After a debut like The Witch, Robert Eggers’ follow-up was one to keep an eye out for. Well here we are with his sophomore creation, The Lighthouse. If there’s anything concrete that I can say about Eggers it’s that as a filmmaker he is as fearless as they come. Nothing about his now two films are easy to digest. From the accent choices and period accurate dialect that he adheres to in both films almost religiously, he is seemingly a slave to detail and finding the truth in said detail. Everything about The Lighthouse feels difficult but is such for the sake of pursuing cinematic perfection, if there is such a thing.
This particular tale of madness features only two characters so in many ways this is a character study, with focus on loneliness, isolation, and trust without choice in that which has only ever betrayed their sanity. Willem Dafoe and Robert Pattinson star alongside one another in a race to the finish line, that line being the threshold between control of one’s faculties and complete and utter hysteria. Luckily they have enough alcohol between them to kill an entire frat house, we all know liquor always helps smooth tension in a room.
Feeling like one long, truly demented episode of The Twilight Zone, captured in black and white even, The Lighthouse is isolation ripping at the souls of two men with secrets and no one tell them to. Each has reason to seek power over the other, for reasons not always clear even to them.
In the beginning of their time alone it’s a fight against the pitfalls of complete seclusion and how this manifests into tension between them, and sexual yearning never being satiated. The very environment of an island in the middle of punishing storms is a force all its own constantly beating them down. As we learn more about each man it becomes as unclear as the ocean water surrounding them as to who we are supposed to champion over the other. Both may conceal pasts that would warrant a man to seek a place away from the entirety of mankind. Pattinson wants to forget and move on from his transgressions as Dafoe seems hellbent on manipulating his young protege into a state of complete disarray. He does this by playing into Pattinson’s already frayed psyche leading him to believe that which cannot exist, that of myths and oceanic fairytales, may in fact roam alive and seeking. It’s also unclear, perhaps through manipulation from Dafoe just how long these two men have been alone with nothing more than a lighthouse and their ever-deteriorating thoughts.
The lengths these two actors go to for the sake of their craft is absolutely mesmerizing. As the spotlight swings between them they each brilliantly demonstrate different states of mania as they each begin to find the same realization at the same moment that things are wrong and the other man just might be to blame. They also might be innocent bystanders, the truth is an ambiguous ghost wandering without ever really being found. Pattinson begins to lose patience and grows more and more ill tempered as he tries to stay busy even as his mind never stops thinking, never stops conniving. He throws himself into alcoholism, repeated self abuse, and the dream of mermaids coming onto land seeking to satiate his ugliest desires. Of course his frustrations remain and his decisions force their situation to get even more dire. It’s never clarified but things of a more mythical nature may in fact exist on this island of misfortune and are seeking retribution for his actions.
In an interview with the director, he stated that these characters are comparisons of Greek characters Prometheus and Proteus as the titular lighthouse acts as Mt. Olympus. Dafoe, a figure with features reminiscent of a sea god, complete with a thick beard and long, almost biblical rants as he attempts to put Pattinson in his place, is very much the Proteus character. Pattinson as Prometheus seeks the secrets of the lighthouse, or in the case of Greek mythology, the forbidden power of fire, represented by the literal blinding power of the light constantly overhead. If you are familiar with Prometheus’ story you know his ending isn’t exactly a pleasant one.
By the story’s end all hell has broken loose. Each is fearful of the other and trying to end things once and for all. It’s never clear who is more mentally broken but at this point it may not matter. Much like the ending of The Witch, Eggers leaves you with mouth agape as things explode in a singular moment of absolutely bizarre terror both psychologically and physically. Much of the story maintains a certain set of rules only to have it all upended by unimaginable, Lovecraftian imagery littered throughout this maddening tale.
The Lighthouse is bizarre but powerful terror constantly lurking with evil intent. They are each a man far from being mentally adequate thrown into a situation where only the clear minded can survive.The performances are raw and frightening always dictating where this dark tale is headed. There is meaning behind everything from the pesky seagulls to the overwhelming storm enveloping their tiny stretch of land. The visuals are stark but always expertly captured with imagery always fueling the dilapidated nature of everything from the island to the men themselves. This is a slow, psychologically driven story of maddening lies and impossibilities coming to life plaguing their every waking moment and even seeping into their unconscious minds leaving no signs of life beyond the gulls soaring overhead as the light spins, mockingly so.
Rated R For: sexual content, nudity, violence, disturbing images, and some language
Runtime: 110 minutes
After Credits Scene: No
Genre: Drama, Fantasy, Horror
Starring: Willem Dafoe, Robert Pattinson
Directed By: Robert Eggers
Out of 5 Nerdskulls
Story: 4.5/ Acting: 5/ Directing: 5/ Visuals: 4.5
OVERALL: 4.5 Nerdskulls
Buy to Own: Yes. Keep in mind, this is not for the mainstream horror fans. If your interests in horror go no further than films like Happy Death Day and Insidious then steer clear of The Lighthouse. There’s nothing wrong with those movies, this one is just more reliant on metaphor and dual meanings found in the imagery. It’s more arthouse than mainstream, basically.
Check out the trailer below:
For more clarification on what this movie is really about, hidden meanings and all, this is my source. It is SPOILER FILLED so please see the movie first before watching this video.
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