By midlandsmovies, Mar 30 2018 11:06AM
Brokenhead (2018) Dir. Steve Rainbow
The Birmingham Film company
This new Midlands feature from director Steve Rainbow tells the story of a solitary man who begins to experience some very strange occurrences during his final few days of his lonely job maintaining a working lighthouse.
Sean Connolly plays Stefan, the lighthouse keeper, who amongst his old radios and model sailboats, single-handedly preserves the upkeep of the coastal building but is increasingly disturbed by his isolated existence.
Caricature faces are drawn on Post-It notes which adorn the walls and give him company in the absence of any companions and the film gives the audience plenty of context and history up front. Opening with the sound of crashing waves we see this quirky owner maintain the old lighthouse but when things start to break down we question why. Is it a technical failure of something much more sinister?
Therefore, Stefan’s relaxing final days before returning to the mainland sees him investigating these spooky issues with the ocean building. His only interactions are via radio where he plays chess one move at a time and the weird sounds of the score from Andy Garbi work well to invoke the ethereal rolling melody of the sea. Building a sense of unease, sound plays a crucial role throughout as static and mysterious pleas for help come across the wirelss to Stefan, confusing and bewildering him.
A lot of attention to detail has been employed by the filmmakers as the lighthouse and all its antiquities link the past to the present which is a crucial aspect – especially as the film later explores historical legends and myths as well as personal memories and circumstances.
During his time, Stefan does voiceover work and we hear a radio drama where he plays out a multitude of fictional roles. But does the drama bleed into the real world? As he is told that burying an albatross on land is bad luck, a mix of sea-faring stories combine with the lighthouse blacking out.
And the discovery of voices on the airwaves and a life-jacket floating in the sea muddy the waters even further. Is his mental health suffering? Is he experiencing delusions? The film takes us through an emotional journey in the search for answers.
If there are a few minor improvements to be made I would have liked to see some quicker editing to build narrative tension. Although the long shots echo the extended periods alone, making time seem endless, as the story progresses we could have seen some shots cut shorter. That said, they give a great sense of time and place and are well composed and reflect the leisurely life of the keeper.
The great cinematography of Ian Brow captures the brilliant sunshine and glistening sea but again I think some more variety in the shot choices (most are mid-range shots) could have helped engross the audience more. The radio conversations, whilst no doubt accurate, are a little slow to engage with but with that said, the monotony could be part of delivering the themes of a solitary life and the boredom Stefan faces.
Exploring dark themes about the past and tormenting loneliness, the film doesn’t shy from difficult ideas and although an element of confusion did come across at times, the film keeps its shadowy revelations at its forefront and delivers a satisfying and eerie finale.
In conclusion, the film’s sole focus on one man is a difficult narrative to hold, yet the film does its best with a few lashings of comedy to lighten the mood. Moments of introspection are also littered amongst the increasingly haunting story as well. As the character writes his memoir, “The Last Lighthouse Keeper”, Brokenhead becomes a fine study of self-inflicted loneliness and confronting one's demons. With the deconstruction of fiction and reality and a solid central performance from Connolly the film is a melancholy marine thriller of personal-ghosts from the dark depths.
Midlands Movies Mike