Time: 109 Minutes
Willem Dafoe as Thomas Wake
Robert Pattinson Ephraim Winslow
Director: Robert Eggers
Two lighthouse keepers (Willem Dafoe and Robert Pattinson) try to maintain their sanity while living on a remote and mysterious New England island in the 1890s.
The Lighthouse was one of my most anticipated films of 2019. The Witch is one of the best horror movies of recent years, and so I was naturally interested in whatever writer/director Robert Eggers would do next. While I didn’t know too much about his next movie outside of the initial brief premise, his involvement along with the leads of Willem Dafoe and Robert Pattinson had me intrigued. I only grew more interested in the movie as trailers came out, hinting at a dark and bizarre little horror movie. Having finally seen it, I’m glad to say that The Lighthouse is yet another excellent film from Eggers, and one of the best from this year.
At an hour and 50 minutes, The Lighthouse just entrances you from start to finish, even when early on it’s a little slow until it reaches a certain point. Even with the slow pacing, I was fully invested. The dialogue is very well written and authentic to the time period. This movie is also surprisingly darkly hilarious at many points, I didn’t expect it to be as funny as it was. It’s actually hard to pin down this movie to just a single genre, it’s a horror, a comedy, a thriller, and more. There’s a lot of things in this movie in depth that can be analysed, the most obvious being power, masculinity, and most likely religious and folklore subtext. It’s a very weird movie, and it’s very likely not one that would work for everyone. It’s a very cold movie too, and you don’t get emotionally invested with these characters, both of them aren’t likable at all, however I still liked it as that kind of movie. The last 5-10 minutes of the movie is something that I’m going to be thinking about for some time.
The cast are very limited, it’s pretty much the duo of Willem Dafoe and Robert Pattinson, and both of them give some of the best performances of the year. Willem Dafoe has always been giving some excellent performances (especially recently) but even his work here is a standout in his career. He completely embodies this character, especially with his old fashioned dialogue, and his delivery of them, with a Captain Ahab like accent. One thing that does benefit from watching not in theatres admittedly is that you can actually have subtitles so you can see he’s saying. He has so many moments to chew the scenery and show off. Robert Pattinson is equally impressive, and shouldn’t be overlooked. He’s not immediately as standout in the beginning, mainly because he’s placed right next to Dafoe, who was giving a much more flashy performance. However as the movie progresses, and his character becomes more mad over time, he reaches such a range of emotions over the course of the film. I didn’t think that Pattinson would be able to top what he did in Good Time, but he did that here, and I strongly believe that this is a career best performance from him. The two of them play off each other excellently, constantly getting on each other’s nerves as they grow insane together.
Robert Eggers’s direction is fantastic once again, and this is quite a different movie from The Witch, even though both are period horror movies. The cinematography is absolutely outstanding. If you can watch it in the cinema, definitely do, I can only imagine it would’ve been an incredible experience. There are so many unforgettable and haunting imagery in this movie, that’s still burned into my memory. The Lighthouse was shot on black and white 35mm film, with an almost square aspect ratio, similar to that of older movies. You can actually see this movie coming out over 6 decades ago. I can’t imagine The Lighthouse working as well if it wasn’t shot like this. The locations and production design are great too, everything on that island, even the lighthouse, in the movie was actually built, and it all really feels authentic. The Lighthouse has such a dark atmosphere throughout, and I loved that. The score by Mark Korven is also great, fitting the rest of the movie so well.
The Lighthouse is one of my favourite films of the year. Robert Eggers’s direction and writing are phenomenal, it was darkly atmospheric, and the performances of Robert Pattinson and Willem Dafoe are outstanding. It’s not for everyone, but you’ve seen the trailers and it looks like something that you’ll like, see it as soon as possible. It’s a film that I’m looking forward to revisiting again and again. Robert Eggers is easily becoming one of my favourite up and coming filmmakers working today.