Robinson in Ruins

I saw this film yesterday. It’s a strange experimental travelogue round the south of England featuring beautiful images of nature and industrial settings. It is also quietly hypnotic and the pace is slow and relaxing, rather like a meditation. 

Vanessa Redgrave is the unnamed narrator of the film. She tells us that her research institute came across this ‘found footage’ and a diary belonging to a mysterious character called Robinson. From these they have pieced together the documentary.

Robinson, she tells us, slept rough and filmed these images around the time of the economic crash in 2008. He  noted the history and provenance of the things he filmed each day in his diary along with the daily news. These  stories and entries, Redgrave delivers over the related images in a calm factual manner.

They  relate to the erosion of the countryside and common land. From the middle ages up to the present day. How it was sold – first to the landed gentry for farming, then to the American Military for missile bases and then to private energy companies to transport gas and oil.

These stories are interspersed with information about the stock market crash  and with scientific reports on global warming. So that I think what you’re supposed to take from it is that Capitalism has sold nature for a quick buck and for political ends.

I didn’t even attempt to absorb this mass of historical and philosophical information. The detail seemed totally irrelevant. In fact the silent moments where the camera lingered on shots of nature were the strongest moments of the film.

My favourite line of narration was something along the lines of: ‘Though people find it easy to imagine the collapse of ecosystems through global warming. They can in no way imagine the collapse of capitalism, which is in itself just another system. – The suggestion is that not only is nature fragile but also humanity and it’s systems that it thinks are infallible.

To me the film pointed up the futility of human actions, the way all these multi million dollar military bases had been built and crumbled, much like the castles and ruins that also feature. All these things that had such purpose at the time now just lie forgotten – because history and nature eat everything.