‘The Lighthouse’ is compelling from start to finish
Who knew that watching two men lose their minds could be so interesting? Led by a duo of powerhouse performances, and with a script as insane as the acting, “The Lighthouse” marks a sophomore success for director/screenwriter Robert Eggers, signifying him as a filmmaker who loves his craft.
In 1890’s New England, two lighthouse keepers, Ephraim Winslow (Robert Pattinson) and Thomas Wake (Willem Dafoe), fight to keep their sanity while a storm bashes against the seagull-infested island.
That is all there is to be said without revealing too much. Packed with copious symbols, hallucinations, and downright absurdities, there is plenty of food for thought to chew on. Extremely compelling from start to finish, the film surprisingly upkeeps a steady pace although mostly relying on simple conversation between the leads. Engaging dialogue from skilled writing makes every argument tension-filled, with each one as volatile as the last. The two often drink themselves to death, leading to a sort of bipolar relationship that grants for exciting encounters. One minute they’ll be throwing punches, and the next they’ll be dancing,
A movie such as this could only be achieved with outstanding acting. Pattinson gives his best performance yet, showcasing almost every emotion possible. Starting from a quiet, reserved skeptic and turning into a manic mess left me floored. He really did it all. And right up there with him with a performance to match was Dafoe. His abusive, demanding character has just as much madness as Pattinson’s but with a more purposely unlikeable flair. Honestly, if any film would get Dafoe his first Oscar, it will be this one; Pattinson should also receive his first nomination undoubtedly.
If the film wasn’t already original enough, its entire look feels like it is directly from the early 1900’s, a quality not seen in a long time. Shot in black and white and with an aspect ratio of 1.19:1 (that means instead of the traditional rectangle format, it is more box like), the film is reminiscent of an older silent film. Both choices are so thoughtful, making for a truly beautiful film. The lack of color makes the lighting and shadows pop, while also upholding the retro aesthetic.
Being helmed by Eggers, the movie was a near-guarantee for success. His directorial debut “The Witch” was absolutely terrifying – I can count on one hand of actual scary films, with that being one. While more of a mystery/thriller than a horror, his second endeavor impressively balances many genres. When the film isn’t incredibly dark or disturbing (which it is at times), there is some relieving humor thrown in that helps offset the many tense moments. Don’t let that fool you though. This film can be a true nightmare at times.
A lighthouse often represents one of two things: a beacon of hope or warning for treacherous grounds. I’m guessing this film signifies the later. “The Lighthouse” is that rare coveted film that will leave you scratching your head. While there may be no clear answer to this mystery, it is important to remember, the journey is often more important than the destination. Just don’t mess with the seagulls along the way.
directed by Robert Eggers
* * * ¢ (out of four)
Running time: 110 minutes
Rated R for sexual content, nudity, violence, disturbing images, and some language