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Robinson in Ruins (2010, 110 min.), the final film in Patrick Keiller’s Robinson Trilogy, takes its conceit from the “found” notebooks and film canisters of the titular character Robinson as he crosses the English countryside expounding upon a myriad of millennial anxieties and premonitions of late capitalist collapse. Released from prison at the start of the 2008 recession, Robinson is enlisted to help a network of non-human intelligences in preserving the possibility of survival on the planet by searching for “the molecular basis of historical events.” The wandering cinematographer Robinson is a flâneur of the pre-apocalyptic era, vividly recording the rural and agrarian landscape and explicating the history of financial markets, civil uprising and the ruins of the 21st century. Narrated by Robinson’s ex-lover and co-researcher (voiced by Vanessa Redgrave) this elegiac journey of a great philosopher, poet and prophet of demise receives its timely Toronto premiere following widespread rioting across the UK and amidst paradigm-shifting unrest and uncertainty in the face of global austerity and economic crisis. Keiller’s insights (which Redgrave breathes into life with savoury) are accompanied by mesmeric images that pursue a landscape of the past for its tidings of the future.
Patrick Keiller was born in 1950. He studied at University College London, registered as an architect, then attended the Royal College of Art. Echoes of his early slide-tape work resonate in the static imagery and fondness for voice-over in his recent feature-length works. He is currently a Research Fellow at the Royal College of Art, London.