If you like action films with bruce willis in, please … move along … move along, there is nothing for you to read here.
Please bear in mind this review is not made with reference to the first two films in the trilogy and that having seen the third i will now go back and fully view the others, as this film makes me curious as to perhaps the ill appreciated merit of the first two.
Robinson in Ruins ?
for me it was a a cross between a visual complete culpepers herbal, combined with a new form of visual psycho-geography, densely researched and interlinked, the visual language and style used is a refreshing antidote to the modern media, of jerk shot swerving low attention span blipvert editing, This film revels in long locked off contemplative shots that linger, so as to aid the dense textual content, some space to seep into your mind, this film has an almost literary quality.
now obviously there is a multitude of threads and several subtexts within this film, one being the semi-fictional character of robinson himself, no doubt influenced by Patrick Keiller’s experiences & perceptions , filtered through a characters eyes who to some extent, is a native alien of the isle trying to comprehend it, and the timelines are interweaved to an extent that attempts to highlight the duality in the ever present relevance and non relevance of the concepts of time and story themselves, themes altered but repeating through human history, and how some larger stories themselves only exist by the traversal of large spans of seemingly dispirate time, and how at a point in the middle a place may fall silent only to re-emerge some point later, and how the story is unfinished and neither will ever really begin or end, it is something out of time. and when I use the word story in the context of this particular film, it is not in the ‘parable, didnt we learn a lesson sense’, as there is not really any defined agendas, plots or views to convey, it just comes at you, as does real life … fragmented and difficult to discern.
The epicentre for the locations in this film are no doubt not too far from Patricks home turf, but this film is perhaps making evident proof if any were needed that the psycho-geographical landscape of this “isle” (robinson reference) is so dense that we are tripping over it everywhere, and almost anywhere would have sufficed to make the same point, and it can be felt from this film that to some extent the specific locations though chosen aren’t of primary importance, for no doubt many other locations could have yielded a similar result.
Overall the film is disquieting and depressing for those viewers ill able to concentrate and see its depths, as an older catholic lady sitting next to me simply commented post curtain fall “depressing”, perhaps she might have preferred “mama mia” ? but even those who fully feel or comprehend the swathe its cutting, will not come out feeling … joyous, because this film is trying to rake through the pasts glowing coals of cultural history and identity in this “isle” and find the grey ash that mainly fills the backdrop of human existence, and that the passing of each moment stitched to the next enables us to avoid by that movement, the necessity to ever truly cognate what we think we have perceived in the present. A house, a bridge, a field, a motorway sign are all much more than we should attempt to comprehend, a psycho-geography so dense that to master even a few locations, as this film attempts and to interweave that together with the real links that exist between all things both past and current within them is an almost an inhuman task.
And this film makes beautifully dispirate and delicate real links between past and current history , banking crisis, farming practice, the enclosures of natural space, the suppression and deliberate divisionment of people in this isle historically, to the natural crisis within the landscape today from human activity, militaristically defined landscapes held and run by incomprehensibly complex outsourced privatised globo corporate business share vehicles.
Some might criticise a lingering shot within this film of combine harvesters, yet it is there for several purposes, this film is so dense textually in the information its conveying and makes no apology for it, you need to keep up, to hold the thread being built in your own imagination, and the harvesting shot is a rest point for you to digest and coagulate into a clearer form, allot of what has previously been delivered, and functions at this role rather well, secondarily it serves to highlight another subtext in the film which is mans mastery and dominance over an apparently natural landscape, the harvesting shot though only 2 or 3 minutes of footage ? helps to draw a small yet realistic glimpse of the monotony with which man is almost bleakly raping the land for so maximal a yield, the “were almost to good at technology” comment bubbles up here, and that fields aren’t really fields at all, theyre really just production units in some tabulated statistic of overall production yield.
The dalliance on flowers and insects seems almost a recurring visual prayer in this film, in its thematic use, natures softly spoken, robust rythmic self balancing circularity runs ever on and attempts to elucidate its ultimate survival against the machine of man, such a great symbol of hope, that we have not as yet … defeated … nature. And like all civilisation’s afore us, as the ruins on display … show, we will fall someday, as we have so obviously already risen and must now morph into something else, as all spaces and places seem to be ever in the process off, in this film. Places are sedimentary, like “fossil alligators” laid down and layered in, one on top of another, and nature as always though altered, will probably succeed us and erode our works, for nature is so expert as always in every little way of trying to return to a state of arcane grace despite our transitory harnessing and debasement of it. though this is not to say that even nature is something seeking a static perfection, its strength against us lies in its attempted adaptation.
The sounds in this film, seem key to tapping into the audiences comprehension of the scenes, the difference in birdsongs, and the ever present inhuman noise of present human activitys, evoke some interesting emotional influences into play that counterpoints and interplays with the dense textual moments, on a subconscious level. This film very often feels like someone has finally turned down the rabid screaming and overt plot volume of most current cinema and tv, and because of this the senses are more keenly applied and refreshingly able to amplify and perceive the full scope of the subtlelty’s attemptedly portrayed in this film.
The human figures wherever referenced and located in this psycho geographical landscape seem to demonstrate a repeating theme of mans bi-lingual hypocracy unto himself, during such relatively short human lives and the words the figures use and abuse, nought more than emotive political noise that is distorted over and through time, for the various agendas of exploitation at any given moment.
some themes recurr throughout this film :
The layering of place and time and its insistence on morphing, the transitory nature of things and that human noise and activity are but imperfect states.
the endless human desire to linearise natural patterns and superimpose orders that aren’t real, for personal benefit in such narrow frames of time. The beneficial beauty in the corruption and erosion of all human things. and mans inhumanity unto himself.
niggles : the slicing of and jumping around in … time, though aiding the story at most points and very functional in nature, made it a little to harder to pull all the sense from the film in its first viewing, yet in a way preserves the beneficial possibility of second and third viewings, from which more maybe yielded. Not to say that it should be ordered in time or anything as crass as that, because that would have damaged the films scope and tale immensely. just perhaps a slower frequency to the jumping textually ? but with the ground this film is trying to cover, working out how it could be done better, would take some serious time and consideration.
At some points it felt as if some of the points were perhaps a little pointed toward topical purposes, fields of poppys grown for medicinal purposes, and their linkage to recent foreign wars over drugs and bases and thereby a subtle path toward hypocracy etc. But these threads, as most things in this film are left to the viewers own perceptions to infer, nothing is explicit or demanded there is no agenda being set, which is very pleasing.
Ultimately the film also eludes that “Robinson”, though existent in the “isle”, does not feel somehow comfortable, as perhaps a native of this isle might be … perceived to be, and that the native in this isle of England is somehow dis-enfranchised from the truth of it, and injured by the heavy tonnage of psycho-geography and its associated culture, history, and propaganda that affects the islander, and as so very often happens in history, it is often not, to his own benefit to comprehend, stand up for or be a part of it, but at the same time robinson is drawn to, and bound by, yet cannot escape the isle, which holds a sway of some significance over the very foundation of his own story, the isle a place he yearns for and despises in the same hand, yet never fully understands or comprehends nor was ever destined to.
A tone poem of a film relating to this isle, in the grand scope of which it may be perceived cross time, for those with minds aroused to peruse, by its quiet … almost dull allure.