Robert Eggers shocked the movie going public in 2015 with his first feature film, The Witch. It told the story of a family accused of witchcraft in the 1630’s that are excommunicated from their New England community. They take up residence in an abandoned farm house which sits at the edge of the forest that may or may not have some evil inhabitants that plague the family. The Witch was a terrifying film, filled with excellent performances and a script written in the old Elizabethan English and spoken as such, too. It was not for everyone and I remember several people walking out of that film because it was rather jarring in, not only its subject matter but the dialect in which the script was spoken.
Now, comes The Lighthouse with Willem Dafoe and Robert Pattinson as two lighthouse keepers who have arrived to care for the island that sits off of the northern east coast of New England in the 1890’s. Dafoe’s Thomas Wake is a disgusting man taken to drink excessively and be rather unhygienic and obnoxious. Pattinson’s Ephriam Winslow is a quiet and somber fellow looking to escape from the rest of the world. Both men have secrets in their past, unbeknownst to each other at the beginning of the film, but will be revealed towards the last half of the film.
Let me state that if you did not like The Witch, you will probably not like The Lighthouse. It is told in the same manner of storytelling as The Witch. The dialogue is spoken in the same manner as The Witch so it will frustrate viewers. However, if you can get past that, The Lighthouse is a creepy, psychedelic and truly bizarre film that I enjoyed. The performances are outstanding and Robert Pattinson gives the best performance of his career. That may not be saying much, up to this point, anyway, But I have always believed he is a much better actor than some of his previous roles have indicated. Dafoe, who has never given a bad performance, is excellent as well.
The keywords for The Lighthouse as well as The Witch is all about mood and tone. These films cover several genres from fantasy to drama and horror. Whereas, The Witch was more of a horror film, The Lighthouse is a psychological “thriller” with a little less horror. Regardless, The Lighthouse is a truly a bizarre and gutsy film that relies on the audience to stick with it. Shot entirely in black and white with a 4:3 ratio for the big screen, the film looks terrific. Acid washed, grainy and dirty The Lighthouse still has a big screen feel to it.
As for the story of The Lighthouse, it is pretty simple. A storm delays the character pickup from the island and as their supplies run low so does their sanity. Strange occurrences abound, secrets are revealed and madness ensues. But there is still more to this film than I am revealing. It is a slow burning film that requires patience. Since most films today have everything thrown at the viewers, it is refreshing to get a film that treats the audience with respect to our intelligence. Director Robert Eggers hits just the right tone and his real life brother, Max Eggers has penned an smart script that touches a lot of different bases. Mark Korven also has delivered a truly odd but satisfying score that is sprinkled with old English seafaring songs. It all works.
There are some surprisingly humorous scenes, too that garnered some big laughs for me but nothing seems out of place or forced in The Lighthouse. This is a solid film from start to finish. It is something very different from the mainstream releases of today. In fact, I was quite stunned it played at my local theater. Usually these art house films play across town and for a week only. Regardless, like Joker, these are films we are starved for when compared to the assembly line films that Hollywood seems to churn out on a regular basis. They are different and not for everyone, however, if different is what you want then I recommend The Lighthouse. Stick with it and give it a chance.
The Lighthouse – ****3/4 out of 5
The Lighthouse – Rated R for some language, nudity, violence and frightening images
The Lighthouse – Run time is 109 minutes with no post credit scenes
The Lighthouse is now playing in theaters. Check your local listings for times and locations nearest you.