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David Charleston, once a world renowned journalist, now lives alone maintaining the Thunder Rock lighthouse in Lake Michigan. He doesn't cash is paychecks and has no contact other than the monthly inspector's visit. When alone, he imagines conversations with those who died when a 19th century packet ship with some 60 passengers sank. He imagines their lives, their problems their fears and their hopes. In one of these conversations he recalls his own efforts in the 1930s when he tried desperately to convince first his editors and later the public of the dangers of fascism and the inevitability of war. Few would listen. One of the passengers, a spinster, tells her story of seeking independence from a world dominated by men. There's also the case of a doctor who is banished for using unacceptable methods. David has given up on life but the imaginary passengers give him hope for the future Written by
When the authorities discover a lighthouse keeper is not cashing his paychecks, they go to visit him to make sure he is OK. One of the visitors gets into a chat with the lighthouse keeper, David Charleston and discovers that his desire to stay in the lighthouse is based on the fact that he is in contact with the ghosts from a ship that sunk many years ago; although the ghosts do not know they are dead. Charleston hides away - having been frustrated by those in power ignoring his warnings about fascism. However he finds that each passenger has had similar experiences that he, with the benefit of future knowledge, can learn from.
The point of this film is both obvious but also too obscure. The message of not giving up is laboured at the end, but for the majority of the film, it is hidden and damages the early meaning of the film. The pre-war setting is a morale boosting tale of sticking at it - for we never know what tomorrow will bring; it delivers a reasonable tale but I found it hard to get into the stories of the various passengers as they were not characters I was given a lot of time to get into and care about. The stuff with Charleston himself works better as I cared about him due to the time spent with him.
The film is very stagy however, it doesn't really flow very well at times and the best scenes are played out as if in a theatre. It is rather heavy at times but it still works if you know what to expect. The cast is OK but really it is all Redgrave's film. He exaggerates his performance as if he is on a stage and needing to project to the back row, but he is still very good. Mason has a minor role but always has such a good presence that it is hard to fault him. The support cast of passengers is less assured and really never get close to being real people - instead their dialogue and stories are too heavily laden with meaning.
Overall this is a reasonably good propaganda. It has more meaning and human pathos than most WWII propaganda films as it is not anti-enemy but pro-spirit and persistence. It may all be a little heavy and too stagy but it is enjoyable if you can do enough to get past the heavy message and some overly worthy acting.
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