The Lighthouse Review
If you are willing to trudge through my writings back to the year 2016, you'll see that I gave "The Witch" and enthusiastically positive review. I still think its a great movie, a movie that helped revitalize the horror genre and put writer and director Robert Eggers on the radar. Now, I have finally seen "The Lighthouse," Eggers' sophomore effort.
As much as I loved "The Witch," I know it was a very divisive film. There are plenty of people that didn't like it, but it seems just as many did like it. It's pretty clear after seeing "The Lighthouse" that Robert Eggers is going to be a guy that doesn't offer up easy answers. So, I would highly recommend that if you didn't like "The Witch," you should just go ahead and skip "The Lighthouse." This is an adventurous and playful filmography Eggers is creating. Each film he makes is reeling with ambition. While I feel "The Lighthouse" was a hypnotic film, a brilliant film, I can't pretend all horror fans are going to have even remotely same experience as I did. As the lights turned up in my auditorium earlier today, I heard the familiar sighs and nervous laughs. These were the same sounds I heard once "The Witch" ended when I saw it for the first time. Lots of people don't really get what happened as the final images play out, hell I loved "The Lighthouse" and I'm not exactly sure what happened.
This is definitely going to be a film I am going to have to pull apart, something I will watch several times to find more clues. I know that isn't everyone's cup of tea. So if your adventurous a movie lover as I am, you should check this out. "The Lighthouse" is a big meal, which could have multiple meanings. Much like "The Witch," this is a movie where you question reality. Could the movie be apart two men growing mad as they work as lighthouse keepers on a remote island? Could the movie be a metaphor for toxic masculinity? Could the movie be a version of Greek myths? Could the movie be nod to the work by H.P. Lovecraft? Or could the movie be all of those combined? Most of what you see is up to you to interpret.
The movie focuses on Ephraim Winslow (Robert Pattinson) a new lighthouse wickie who works under Thomas Wake (Willem Dafoe). Wake has been working on this lighthouse for a very long time and seems fairly coo-coo when we Winslow first meets him. Winslow is a private man, a quiet man, a man that's just trying to do good work and earn respectable wages. He seems to be drifter, but Wake wonders if there is more to his story that Winslow isn't telling him.
That's definitely one of the movie's biggest themes, secrets. Wake never allows Winslow to take a shift watching from the lighthouse, and Winslow seems to believe there is something that keeps drawing Wake to the light. Their relationship begins to implode as Wake gives Winslow much to do and is often critical of his work ethic, while Winslow believes he doing good work. Again, Winslow is no saint either. He may not be who he says he is. This back-and-forth between Wake and Winslow is what drives the movie. It's the thematic meat of the movie. That's before all the weird stuff starts happening.
What kind of weird, you ask? Well, Winslow sees a mermaid in the water. He also sees a large tentacle coming from something at the top of the lighthouse. Much like "The Witch," we are left to wonder if Winslow is really seeing what he's seeing. Or is he dreaming? Or is he losing his mind working for a madman on a remote island, miles and miles from a shore? You're never really certain when we leave reality and exit to fantasy. You may just lose your own damn mind trying to make up your own on what's happening here.
I don't think I am going to delve any further in the story. This isn't a story where you lay all the cards out. Watch it yourself and you can deduce to me what you think might have happened. I will just say that Robert Pattinson is definitely ready to tackle Batman. I think he's got enough complexity and creativity in him to pull off the character. He definitely proves he can play somebody who is deranged enough to dress up like a bat and fight crime. Seriously, I think he's going to surprise plenty of naysayers in a couple of years. Willem Dafoe is Willem Dafoe, in the best possible way. When it comes to creepy characters, Dafoe is a National Treasure. He's got at least three scenes that feel instantly iconic. These two actors carry the whole movie, there are really no other characters, and they do impressive work with each other.
Telling cinematic stories in black-and-white is a lost cause these days. It seems like these days, black-and-white is used to illuminate something within the story its telling. "Dead Man" from 1995 was very much a story about how the American West was in its last leg, and there is a melancholy feeling to that movie that made the black-and-white appropriate. "Sin City" while stylized, is a tribute to the old film noirs of the 1940's, and feels appropriate for that film to not wholly be in color. "Nebraska" has some downer tones to it, even while you laugh out loud to it. As per "The Lighthouse," I think Eggers didn't choose to shoot in black-and-white simply at random. Its a movie that is built around secrets and lies, and I think the stark tone to the movie is more illuminated in the black-and-white. I am not sure if the movie would have worked as well in color. I think it only adds to the experience.
That's essentially what "The Lighthouse" is, an experience. I wouldn't say all horror movies make sense, because they don't necessarily have to. There are several movies that I am not sure have any sort of linear storytelling going on, but they deliver the scares, play out like nightmares. So I am forever impressed by them. "The Lighthouse" leaves plenty to chew on, and the more your willing to give yourself over to it, the more fun you are going to have. The thing is, you have to be ready to engage in the text exclusively, because this one doesn't offer up simple interpretation.
Much like I did with "The Witch," I may write a more spoiler-driven piece to see if I can tackle the meaning of the movie in clearer detail.
FINAL GRADE: A