The Lightship (1985)

Robert Duvall, Klaus Maria Brandauer, Tim Phillips, Arliss Howard,
The Lightship is a movie starring Robert Duvall, Klaus Maria Brandauer, and Michal Skolimowski. A trio of robbers, two brothers and their twisted genius leader, invade a lightship, but don't reckon on the crew fighting back.
  • 6.5 /10.0 IMDB Rating:
  • DatePublished:
  • 2018-09-07 Added:
  • Siegfried Lenz, William Mai, David Taylor, Writer:
  • Jerzy Skolimowski, Director:
  • Bill Benenson, Moritz Borman, Producer:
9 / 10

A great story about the struggle between order and chaos.

This is one of the great movies from the eighties, however unjustly underestimated and forgotten.

Brandauer plays the captain of the lightship that's constantly anchored at the same place. It's only purpose is to warn other ships for dangerous waters. Robert Duvall enters the scene with his men and his one ambitions. It is also a generation drama about the relation between the lightships captain and his prodigal son.

A brilliantly hermetical story about the thin line between order and chaos, and about relations between people. An excitement that lies not in action but in the trial of strength and the mostly implicit violence, that sometimes breaks out in uncontrolled outbursts.

It also tells the story about the kind of courage that almost looks like cowardice.

Don't miss this one!

10 / 10

My old time favourite movie, maybe of all time

This is an excellent thriller. Why? Because it is able to create continous tension without big special effects, violence or gun shots. It is a story about several cat and mouse games. About teenage boy and his father, it is a story about who is in charge. It is about what is good and what is right?As a teenage boy you rebel against your father, so when at a lightship just after WWII, and the only way to anoy your father is being interested in a bunch of petty thieves who came a board as castaways. What do you do?As a crew, what do you do? Are you loyal to your captain, who is determined to stick to his mission? Or do you just want to stay alive?As the boss of this bunch of petty thieves, you want to get ashore ASAP, but you also want to show that you are the boss. And you will determine what will happen to this lightship. A lightship which only task is to stay at its place. Great tension and still a great movie, with a couple of great 80 and 90 actors.

10 / 10

A fascinating fable

A fascinating and complex --under the simplicity of its surface-- fable of good against evil and a coming-of-age tale, with excellent performances by Duvall and Brandauer and a superb direction by Polish director Jerzy Skolimowski, here in one of his best films --along with "Moonlighting" and "Deep End". Simply: an enjoying and rare gem.

4 / 10

Please Bring Back The Original

After reading all the reviews for this '85 re-make, it's very clear few people read about, or research, the true origin of a good work.

This story 'Das Feuerschiff' written by a prominent German novelist is actually a semi allegorical tale. It intelligently uses symbolism to demonstrate the bullying tactics of war mongers. The writer, Siegfried Lenz (a modern humanist) has set up a brutal modern crime scenario, that symbolically parables the destructive effects of controlling regimes (ie: Nazi, or any other source of enforced power) exposing the devastating effects they inflict on innocent by-standers.

Lenz thoughtfully sets up a situation that illustrates the adage: 'Evil triumphs when good men do nothing'. The original film version of this classic story was made in Germany in 1962 (not long after the book was published) and directed by multi talented, Austrian-Hungarian born Ladislao Vajda. I saw it under the American/English title of: "Crime on the High Seas" (AKA 'The Lightship')

For my money the earlier film far outshines the poorly constructed 1985 version listed here on IMDb. It seems a great pity in the days of DVD the Award winning original has escaped a wider release. If you want to check the IMDb listing you will need to add the German title 'Das Feuerschiff' or the date ('63) after the title. The 1963 version also won awards in the Berlin Film Festival of its year.

The original version also had the distinction of being one of few films to feature the instantly recognisable Londoner (of Scottish descent) James Robertson Justice in an important dramatic lead. Robertson was a reasonably good choice for the role of Captain of the Lightship, having himself experienced Nazism while serving as a Policeman with the League of Nations, in a region under German governance.

Klaus Maria Brandauer was also a good choice as Captain in the '85 Jerzy Skolimowski vers, but the somewhat over the top performance by Robert Duvall as the homosexual leader of the criminals was somewhat unfortunate to say the least. Perhaps the screenplay writer and director must shoulder some of the blame for this. Much of the original stories depth, and the overall handling of this project, seemed unfortunately lost at sea. Often it appears as if directors and screenplay adapters may get hung up on their own sexual obsessions, sometimes loosing their grasp on the original stories main themes. The voice over narration, added later in post production, was an attempt to add story cohesion - this did not help much, if at all.

Maybe someday we'll be rewarded with the now rare, b/w German original. Find it if you can!

7 / 10

About as odd as finding your granny is into S & M

Unlike the other commentator, I am not interested in lightships. I didn't even know what a lightship was until I saw this film. However, I am interested by this film. I saw it on BBC 1, a few months ago, in their late night film slot, a slot usually reserved for B Movies.

The Lightship could easily be a B movie, only it stars two great actors, Robert Duval and Klaus Maria Brandauer, putting the actors in what could easily be a conventional thriller scenario. Brandauer is the captain of a lightship, thus a man of law, thus a good guy. Duvall is a mysterious, shady figure who seeks refuge from the sea, possibly a man on the run, thus a bad guy. So a battle between good and bad, order and disorder, is played out.

This actually happens in the film. Not a great film, or even a very good one. But odd. About as odd as finding your grandmother is into S&M. For both men become fascinated with one another, and their respective occupations. To illustrate how odd this is, there is a scene where Brandauer finds Duvall taking a bath in his bedroom. Instead of being taken aback, Brandauer puts his hand in the water, playfully, like a lover, and they talk. They talk a lot in the film. Moreover, the film set a few years after World War II, yet Brandauer is playing a German (in charge of an American boat)and Duvall is a real sweet, gent of a southern lawyer, who is also a dangerous, psychopathic criminal, in charge of a couple of hoodlums.

All this weirdness is not that surprising, after all the director is that Polish guy with the weird (if you're not Polish) name, Skowlimowski, who has directed some strange films in his time.

I didn't like the fact the narration or the eighties-ness about it (ie soundtrack). But the kid was OK.