How did I miss out on this one?
As someone who watches a lot of abject garbage, my viewing habits tend to push actually good movies off to the side until I go back to visit them a few years down the line. The Lighthouse has been on my Amazon watchlist pretty much since the film became available, and I have to feel bad for Robert Pattinson who in my anecdotal experience still hasn’t shaken the branding of Twilight. Pattinson is up there with Nicolas Cage in actors who get branded as talentless by people who saw a crappy movie they were in 10+ years ago and never got over it. And yes, Cage still stars in as many crappy movies as he does fantastic.
The Lighthouse is a great movie to show someone who assumes Robert Pattinson can’t act. Directed by Robert Eggers, The Lighthouse tells the story of two men in 19th century New England who set out to work as lighthouse keepers on an island off the shore. Ephraim Winslow (Robert Pattinson) is working under Thomas Wake (Willem Dafoe). Will the two be able to stand a full month in isolation on the island, as Wake becomes increasingly demanding and erratic? Or will the two just murder each other as their insanity takes hold? Only time will tell.
Director Eggers gave himself the odd and rather arduous task of adapting a short story that Edgar Allen Poe had not just left unfinished, but barely started at the time of his death. The film itself was shot on a format that hasn’t been used since the early 1930s, and is presented in stunning black and white tones. The combined effects lead to a movie that feels very dreary and hopeless, not to mention cramped and uncomfortable. We watch as Winslow endures Wake’s constant attempts to break his spirit through backbreaking work and insane demands, knowing that as his boss Wake has complete control over Winslow’s pay.
Both Pattinson and Dafoe are fantastic in their roles, being effectively the only two characters in the whole movie if you don’t count the lighthouse itself. The plot burns slowly as both men and eventually the audience desperately try to wait it out until their ship comes to relieve them of duty. It’s a filthy, disgusting movie with barely any lighting in many spots (and most of that lighting by candle), and it’s a movie full of monologues, fights, and two men suffering in the dreary loneliness of a lighthouse. A film that engrosses the audience in the character’s nightmares, and you can almost smell the stench of bad hygiene and ocean wafting through the television.
In short, The Lighthouse is not a happy film. The Lighthouse is in the same league as films like Lamb, where you sit there once the credits start rolling and digest what you just saw. It’s a nightmare within a dream world that wasn’t already happy to begin with. But it keeps you engrossed and curious throughout the whole film. What is Wake doing up in the lighthouse? Why doesn’t he allow Winslow to go up there? What are both men running from that brought them to the lighthouse?
There is a ton of symbolism and allegories to deconstruct with The Lighthouse, giving film theorists a literal ocean of ideas to play with. But ultimately it is a fantastic movie.