As fellow lighthouse keepers Ephraim Winslow and Thomas Wake seem to grow increasingly drunk and mad, you start to grow mad with them. Robert Pattinson and Willem Dafoe are a tandem tour de force in this film that will have you asking, “what the hell am I watching?”
Stuck on a rock somewhere in New England, two lighthouse keepers drink and dance as they lose their minds.
Some people won’t like this movie. It’s undeniably crude and doesn’t spoon-feed you answers. Instead, the film asks you to spoon-feed yourself your own answers. The Lighthouse is completely open to interpretation, and reminds me of Aronofsky’s Mother!, which was another WTF movie full of symbolism and metaphor. I noticed a Rhyme of the Ancient Mariner influence in the film, and I’m no Greek mythology auteur, but if you are, I’m sure there are plenty of things you’ll be able to pick up on too; Icarus and Prometheus were two allusions I recognized in my post-viewing research. The film tickles your curiosity with questions such as what is in the light or what is real and what is not, only to leave you with that curiosity and one final haunting image. The film will succeed in sparking discussions but falls a little flat on its purpose. The best answer to why must be more than just why not, right?
Shot on black-and-white 35mm film, writer/director Robert Eggers is dedicated to placing the viewer in the time period of his characters, in this case the late 1890s; The Lighthouse does feel like an older film. And the film is also shot with a 1.19:1 aspect ratio, which means the film is contained in a box on the screen. It takes some time getting used to, but this does produce both an intimate effect bringing us closer to Winslow and Wake, maybe even too close, and also a sense of claustrophobia; the cinematography coupled with the foghorn that bellows throughout the film, and the score by Mark Korven which sounds like a bellowing foghorn, create a lingering dread and impending madness.
Eggers further achieves era authenticity with his film in his dialogue, which he claims was inspired by the work of Herman Melville (Moby Dick), Sarah Orne Jewett (would set her works along the coast of Maine), and sailors’ journal logs; the final result sounds like Shakespeare wrote a chanty, with Willem Dafoe spouting his monologues as if he were born to play a lighthouse keeper.
To quote my review of High Life earlier this year, “Robert Pattinson is one of the most underrated actors in Hollywood.” In the provocative sci-fi, I described his character as reserved and cold like space. As Ephraim Winslow (quite the cinematic name I must add), he is once again the quiet type, a stark contrast to Dafoe’s Thomas Wake who barks orders and once he has some liquor in him, tries to initiate friendly conversation. However, in The Lighthouse, Pattinson eventually breaks, and goes wild; the dog bites back. Not only does he say some creatively vulgar things, but he screams and furiously masturbates. It’s an unapologetic performance not afraid to gets its hands dirty.
The Lighthouse is original, entertaining, and challenges the viewer; the more I think of this movie, the more I want to watch it again. 8.5/10