Review- The Lighthouse
“Why’d you spill yer beans?”
The Lighthouse is a film that immediately captures audiences intrigue and keeps them searching for answers that become more elusive as time goes on. Once again director Robert Eggers has crafted a piece of cinema that wraps up all plot points neatly but will keep people chatting and exchanging theories for hours after the credits roll. For those familiar with Eggers's work on The Witch, expect that, and more with this, Eggers latest picture.
It is clear to see why Jarin Blaschke the film's cinematographer has been nominated for an Academy Award when every single frame of the picture is capable of standing out as a singular piece of artwork. Each shot is composed perfectly to communicate not only what is immediately present to the eye, but what is lurking just out of sight and mind. This can be seen especially with the vast amount of wide shots of the Lighthouse looming over Robert Pattinson’s character- Thomas Howard.
Robert Pattinson and Willem Dafoe’s performances are nothing short of stellar and gripping. With the pair’s relationship leaping from standoff moments to embraces of brotherhood. Dafoe’s performance is by far the standout of the film with his character Thomas Wake. His performance demands recognition by presenting a man obsessed with his love for the light, in contrast to Howard who is obsessed with his past and the need for honest work. As for Pattinson, it is clear to see that he is more than just the sparkling vampire presented to mainstream audiences in the Twilight series. Instead, he proves that he does indeed have the acting capability to hang with the best of them, and I would recommend to anyone who is questioning his acting ability to reconsider after a viewing of this film.
With the story being driven forward from Thomas Howard’s point of view, as time lingers forward the idea of an “unreliable narrator” is placed squarely at the forefront of events. Abstract sequences are almost as straight forward as the most mainstream linear stories, forcing audiences to reassess their opinion of who they can trust and is there really something larger at play at the Lighthouse? This is especially noticeable in the scene where Howard evades an axe-wielding Wake, yet when face to face Wake reveals it was in fact Thomas Howard who was in pursuit with an axe. This isn’t the only time where Wake’s retelling of events deliberately contradicts what audiences have been shown from following Howard as the protagonist.
Besides the performances of the film being a guiding force of audience’s emotional state during the piece, the film makes use of not only its sound design provided by Mariusz Glabinski but also non-diegetic sound with returning composer Mark Korven who worked with Egger on The Witch. In certain instances, musical and sound cues in movies can be seen as cheap ways to elicit an emotional response from audiences, the Lighthouse’s use of music doesn’t so much as elicit the emotional response of a scene but instead works to create and unrest and suspicion regarding what is being shown on screen. For example at the beginning of the film there isn’t a line of dialogue uttered until both men sit down for dinner together in the evening, up until this point sound and music are used to perfectly communicate the eeriness of a dark and dingy night alone on a rock in the middle of the ocean as the screeching of gulls and waves crashing against the rocks is a constant.
At the climax of the film there is a title card presented informing audiences that a large portion of the film is inspired from the journals of real lighthouse keepers, this again shows how superb of a writer and director Robert Eggers is showing how serious the development and research of the project is to him. This is not only evident by his previous work on The Witch but by how seamless the dialogue is between Thomas Howard and Thomas Wake, with each being so different from the other. Dafoe’s Wake speaks with all the colloquialisms as a sailor man giving us the nautical setting and the history his character has. Pattinson’s Tomas Howard excellently contrasts this with his North American accent, with his words being clear in contrast with the old sea captain.
Given its runtime of one hour and fifty minutes, the Lighthouse is a film that forces those in attendance to think about the events and images they have been presented with, rather than wrapping its conclusion up in a conventional manner.
It dares to try something unique and new in the horror genre. A genre that has fallen victim to rinsing and repeating what is popular with audiences, until said trend runs its course too soon. And while most of the mainstream audiences will undoubtedly miss this astounding piece of cinema, those who are aware of its glamour will be eagerly awaiting Eggers next project.