The Lighthouse has been on the receiving end of some great word of mouth as festival and awards season gets going this fall. The drama/horror/comedy is a film that defies classification, description and essentially reviews. As I came out of the screening, there were no words… so, here is my best attempt at talking about The Lighthouse.
The Lighthouse follows two nineteenth century lighthouse keepers played by Willem Dafoe and Robert Pattinson. With no company, no technology and no relief, the men have no outlet for escape as things grow increasingly tense. Robert Eggers directs the film from his script written with Max Eggers.
When evaluating the film, The Lighthouse makes the most sense as a meditation on insanity. This isn’t for everyone, obviously. So, steer clear if this description sets you on edge. The script is twisting, complex and difficult to wrap your head around. All at once, you’re dropped in right along with these characters, neither of whom is… all that grounded. This film is not an easy one. In fact, as I sit here, it is difficult to come up with coherent ways to describe this movie. It is not a popcorn movie to drift into looking for a simple night out. This is a challenging narrative being told in an equally perplexing film… but this isn’t necessarily a bad thing.
Perhaps the main thing which needs to be spotlighted in a discussion of The Lighthouse is the performances of the small cast. It almost doesn’t need to be said that Willem Dafoe is a flipping force of nature. His portrayal of head lighthouse keeper Thomas Wake is edgy and terrifying in a way which only DaFoe could pull off. The performer loses himself in the character and very much sells the intricacies of the narrative.
Meanwhile, Robert Pattinson once again proves just how good he is. If you’ve only ever watched the young actor in the Twilight franchise, you’re very much missing out. In each consecutive role he’s tackled since the end of the long-running horror romance, he’s taken another step forward as an actor. His take on Ephraim Winslow is incredibly complex. It is through his eyes that we see the action and he manages to remain incredibly relatable in his annoyance throughout the story. He’s easy to sympathize with even as he falls ever deeper into the depths of paranoia and insanity. And for those who haven’t seen 2018’s Damsel, he’s damn good at playing crazy. It is knowing this that does make me really excited to see his Batman. Shhhh.
From the opening frames of The Lighthouse, it sits with you. It is haunting. Eerie. As the two men wander through their daily duties on the island, Eggers manages to find the horror in the mundane. The simple use of sound effects makes this simple, but lonely setting feel uneasy. As the story chugs along, it quickly becomes clear just why these men are the way they are. It makes sense how someone could go crazy locked up in these buildings. This shoot couldn’t have been an easy one, but the art in this undertaking shines through.
Finally, The Lighthouse really classifies as an arthouse film in all senses of the word. The movie is quite literally a work of art. Each and every frame is like a painting with its moody black and white cinematography. In fact, if we don’t see cinematographer Jarin Blaschke being mentioned come awards season, there are some serious discussions which need to be had. This movie, like Roma last year, is an impressive visual achievement, really showing just how gorgeous black and white cinematography can be. If this sounds like it’s up your alley, as this one to your list… just keep in mind it isn’t for everyone.
The Lighthouse is now playing in theaters around the country.
Stay tuned for more here at Female Gaze Productions as we look at classic pop culture through a historical and feminist lens. My name is Kim, you can find me on Twitter and Instagram at Kpierce624, and as always if you’re like what you’re seeing, please like and subscribe.