‘To Keep the Light’ illuminates the story of the silent worker

The film shown at Citizen Jane Film Festival brings the lives of female lighthouse workers in the 1870s into the spotlight.

History shows us what we want to see. Songs were dedicated to our heroic martyrs. Statues were built for powerful kings. Legends were inked in our lives for posterity. But what about those who were never sung, engraved, or inked? The film To Keep the Light, shown at the Citizen Jane Film Festival, does just that.

The woman who directed, wrote and played the role of the leading lady is Erica Fae. The film itself is a slow and subtle depiction of self-conflict, social dilemma and right to ownership that leaves a long-lasting placid effect on a usually fast-paced audience.

The plot of the story revolves around the solemn and solitary life of a female lighthouse keeper. Aloof from the world outside the island on which she lives, Abbie is on an ascendant path to insanity. Her days are like the whirling wind – swift at first as she tends to the lighthouse, does her chores and looks after her ailing husband and then there are sudden moments of stillness and silence.

Abbie’s daily diligence is interrupted by a storm that brings in a man named Johan, who claims that there was a shipwreck. Abbie looks after him and nurtures him back to health. Johan eventually decides that he has nowhere else to go and stays with her to help around as she frantically prepares for the day of the lighthouse inspection. The dilemma of being physically and mentally disconnected with the social world causes a profound sense of subconscious delusion to Abbie and he slowly helps her sink back into the ocean of reality. Abbie, being the independent and confident woman she is, swallows the bitter truths of the present and makes demands for the future.

One interesting part of the film is the interlude between narrative scenes filled in with various aspects of nature. This smooth transition gives the audience the time to taste the emotion and depth of the plot and maintains the pace of the movie. Gray, dull and gloomy is the film’s setting that transfers the dejected mood from Abbie to the audience. The musical intensity accompanied by interludes of nature colors in the gray scenery portrayed.

Fae uses both weakness and strength to show the internal conflict Abbie faces in everyday life. Multifaceted and committed to her role, Fae embodies truth and authenticity in her acting. Johan is played by experienced Scandinavian actor Antti Reini. Together, the two have aptly enacted the awkwardness and self-consciousness that blankets the atmosphere when two strangers meet. The movie also adds a tinge of humor through characters like Meagan Fay, an eccentric but empathetic woman.

Another crucial theme this film deals with is the prying nature of human society, which is portrayed by people who constantly want Abbie to give up the lighthouse. To protect and save what is yours can be very difficult when society watches like a hawk and waits for a tiny blip to take it all away. While Abbie is emotionally vulnerable due to her husband’s condition, she is resolute and determined to keep the lighthouse under her possession. In the end, she petitions for the right to own the lighthouse she has cared for with all her heart and soul.

To Keep the Light is a poignant expression of the ignored and uncredited contribution of women in the 1870s. A work of art and surreal beauty, this film is a must-watch because it throws light on obscured aspects of our history and imparts a valuable lesson of taking a stand for what is ours.

Edited by Katherine White | kwhite@themaneater.com

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