Film review by Claire Durrant of The Lighthouse, the psychological horror movie starring Robert Pattinson and Willem Dafoe.
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Ephraim Winslow (Robert Pattinson) is sent on a four week contract to help Thomas Wake (Willem Dafoe) run a lighthouse. Over time the two begin to lose their sanity.
Review, by @claire_d_air
On the surface, The Lighthouse is a story about masculine impulses.
We follow two wickie’s who struggle with identity and power whilst residing inside a giant penis.
However, director Robert Eggers – who is coming back strong after his 2015 directorial debut in The Witch – serves up another experimental and hypnotic cinematic feast.
Given the almost two hour running time as well as the film being dialogue heavy, The Lighthouse never becomes tiring to watch.
Thankfully Robert Pattinson and Willem Dafoe both give career best performances that leads me to question why neither of them were nominated for an Oscar. Both men are mesmerising to watch, but Dafoe takes it up a notch as the mysterious tyrant Thomas Wake – especially in the scenes where he speaks powerful monologues in historically correct dialect.
There are many influences in The Lighthouse, from Greek Mythology to the works of Edgar Allen Poe. Loneliness, anger and guilt eat away at Ephraim Winslow as he is marooned in the derelict lighthouse – slowly becoming unhinged and suspicious of Wake.
As he descends into madness, so does the imagery in the film.* The ambiguity plays with your mind as much as it does Winslow – leading to a build up of tension and horror with no answers to offer.
However just like The Witch, The Lighthouse is getting marketed as a mainstream horror film – which it is not. There are no ‘jump scares’ here. In fact The Lighthouse is surprisingly funny.
The conflicting relationship between Winslow and Wake offers many humorous moments (especially when alcohol is involved) and this prestige, A24 distributed film is not above fart and poop jokes.
The horror of The Lighthouse is instead created through the technical and environmental aspects of this film. Not only was this film shot on 35mm in black and white with an aspect ratio of 1.19:1, Eggers also has made a name for himself for shooting with as much natural lighting and weather as possible.
These techniques not only aid its 19th Century cinematography and
setting, but adds to the claustrophobia of the location. The tight framing juxtaposed with harrowing winds create an unnerving environment.
Finally it is the sound design that haunted me the most. Composer Mark Koven is masterful at creating a chilling score, at first utilising fog horns to dramatically establish the atmosphere and tone, climaxing to a jarring, distorted noise at the end which had me fully submerged in the
The Lighthouse is a hallucinatory, and underlying erotic folk tale that deserves to be watched on the big screen. One of those rare films for those who truly love and appreciate great cinema.
Robert Eggers is vastly becoming a director to watch out for, with him and Ari Aster taking front lead in the indie horror world.
This truly is an exciting time for modern horror.
*EDITOR’S COMMENT: FYI – prepare for a mermaid sex scene!
Cast & credits
Director: Robert Eggers. 1hr 49mins/109mins. (A24/New Regency Pictures/RT Features). (15).
Producers: Robert Eggers, Yooree Henley, Lourenço Sant’ Anna, Rodrigo Teixeira, Jay Van Hoy.
Writers: Robert Eggers, Max Eggers.
Camera: Jarin Blaschke.
Music: Mark Korven.
Sets: Craig Lathrop.
Robert Pattinson, Willem Dafoe, Valeriia Karaman, Logan Hawkes, Kyla Nicole.