I love this movie so much, I don’t know where to begin. I knew I wanted to see when I first heard about it but I had no idea the impact it would have once I took my seat. I’ll do my best to explain.
Directed by Robert Eggers and written by Max Eggers & Robert Eggers, The Lighthouse tells the tale of two lighthouse keepers while care-taking the lighthouse over the course of several weeks. Set in the 1890’s, the language is straight up Herman Melville style, which I LOVE; filmed in black & white, which I LOVE; and chock full of insanity, mental stability, and desperation for human connection, which I LOVE.
From the opening shots, I knew I was in love. The early scene with the canoe instantly reminded me of the silhouette style from Night of the Hunter (one of my top b & w favorites) combined with a depth of 3-D without the glasses. I was mesmerized by the angles, shadows, and light which brought the third true character of the film to life–the lighthouse itself. The unforgiving shelter, the endless need for love and care, and the mystery of the light demand everything from it’s keepers and promises nothing. Willam Dafoe is Thomas Wake, the senior lighthouse keeper. A man with stories and lore, a bit of a drinking problem, and a steadfast loyalty to HIS light. A force not to be beat. It’s like he time-traveled to be this character. Plucked off a rock and set down as Thomas Wake. Robert Pattinson is Ephraim Winslow, the younger keeper who pays his dues in spades working under the direction of Thomas. Winslow is a sweet, hard-working man, who has been through some stuff in his life and just wants to make some money so he can settle down. Pattinson is on a roll with his recent turns as gritty, ugly, and questionable characters. (See: The Rover.)
Dafoe and Pattinson have turned in some of their best acting to date. Eggers plunking them onto a Lighthouse rock in the middle of the ocean with horrible weather in order to shoot this story probably had something to do with it…but I venture to say, it is the story of two men living isolated for weeks on end, limited provisions, hallucinations and delusions born from this isolation, and the language had more to do with it.
There are moments in this film which require the set up of a shot so precisely to capture the confines of the space as well as classic black and white layers of emotion and conflict. The booming of the house got under my skin. The square ratio of the picture becomes unnoticeable after a bit which Robert Eggers has explained it was meant to show how confined the spaces was. I watched this in an art house cinema which had roughly 25-30 seats in a small room with a medium size screen. I felt like I was sitting on a rock or in the corner of the room while the story unfolded.
There’s a violence to this film, of course, it’s meant to be a ghost story of sorts; however, the violence is in perfect ratio to what is going on with each character as the story unfolds. There are also some interesting hallucinations. I won’t mention them in case you haven’t heard; but they feel like personal hallucinations at times. What I mean is, when the moment starts, as it unfolds, I was realizing it as a hallucination at the same time as the character. It wasn’t a given. When the conversation gets turned around, I found my self thinking-wait. What did he say? Didn’t he just say the opposite? I was fully engulfed in this story, the film, the acting, the way it was shot. It’s a best picture film for me. One I will own, watch over and over, and study. Watch the trailer below: