as his curiosity and apparent erudition – is interwoven with references to the deepening economic crisis, looming environmental catastrophe, Shelley, Marx, the war in Afghanistan and the Captain Swing riots of 1830. Yet Robinson also detects more hopeful signs: alongside striking images of a landscape littered with ‘keep out’ signs, wire fences, satellite dishes and military installations, there are also exquisite cloudscapes, the blossoming hawthorn tree on Greenham Common (now returned to civil use) and unexpected orchids flourishing defiantly on the edge of a motorway.

Special features
• Standard Definition and High Definition presentation
• Optional effects-only soundtrack
• Panel discussion: Patrick Keiller, Doreen Massey, Patrick Wright and Matthew Flintham on their project The Future of Landscape and the Moving Image (2011, 15mins, DVD only)
• Original theatrical release trailer (DVD only)
• Downloadable PDF of Doreen Massey’s essay: ‘Landscape/space/politics’ (DVD only)
• Illustrated booklet with introduction by Patrick Keiller, notes by Doreen Massey and review by Mark Fisher.

Robinson in Ruins was realised with the support of the UK’s Arts & Humanities Research Council, the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation, the Royal College of Art and the BFI as part of an AHRC Landscape & Environment project The Future of Landscape and the Moving Image in which the co-researchers were Patrick Keiller, Research Fellow at the RCA, Patrick Wright, Professor of Modern Cultural Studies at Nottingham Trent University, Doreen Massey, Emeritus Professor of Geography at the Open University, and Matthew Flintham, doctoral researcher at the RCA. More details on the project can be found here.

Release date: 20 June 2011
RRP: £19.99 / cat. no. BFIB1098 / Cert U UK / 2010 / colour / English, optional feature hard-of-hearing subtitles / 101 mins / Original aspect ratio 1.78:1
Disc 1: BD25 / 1080p / 24fps / PCM mono audio (48k/24-bit)
Disc 2: DVD9 / PAL / PCM mono audio (48k/16-bit)

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Re: Robinson in Ruins

#11 Post by colinr0380 » Sun Jul 03, 2011 2:36 pm

As this series has gone on there has been a move from a focus on masses of people and political engagement (shading to disillusionment), best illustrated by the crowds and Robinson's ranting in London, through to a vague kind of 'empty world' vague sci-fi feel (though the apocalyptic event here is late capitalism) to the heightened paranoia elements that creep into the comments about the secret use of Buckminsterfullerenes in Robinson in Space, culminating in what seems to have been Robinson's attempts to enter some restricted government bases rather than just observing them from afar from the vantage point of a shopping centre restaurant.

Robinson In Space was a search for actual industry in a country re-orienting towards service sector jobs and exports as seen through a landscape of Tony Blair-opened Little Chefs and docks packed with goods targeted towards a small section of the country with the wealth (or the loans) to afford them. The title seems perfectly apt in the way that often the images are coastal ones in which an enormous, rather threatening and engulfing, void takes up a large proportion of one side of the frame. I was reminded a little of Derek Jarman's dancing ledge or the end of Jubilee in some of these shots.

The images in Robinson In Ruins (neatly bookending with Space the Labour years) feel as if they are revealing a battered and bruised English countryside left to be reclaimed by nature, as capital retreats back to the city in the wake of the financial crisis. It feels Jarman-esque in another way - that of returning to a kind of Arcadia. Presumably this the Utopia that Robinson told his friend that he had found at the end of Space.

It feels as if, apart from agriculture and the occasional shots of Robinson's house slowly being renovated, that the human realm has totally moved into abstraction. Human behaviour is either talked about in historical terms (e.g. the enclosures, which are equated here with the redistribution of wealth going on in the current banking crisis) and therefore being a battle long since lost and long beyond any possibility of taking action; or as being totally beyond the bounds of individual human experience, as in the long monologues about the financial crisis and stock market crashes.

The 'normal person' appears to have been totally disappeared from the equation, maybe has been consumed by the country, something which makes the comments which take in nuclear weapons and looming environmental catastrophe seem less upsetting, since society has found yet another way to destroy the bulk of its population.

Though this state of affairs was kind of forewarned by the narrator in Robinson In Space when he talks of the way that Robinson wants to try and forget that the events of 19th century ever occurred, but is facing a difficult battle in achieving that aim. With the departure of Robinson's friend as narrator and companion (Note about the BBFC rating as discussed above: I presume that the PG for London is simply due to the comment about the pair maintaining an "uneasy, bickering, sexual relationship", pushing beyond the limits of acceptability for a U?), Robinson's philosophies are able to take over the film without too much mediation.

Which brings us to Vanessa Redgrave as the narrator of the found footage. There is a nice link to be made with all of those more horror-orientated found footage films, I think this pushes the film much more into Peter Greenaway territory. Whilst London and Robinson In Space could be seen in more Walk Through H terms of a narrator recontextualising disparate material into a mentally satisfying psycho-geographical journey, Robinson In Ruins feels much more like Vertical Features Remake in that this footage is presented as a kind of puzzle to the Institute themselves as much as for the viewer. I quite like Redgrave's initially hesitant or over-emphatic narration for that reason, as if she is trying to attune herself to the difficult thought processes displayed by Robinson, which his friend in the previous films was probably more used to.

On occasions the narration becomes quite sparse, especially compared to Scofield's quickfire rattling off of disparate facts and figures in the previous two films, as if in the face of some of the incredibly beautiful nature sequences no further explanation is needed. Yet Redgrave really delivers some of the later lines with a lot of poignancy as if with an awareness of being an echo or shadow in a film that the filmmaker had abandoned after it had served its purpose to him (Does the ending suggest that Robinson, after having convalesced, is returning to tackle London again, maybe in a terrorist manner? Is he the return of the repressed, much as the rats are used in James Herbert's novels?!)

I really like that there is also an option to watch the film without the narration and I wonder whether this might be a logical next step after having watched it with the Redgrave narration - the final human element having been removed from those shots allowing nature to reclaim the film as it has the rest of the soundtrack (there's no music from A Matter of Life and Death or The Lone Ranger here - just birdcalls).
Last edited by colinr0380 on Sun Jul 03, 2011 2:42 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Robinson in Ruins

#12 Post by MichaelB » Sun Jul 03, 2011 2:40 pm

colinr0380 wrote:(Note about the BBFC rating as discussed above: I presume that the PG for London is simply due to the comment about the pair maintaining an "uneasy, bickering, sexual relationship", pushing beyond the limits of acceptability for a U?)
Actually, London has a U certificate. Robinson in Space is the one with a PG, presumably for the interlude when the narrator muses about Britain's startling success when it comes to exporting rubber fetishwear.

I suspect the impression that London has a PG came from the classification on the BFI DVD release - which reflects the fact that Robinson in Space is also included.

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Re: Robinson in Ruins

#13 Post by colinr0380 » Sun Jul 03, 2011 2:43 pm

Ah, yes I forgot about the rubber products section. And presumably the comment along the lines of the British being the most fetishistic nation might not have gone down too well either!

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Re: Robinson in Ruins

#14 Post by colinr0380 » Sat Jul 09, 2011 5:58 pm

After watching the film a few more times over the last week and reading the essays in the booklet, I am even more impressed by it. While London and Robinson In Space focus on upheavals (or lack of upheavals) in human societies and globalisation, I like the way that Robinson In Ruins reaches a kind of terminal point in two directions - of capitalism and ecology.

According to the essays the film is showing the way that capitalism is non-natural (despite implicit attempts to speak of markets as a kind of natural force with its own checks and balances) and ecology is one example to turn to of the world continuing on without a human presence, where economic upheavals might not have the same effect. However (and this problem does get touched lightly upon in the film itself) the problem is that even going back to a kind of 'golden age' of living off the land, the land has still been formed in such a way to be of use to humans. Humanity has always imposed itself on nature from the point when the first fields were created, and since then the landscape itself has reflected the shifts in power (for example the film dwells upon the enclosures removing common land from the public and correlates enforced migration to cities and wage labour with the current economic crisis).

Even 'nature' is not natural. Or rather it is as natural an environment as the urban one shown in London. For example the parks and greenery that has been allowed to continue to exist or created as a change of scenery in London could be seen to get ironically juxtaposed in the later two films with huge shopping centres parachuted into rural environments, performing the same kind of function of providing a previously unavailable service for an area.

On further viewings I was also reminded of that jaw-dropping section in the excellent documentary The Corporation about the selling of the commons and the way that rights to certain elements (the wellspring of a river, or certain air rights for example) are considered important to be 'owned'. One of the contributors to the symposium of which Robinson In Ruins is a part talks on the discussion on the DVD about the way that the UK has one of the largest concentration of military bases and that this too, in the way that private companies are bidding for miltary jobs, not to mention the US presence, could also be seen to be another form of enclosure of the commons - a cutting off of huge swathes of the countryside from access by the general public (who presumably should not venture far beyond the cities anyway). The agricultural, militarist and commercial industrialisation of seemingly 'unspoilt' countryside is being revealed as always having been a contradiction - a field and what it contains (wheat or oil seed rape that can be used for fuel) is as much of a political and economic statement as anything occurring on the stock market.

The sci-fi aspect still feels present in the film but tends towards an apocalyptic sense of reclamation by nature if left untended - that moment of reclamation may never come but, as in the lichen growing on the roadsign, is able to flourish in overlooked areas and adapt to toxic environments (a 'lesson' for humanity?) There is also a sense of cynicism about the idea of ecology, as if it has become an ideology of such power that every organisation, no matter how polluting, has to at least keep up a pretence of subscribing to it. And that ecological disaster itself has become a wonderful metaphor for filmmakers.

Over the last week I've come to feel that this might be the best of the three films. By Robinson disappearing from the film (he was always on the edge of society even in the previous films, in marginal short-term work) and the new narrator being both more detached and seemingly more overwhelmed by the scale of the subject matter to the point of silence, it feels as if this film is propelling the viewer out of a created narrative and into a contemplation of nature and its day-to-day existence in the face of constant devastating change.

Queue this up as a mediator in between the latest Adam Curtis series tackling the ecology-sociology-economic side of things and Tree of Life as a representative of the wide-eyed eco-mystical and the 'our place in nature' personalisation opposite end of the spectrum and I think you would have quite a triple bill, with the issues that one film might raise being tackled to some extent by the others!

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Re: Robinson in Ruins

#15 Post by antnield » Fri Sep 09, 2011 9:20 am


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MichaelB
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Re: Robinson in Ruins

#16 Post by MichaelB » Fri Sep 09, 2011 10:08 am

Mike Sutton wrote:I can't think of anyone else who makes films that are quite like this; this hypnotic, this funny and this visually spectacular. This, you see, is what I call spectacular; you can keep the 3D robots in Transformers: Dark Side of the Moon as long as I can have Keiller's extraordinarily detailed close-ups of lichen on the A34 road sign.
He absolutely nails it - and I can attest to the addictive qualities of Keiller's films. Or rather, my mum can - it took me the better part of a decade to persuade her to sit through London, but she was first in the queue when Robinson in Ruins opened. And to say that she's not normally a fan of high-end experimental cinema is putting it very mildly indeed.

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Re: Robinson in Ruins

#17 Post by Gus » Fri Sep 09, 2011 10:57 am

Anyone heard anything new about The Dilapidated Dwelling? it's so sad that i probably never going to see this movie :cry: . Since Patrick Keiller is not very productive you cherish the few he has made.

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Re: Robinson in Ruins

#18 Post by MichaelB » Fri Sep 09, 2011 12:21 pm

Gus wrote:Anyone heard anything new about The Dilapidated Dwelling?
It's been in legal limbo since completion because of a mix-up over third-party footage rights. As far as I'm aware, it's easy enough to resolve in theory, but requires more money than it will ever realistically be able to recoup.

The Quay Brothers' Ein Brudermord is in a similar situation.

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Re: Robinson in Ruins

#19 Post by John Cope » Fri Jan 20, 2012 2:01 am


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antnield
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Re: Robinson in Ruins

#20 Post by antnield » Mon Mar 26, 2012 10:59 am

Beginning tomorrow (27th March) at Tate Britain: The Robinson Institute.

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John Cope
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Re: Robinson in Ruins

#21 Post by John Cope » Mon May 07, 2012 5:00 pm

An assessment of The Robinson Institute.

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Re: Robinson in Ruins

#22 Post by colinr0380 » Sat Apr 18, 2015 3:22 pm

I've just re-watched Robinson In Ruins again and was really struck this time by the way that the film keeps circling back to a few of the same key locations with minor details changing over time. The major one is of course Robinson's derelict house with the fence surrounding it for much of the film (but the posters slapped onto it changing with the seasons, and of course the graffiti of the penis, that the BBFC report above mentions, which appears on the door of the fence at one point!), before they suddenly disappear and then the facade of the house itself then changes over the course of the next couple of times that we return to it, showing it is being worked on, and a sign that Robinson has to move on to inhabit the next derelict space. You can also see the same technique going on with buildings suddenly disappearing from the landscape, with just the warning sign remaining to show it is the same location. Or the flaking paint on a close up of a postbox suddenly being freshly painted on the camera's return. Its not an immutable, unchanging landscape that is on display in this film but one constantly in a state of flux, even if it is almost invisible to the naked eye.

I think that ties into those extremely long natural world shots too, showing crops being harvested or insects buzzing around flowers, or the clouds drifting across the landscape. They're often held long enough that the viewer can actually inhabit the landscape and experience the changes taking place in it. Perhaps the key sequence is the almost five minute shot of a spider building a web, going around and around in tighter circles whilst on the soundtrack (if you choose to watch the version of the film with the narration) Vanessa Redgrave relates a step-by-step history of the 2008 banking crisis. The image is fascinating to view just by itself, but in combination with the narration it suggests the methodical building of a system that then ends up entrapping the creator in the middle.

The third film is rapidly becoming my favourite of the trilogy. It feels so complex yet light. Blunt in message yet airy and open, suggesting that there are still areas (albeit toxic or contaminated ones) on the margins of society in which to exist. The urban locations look just as fascinating as the rural ones, and really both are as manufactured and managed as each other. Maybe the narrator is correct early on in the film when she describes Robinson's motive for creating the images as being in the tradition of Turner, critiquing society through picturesque landscapes! A film capturing a particular age, for the ages.

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