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The Lighthouse – Movie Review

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The Lighthouse – Movie Review

Rating: B+ (Very Good)

Trailer/Thumbnail Courtesy VVS Films

With The Witch, director Robert Eggers was able to pair horror with old pilgrim speak to create something a little different from the norm. His second directorial feature The Lighthouse jumps forward in time a bit, but we’re still stuck in the past. The result ultimately feels like an old-timey 19th century novel with sea speak and a pair of characters dealing with their own limitations. While the movie threatens to overstay its welcome a few times, Eggers nonetheless packs a punch with several scenes. He also captures some sensational performances from his two lead actors. The Lighthouse is certainly surreal, but not annoyingly so.

Most of the film is a showcase for Robert Pattinson and Willem Dafoe. Essentially a two-hander, watching them go head-to-head is a master class of acting. Pattinson portrays the needed intensity as an apprentice lighthouse keeper losing his mind with every passing day. There are a number of scenes where he is required to act with primarily his eyes and we sense the impatience slowly eating at him. Dafoe nails that old sea captain look and manner as we try to understand what his game is. Meanwhile, Eggers is able to get a pretty funny performance from a seagull who continually gets on Pattinson’s nerves.

The Lighthouse is surprisingly hilarious. In between its moments of horror and weirdness, Eggers fills the film with humour ranging from subtle to juvenile. He is able to get some laughs out of Dafoe farting, mainly because it serves an important element of his character and not merely for the sake of it. As the movie plays on, the two leads get more and more drunk and admittedly, this does get a little tiring after a while. There is only so long we can watch two drunkards get more tipsy. However, the surreal imagery eventually makes a return appearance and Eggers goes all out.

The credits acknowledge the debt Herman Melville has on the movie and one can certainly spot his influence. Even though The Lighthouse is an original idea, this story could have stood next to Moby Dick on the book shelf with the way Eggers writes dialogue. There’s a major effort to avoid any sort of anachronisms. The decision to shoot the film in black-and-white and with an Academy ratio leads to many stark images. Director of photography Jarin Blaschke’s cinematography takes full advantage of the Nova Scotia location. We really get the sense of how closed off these two are, thus making it understandable why Pattinson starts to lose control.

The Lighthouse is definitely an unusual film, but it’s nonetheless engaging for most of the runtime. A large credit goes to Robert Eggers’s visual eye and love for now extinct ways of speaking. However, Robert Pattinson and Willem Dafoe further elevate the material, bringing the needed ferocity these roles require. They allow an entryway into this strange and necessary job the characters have been assigned to. This is only Eggers’s second directorial feature and he has already established himself as a filmmaker to watch out for. He wants to give us a peek into another time and place and show us a different point-of-view than we’ve been shown in history books.

Stefan Ellison

Stefan Ellison