The Lighthouse

Front Row at the Movies by Shirrel Rhoades

5/5 (1)

Of the Key West Art & Historical Society’s four museums, the most-visited is the Key West Lighthouse and Keeper’s Quarters. After storms destroyed two previous lighthouse towers, the current lighthouse was built in 1847; then raised to its current 86-foot height (about 100 feet above sea level) in 1894. It is said Ernest Hemingway used the beacon to find his way home after drinking bouts at Sloppy Joe’s Saloon.

Visitors can explore exhibits at the lighthouse that show the life and times of a lighthouse keeper. The existence was hard … and dangerous. When a hurricane destroyed the original light station in 1846, keeper Barbara Mabry survived but her six children were killed by the storm.

A new film titled “The Lighthouse” is currently playing at Tropic Cinema.

A psychological horror film, the story follows the mental breakdown of two lighthouse keepers when a storm hits the remote island here they are stationed.

Ephraim Winslow (Robert Pattinson) is sent to the island to serve his apprenticeship with an older keeper named Thomas Wake (William Dafoe). The garrulous wickie (a title that comes from trimming the light’s wicks) gave Winslow the tough jobs — refueling the light, lugging kerosene canisters up the narrow steps, and emptying chamber pots. You’d suspect they are not going to be the best of friends.

Winslow keeps sighting a one-eyed seagull, but knows it’s unlucky to kill a gull. The birds are thought to be reincarnated sailors. But when the gull attacks him, he bashes it to death against the cistern.

When a storm hits the island, the two men get rip-roaring drunk. Winslow envisions the body of a mermaid (Valeriia Karaman) washed up on the shore.

He worries about the fate of Wake’s previous apprentice, a man who died after going insane. He pictures the man’s severed, half-blinded head inside a lobster trap.

Then he discovers that Wake is keeping a record of his infractions, sure to hurt his chances of becoming a full-fledged lighthouse keeper. That leads to a confrontation, revelations, an ax, and the maddening allure of the bright Fresnel lens inside the lantern room.

Don’t expect a happy ending.

Director Robert Eggers co-wrote the script with his brother Max Eggers. They filmed “The Lighthouse” in atmospheric black-and-white. The lighthouse used for the movie is located in Leif Ericson Park at Cape Forchu, Nova Scotia.

But you don’t have to travel to Canada to get a closer look at a lighthouse tower. After you see the movie, simply stroll up Whitehead and see the real deal looming there across the street from the Hemingway Home.

Email Shirrel: srhoades@aol.com

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