Belatedly following up his two earlier essay-films London (1994) and Robinson in Space (1997), Patrick Keiller here returns to their themes with 2010's even more elliptical, haunting, and obtusely highbrow Robinson in Ruins. Once more centring on the apparently disturbed social and historical scholar Robinson, now newly released from prison, and again embarking on more of his mysterious pilgrimages around the English landscape, this third film is heavily influenced by the current global economic crisis; it looms like a dark cloud over both the beautiful photography on the screen and the detached narration from Vanessa Redgrave, which is effective enough, but lacks the warmth and sincerity that the late Paul Scofield brought to Keiller's two previous works. The complete lack of incidental music also makes the film a more challenging viewing experience than the first two, but Keiller's eye for remarkable natural imagery remains startling.
Keiller's films are not for everyone (they are fiercely intellectual to the point where they can easily alienate an audience, and can be very difficult to concentrate on if you are not in the right mood), but for those who understand his political agenda and are open to his obscure literary, cultural, and scientific references, his work can be profoundly rewarding. However, I repeat; Patrick Keiller is very far from being an easily accessible filmmaker, so if you try this, do so with a very open mind.