Screened as part of NZIFF 2001

The Dilapidated Dwelling 2000

Directed by Patrick Keiller

UK In English
78 minutes Beta-SP

Director, Screenplay, Photography


Keith Griffiths, John Wyver

Additional Photography

Ron Orders


Larry Sider

Archival Research

Judy Patterson, Miho Kometani


Tilda Swinton

For research concludes that, for the time being, left to the market, the house of the future is an old house: expensive, energy inefficient, and increasingly difficult to maintain. — Patrick Keiller

As every other aspect of life becomes relatively cheaper and more efficient, Britain’s houses grow more expensive and antiquated. While architects apply new technologies to the design of art galleries and airport terminals, the few new houses that are built are usually designed to look as much as possible like old ones. Patrick Keiller, director of London, asks why in this documentary essay. His alternative vision is inspired – to the point of obsession – by plane design and the pioneering efforts of the American technological wizard Buckminster Fuller to find solutions to exactly the same problems that the British continue, for the most part, to ignore.

Abetted by superbly arresting cinematography, plentiful archival footage and an array of stimulating interviews with practitioners and academics, Keiller’s film is dense and lively, but far from earnest. Never afraid to throw in a complete non sequitur to kick things along, Keiller puts an absurdist spin on his depressing analysis of the forces rallied against progress. — BG

The Dilapidated Dwelling should be mandatory viewing for architects, urban planners and politicos… 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. — Ken Eisner, Variety, 11/12/00