With his feature length directorial debut Robert Eggers brought to life a folktale drenched in anticipated horror, suspense and psychological terror that tore a god-fearing puritan family from the inside out. His follow up, The Lighthouse is a vastly different film that proves Eggers’ versatility and range as a filmmaker. Marketed as a horror film, The Lighthouse is anything but that – not a single ounce of a horror film is within this feature. Instead, it’s a character study of two men stranded on a remote island told in an almost non-linear matter.
With a foghorn blaring every 30 seconds or so setting the tone for instant insanity, 2 men begin a 4-week shift at a lighthouse on a remote island off a coast in New England. Ephraim Winslow (Robert Pattinson) took the contract job under the supervision of Thomas Wake (Willem Dafoe). Once their month-long duty is up and their replacements don’t show, the two men descend into madness and insanity leaving to viewer to question their own. What begins as a straight and narrow storytelling method turns to a time-warped reality where every moment can be put into question if it happened, or it was just imagined.
It’s without question that Ephraim didn’t encounter the Mermaid (Valeriia Karaman) but with how Eggers frames the story in which he co-wrote with his brother Max Eggers, it’s not out of the question and seems plausible for the weird events that transpire on this remote island.
Just like with The VVitch, The Lighthouse is not for everyone – it’s a slow, excruciatingly paced period drama that features another authentic language to the period in which these characters would live in. Shot in a crisp black and white with an aspect ratio of 1.19:1. In short – The Lighthouse is not for the casual moviegoer, it’s the epitome of an arthouse film that caters to the cinephile in all of us. Casual movie goer or not – this film should be seen because of the two leading performances.
Both Dafoe and Pattinson are astounding as they go from acquaintances to co-workers to mortal enemies that cannot stand to be around one another. Winslow’s descent into insanity is fueled by Wake’s harsh guidelines and strict working policies. Having Winslow complete some of the nastiest and menial tasks around the island would push anyone to their limit but Wake never relents in his ability to break down Winslow.
Eggers has the ability to draw a viewer into the world that he creates and keep you there with a built anticipation for what comes next. Within the drawn-out story that only lasts for 109 minutes, wanting to see the next scene that either answers a question or creates more confusion is what showcases his talent as a filmmaker. Crafted with the highest technical skill, The Lighthouse is beautifully shot and framed by cinematographer Jarin Blaschke (who returns to work with Eggers after The VVitch) within its aspect ratio – paying homage to Old Hollywood and how stories would focus on day-to-day tasks where the story would unfold surrounding that.
Distribution company A24 must be given some credit for finding these independent filmmakers and turn them into household names. With each release, their films become more mainstream and even get noticed for awards consideration. And speaking to awards consideration, 2019 was an incredible year for male performances. Fellow A24 film Uncut Gems star Adam Sandler didn’t get nominated and neither did Pattinson or Dafoe with the award for Best Actor going to Joaquin Phoenix. That’s truly saying something when three of the best performances of the year don’t get a nod by the academy. And there is no doubt that Pattinson and Dafoe give mind-bending performances.
If there was doubt about Robert Pattinson being cast as Bruce Wayne/ Batman, this film among other indie performances should prove the naysayers wrong. He’s more than that vampire from Twilight – seriously go watch Good Time, The Lost City of Z & High Life.
The Lighthouse is part literally adaptation, part psychological horror and part sailor mythology which welcomes many different interpretations to how the film is perceived. As the only men on the island a theme of masculinity and sexuality play a major role in Eggers’ story. Though it’s not explicitly stated, both men play multiple roles throughout their madness and at one point there’s barking a leash and a live burial with self-release in almost every scene.
Watching The Lighthouse left me in awe of what was transpiring on screen, in front of my eyes. It’s tonally different from The VVitch which proves Eggers doesn’t have all his eggs in the same basket. There are moments that absolutely drag from one scene to the next, but the tradeoff is living with the two leading men for just a minute more while they put on an acting clinic. Touching upon, morality, faith, mental health and mythology, The Lighthouse is a cinephiles wet dream. Technically brilliant with a powerful use of natural lighting, Robert Pattinson and Willem Dafoe shine in a fantastic follow-up to his directorial debut.
Written By: Robert Eggers & Max Eggers
Directed By: Robert Eggers
Music By: Mark Korven
Cinematography: Jarin Blaschke
Starring: Willem Dafoe & Robert Pattinson
Release Date: October 18, 2019
Running Time: 1 Hour 50 Minutes
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 90%
My Score: 4 out of 5