London 2010

January 18, 2010

For a long time now, I’ve been somewhat obsessed with Patrick Keiller’s 1994 film London. And so, this year, I’m doing something about it. I’m studying it: watching it again and again, mining it for references and meaning, analysing and locating shots and scenes.

London lends itself to this process, more than any other film I know. Composed entirely of short, fixed-camera shots, together with a single-narrator voiceover, it takes place over a fixed length of time (January-December 1992, a single year), and within a fixed sphere: the city I live in.

So as well as cataloguing and visiting the locations, I am filming them too. I don’t know exactly where this project will go – where it will take me – but it starts on London Bridge, eighteen years ago and last Saturday. I filmed the above, badly, in the driving wind and rain. It replicates Keiller’s opening shots from 1992. I will probably have to reshoot, and would love to do so with a cruise ship, as in the original, but I will take what the Thames throws up.

Why now? This, like 1992, is the year of a general election, a subject which the original film revolves around – and not only that, but one that is quite likely to result in a Tory victory, as in 1992. This is the one event depicted in the film that doesn’t happen – if it happens more than once – every year. But also because it feels right. Because Keiller’s vision is coming around again, bracketing the boom years.

I’m covering the project on its own blog, where you can see some of the ruminations so far, and follow the ongoing progress. Right now, I still need help locating some of the shots. They’re all in this Flickr set, and if you recognise any of them, please do leave a comment.

“London”, says Robinson, “was the first metropolis to disappear.” But the narrator disagrees: in his words, and in Keiller’s shots – the preponderance of swirling waters, and trees in the wind, set against the weathered streetscape – the film emphasises the city’s mutability, but also its persistence. It is this change, and this permanence, that I shall be exploring for the next year.


  1. This is a brilliant idea! Wish I’d thought of it! Look forward to seeing the result – a lot.

    Comment by Rupert — January 18, 2010 @ 6:37 pm

  2. […] People discovering Trainspotting for the first time now will I imagine still want to relive the few Edinburgh scenes actually filmed whence in the city – John Menzies on Princes Street (I stole from that shop too), Montgomery street, Leith Fort. But 14 years is a long time. Welsh is a faded force and Ebeneezer Goode is victorian again. Next time in Edin I’ll try to do a few before and afters like this. […]

    Pingback by PsyGeo : psychogeography from Z to A » a great philosopher… now departed 14 years — March 6, 2010 @ 4:08 pm

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