Movie Review: ‘The Lighthouse’

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Robert Eggers’ film follows two lighthouse keepers. Thomas (Willem Dafoe), an elderly man, assumes command of a seaside operation. Ephraim (Robert Pattinson), a young man, performs every act of hard labor. Together, the men have unstable chemistry. In time, a massive storm strands the duo, putting their monstrous chemistry to the test. Consequently, the men try to maintain their sanity.

To put it simply, “The Lighthouse” is patient and hypnotic, pulling us in with its mysterious atmosphere and characters. The film’s slow pace proves to be monumentally effective, showcasing the tedious nature that comes with isolation and poor two-way communication. The script, written by Eggers and his brother, takes long breaks from interpersonal conversation, upping the humanistic tension in the process. The silence becomes deeply unnerving, and as a result, the levels of awkwardness loom large. We feel the strain that exists between these men. We feel the lack of creativity. And as these elements continually grow, the tension enlarges. The end result is a film made up of terrific performances and precise utilization.

I suspect that many viewers will be upset by the film’s lack of answers, but for me, the layers work wonders. Eggers never reveals the actual date in which the film takes place, and as a result, the setting feels even richer. He never gives us definitive answers regarding the specific forces at play, and as the ambiguity grows, the film becomes a source of obsessiveness, destined to be analyzed by cinephiles. We begin to ask ourselves many questions. Is there a mythological force controlling the island? Is the chaos attributed to excessive drinking?

If “The Lighthouse” doesn’t get recognized for its cinematography, a cinematic sin will have taken place. To put it simply, “The Lighthouse” is the most visually striking movie of the year. Jarin Blaschke, the cinematographer, must be commended for his work. The black and white photography is a blast to the past, forcing us into a distant historical period, complete with moody sensibilities and foreboding atmospherics.

Like “The Witch,” this film is unbelievably realized from a situational standpoint. It feels like the camera is a transportation device. The narrow aspect ratio molds the film into a desperate entity, defined by internal negativity. At every turn, we feel humanistic isolation and environmental anxiety. When Ephraim works outside, we see a gray sky, an immovable blanket of depression. When Ephraim distances himself from primary land, jagged rocks paint another portrait of uneasiness, perhaps representing the stubbornness of man.

In conclusion, if you are looking for a unique movie-going experience, check out Eggers’ latest film. In a cinematic landscape that embraces big and colorful filmmaking, Eggers’ singular vision is a breathe of fresh air. Quite frankly, I look forward to seeing Eggers’ future unfold. He’s one of the best filmmakers working in the business.

My Grade:  A

Dillon McCarty can be contacted at [email protected]

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