Elegant essay pic asks how the U.K., the “most wired nation in Europe,” can also be the one with the oldest, most run-down houses. “The Dilapidated Dwelling” should be mandatory viewing for architects, urban planners and politicos, but will stand its ground on any fest setting where serious subjects are examined in depth.
Combining the icon-heavy detachment of Peter Greenaway with the cultural richness of architect Witold Rybcinski’s writing, scripter-helmer-lensman Patrick Keiller — a former architect — bears down on the decay of his home island both as a metaphor for modernism’s unfinished business and as a thoughtful call to arms. He does this via cool narration by Tilda Swinton, in the role of a researcher who has returned to England after a 20-year stint in the Arctic. Her beautifully written and read observations, set against meticulously composed landscape shots, are not cheerful, especially when compared with the prewar optimism of futurists (such as Buckminster Fuller), seen in archival footage, who figured we’d all be living in cheap modular housing by now. Keiller traveled similar philosophical territory in “London” and “Robinson in Space,” but this is his most urgent and accomplished effort.