Since the first trailer for The Lighthouse was released earlier this year, I found myself strangely curious as to what the film would be about. The first trailer seemed to make it look like a horror movie that happened to snatch up some bankable leads in Robert Pattinson and Willen Dafoe. The more I heard about this movie; the more my curiosity was peaked. I wasn’t even sure it was something I wanted to see, but something it just kept drawing me in. Well, as of this weekend, I’ve finally seen the black and white film The Lighthouse and I can tell you it is Wild as all hell. Warning for very vague spoilers below.
From the start of the film, our leads are introduced with a shot from behind as they approach the island where the titular Lighthouse is located. There is no dialogue as we see Robert Pattinson and Willem Dafoe’s faces for the first time. We are taken through a set of introductory scenes that gives us every essential piece of info we as an audience need to understand the relationship between these two characters. Through Pattison’s immediate disdain of his situation, to Willem’s seemingly antagonist, but more accurately casually crass demeanour, we are told the way these characters both view one another and their current setting.
Even after they begin to exchange words, we aren’t given either characters’ names until some time towards the end of the first quarter of the film. Pattison plays a wickie in training named Ephraim Winslow with Defoe as his supervisor, Thomas Wake. What begins as a four week training period eventually becomes an indeterminate amount of time shared between Winslow and Wake. Their only company being the occasional pestering seagull. Which Wake warns Winslow against harming, lest he brings them bad luck.
Without spoiling the film, the Eggers Brothers manage to set an incredible theatrical presence that manages to use comedy, vague eroticism and elements of horror. While the advertising may lead you to believe there is some traditional monster from the deep that haunts our characters, the truth is stranger than what you might be expecting. I found myself often questioning where exactly I stood on this movie. For every moment I thought that it might be losing me, something else managed to draw me back in. The auditory cues and choices by Mark Kovan were essential in setting the tone of each scene. From the almost ever-present foghorn, to the creepy score that only becomes more and more disturbing as the film goes on. The exceptional choices of lighting in several particular scenes help to evoke moments of madness from our two leads, as handled by Cinematographer Jarin Blaschke.
Pattinson and Dafoe give some of their best performances to date. While I found myself drawn more to Dafoe’s choice of dialect and his numerous monologues, I was fascinated with Pattinson’s body language and emoting. And no, I don’t mean those scenes. You do you. (Though credit where credit is due. You can definitely see he is getting them gains to play Batman.) The two spend the movie becoming begrudgingly close to one another, sharing drinks, sea stories and personal revelations filled with regrets and half-truths.
Though the runtime may only be 110 minutes, the pacing makes it feel like you’ve been on the island for as long as Winslow and Wake. That isn’t a negative, however. Like everything else in the film, the timing of each moment in the movie lends itself to the theme of feeling isolated with no real sense of time.
This is my first time watching Eggers’s work, as I have not seen the VVitch, but I found myself very satisfied with most of the choices made in this film. Even if I didn’t know what to make of every moment of it, I was more than happy to come along for the ride and see where it ended up.
I really recommend this film for people who are fans of psychological thrillers with a twist. It carries a lot of the same weight as movies like There will be Blood and Gaslight.
While I don’t think it’s for everyone, I can guarantee that anyone with interest in seeing this movie will come out with something to talk about. It certainly left me interested in seeing where Eggers plans to go with his future films. Mainly if he’ll stick to the same genres of horror and thrillers or if he’ll try something new. It was certainly an interesting way to cap off my Halloween month, that’s for sure.
By Christopher Dean
Edited By Keshav Kant