The Dilapidated Dwelling, beta sx, 78 mins

The Dilapidated Dwelling (78mins, beta sx, 2000) is an examination of the predicament of the house in advanced economies, the UK in particular. A fictional researcher (with the voice of Tilda Swinton) returns from a 20-year absence in the Arctic to find that while the UK is still one of the world’s wealthiest economies, its dwellings are typically old, small, dilapidated, architecturally impoverished, energy-inefficient and extraordinarily expensive. The film asks why repeated attempts to modernise house production have not been more successful, and attempts to discover why the UK’s housing economy has become so dysfunctional. It includes archive footage of Buckminster Fuller, Constant, Archigram and Walter Segal, and interviews with Martin Pawley, Saskia Sassen, Doreen Massey, Cedric Price and others.

“A few years ago, it occurred to me to explore the predicament of the house in advanced economies. At the time, this seemed an unfashionable subject. The definitive experiences of modernity, or postmodernity, seemed to involve movement. To stay at home (as, for various reasons, I was increasingly inclined to do) seemed to be to marginalise oneself, despite the home’s being increasingly a place of work, and increasingly open to electronic communications. The physical fabric of the house was even more problematic. In the UK, most consumer items – food, domestic appliances, cars and so on – had become cheaper, either as a result of new technology, or of shifting production to lower-wage economies, or both, but the cost of housing went on increasing. The housing stock was ageing and not generally in very good condition. New houses were comparatively few, and were mostly reduced versions of the houses of fifty or a hundred years ago. Was some consumerist innovation about to challenge this, or is there a kind of opposition between the house and present-day developed economies?” – PK July 2001

Reviews: Ken Eisner, Variety, 10 December 2000; Gareth Evans, Time Out, 8-15 May 2002; Dan Hancox, ‘What Patrick Keiller’s ‘Lost’ Film Reveals About Our Housing Crisis’, Frieze, 15 February 2019.

Owen Hatherley, Barbican Cinema programme notes 29 January 2019.

Camera, script Patrick Keiller, producers Keith Griffiths, John Wyver, editor Larry Sider, associate producer Julie Norris, production manager Jason Hocking, camera for interviews Ron Orders, production assistants Lucy Brown, Sebastian Grant, Sarah Jobling, Jacqui Timberlake, dubbing mixer Colin Martin, online editor John Chamberlain, archive researcher Judy Patterson, archive researcher, Japan Miho Kometani.

Narrator Tilda Swinton, interviewees Michael Ball, Martin Pawley, James Dyson, Yolande Barnes, Peter Smith, Jon Broome, Ellen Meiksins Wood, Saskia Sassen, Doreen Massey, Cedric Price.