The Lighthouse is the second movie written and directed by Robert Eggers prior to his first film, The VVitch in 2015. Although, this film is a little different. The movie is about two lighthouse keepers, Robert Pattinson and Willem Dafoe, being sent to live on a mysterious island, operate a lighthouse, and try their hardest to maintain their sanity in the 1890s New England. The film tells the story of death, isolation, and madness. Taking a desolate trip into the heart of human darkness, Eggers used 35mm black and white film and used a 1920s-Esque square aspect ratio to capture the cramped interior of the Lighthouse and seclusion of the island.
The movie itself is hypnotic, captivating, grim and to put it simply, absolutely bonkers. Its cinematography is absolutely gorgeous. The soundtrack is composed of eerie ominous orchestra music with the occasion of the loud horn of the lighthouse and extreme thunder of the storm that’s holding them captive. It’s not for the faint of heart, however, as the movie consists of very “salty” language (which seems appropriate for sailors), graphic nudity, and violence towards animals.
The Lighthouse really dives into classic sailor myths and superstition of King Neptune and Davy Jones’ Locker, expressed so valiantly and authentic by Willem Dafoe’s insane mannerisms and spot-on accent. The two actors’ riveting and extreme roles are perhaps the best performances one would see this year, and perhaps will be the best in the Pattinson’s and Dafoe’s career so far. Dafoe’s portrayal of the average, crazy sailor and keeper of the lighthouse are immersive. Spouting constant profanity, sailor terminology, screaming the tall tales of the sea, and not giving the common need for personal hygiene or decency a single thought. Robert Pattison on the other hand, is Dafoe’s counterpart, knowing nothing of the sea’s infamous myths and legends. He never takes the rules of the sailor seriously, causing bad luck for both himself and his partner. Pattinson’s character is the outsider. He starts off as reserved, with very little to say, but constantly develops over the course of the movie, slowly driven to pure insanity to spout every little thing he has on his mind. He is constantly pushed to finally lash out his anger and hatred against his partner.
There is an interesting ebb and flow to their relationship in the movie as if discussing, can men, or at least heterosexual men, truly be so intimate with each other? As the men become more intimate during their time cloistered on this island, they push each other away, perhaps by sheer masculinity, only to revisit a need for human connection yet again. Director Eggers also wanted people to see his movie to be given a chance to be taught to “laugh at misery” and “give it some levity”, something his previous film lacked. This film is a shining example of how a movie can impact an individual, even when made with modest and financial resources whilst calling back to the classic past of film aesthetics as a whole.