‘The Lighthouse’ shines

October 25, 2019

“The Lighthouse” is a new psychological thriller from Robert Eggers, director of the critically acclaimed indie horror film “The Witch” (or “The VVitch” as it is often stylized). The movie revolves around two lighthouse keepers, Ephraim Winslow (Robert Pattinson) and Thomas Wake (Willem Dafoe) who slowly but surely lose their minds on an isolated New England island. “The VVitch” was one of the first movies I watched when I was getting into horror, so I was excited to see what Eggers would do next behind-the-camera. Furthermore, I was lucky and fortunate enough to see a screening of “The Lighthouse” that was followed by a Q&A with Eggers. As for the movie itself, I was blown away.

First, I cannot stress enough how incredibly made this film is. Eggers shot the movie in black and white 35-mm film grain with a 1.19:1 aspect ratio, which adds to the unsettling atmosphere and makes the movie feel like a period piece. Even the lighting and shot composition give it an old-school look that is hard to put into words. This film is truly one of the best directed movies of the year because Eggers makes the audience feel tense and claustrophobic throughout. Some of the shots floored me. The production design also makes this setting feel tangible and lived in.

Additionally, the performances are terrific. I have not seen much of Pattinson’s work outside of some clips of “Twilight,” but he is excellent in the film. He starts out quiet and just wants to get his work out of the way. As the movie goes on, however, we learn more about him that makes us think twice about his character. My favorite from this film by far is Willem Dafoe as the old lighthouse keeper Thomas Wake. Whether he is barking orders or reciting sea shanties, this guy is so full of energy; he’s simply a joy to watch whenever he is on-screen. I would love if he was nominated for Best Supporting Actor at next year’s Oscars but that seems doubtful, considering the Academy’s stance on most genre films. Similar to “The VVitch,” Eggers knows how to direct animals—which in this case are seagulls. That is all I will say without going into spoilers.

Of course, I have to talk about the screenplay of “The Lighthouse,” which Robert Eggers co-wrote with his brother Max Eggers. Similar to “The VVitch,” this film moves at a slow pace, which bothered me at first. Then I realized the slow pace was deliberate because it emphasizes how difficult working as an assistant lighthouse keeper feels. Moreover, the movie throws images at its audience to make them question their sanity just as Winslow descends into madness. This film is also hilarious, which I found surprising since it’s from the same writer/director as “The VVitch.”
“The Lighthouse” is truly one of the best films of the year. The terrific performances and chilling atmosphere make this movie one to look out for. I can’t wait to see what Eggers directs next, which apparently is a movie about Vikings.

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