The Lighthouse

The Lighthouse ★★★★

I had no idea what I was getting into with this one....
Someone else suggested this was a strange love child of Bergman and Lynch, I was thinking early Cronenberg and Fritz Lang. The almost square aspect ratio and use of silent-film camera placement techniques, especially in the first half of the film, along with the lack of dialogue at the beginning, reminds me of some 1920s greats. 

This movie is certainly not for everyone, but features two performances which are unlikely to be bettered this year. Pattison has the less crazy accent to deal with, but the vocal work, emotional strength and deep physicality of both actors is on an incredible display here. 

The movie is filled with distinctive Black and White images, often with evocative shadows. (So many shadows! Often a fairly noticeable percentage of the frame is essentially black.) At the same time the environment is incredibly detailed, from the US lighthouse Establishment insignia on machinery to the various tools depicted.

We start with a seemingly empty grey frame, that gradually mellows to show our lighthouse. We are on the boat, but unlike most boats that are meant to steer away from the Lighthouse, we are going straight for it. 

It is hard to describe the story in any detail, as several aspects are fairly ambiguous and as the movie gathers steam, increasingly insane. But the ominous mood, helped out by the dark semi-musical score and inventive sound editing, is there from the very beginning.  

Mother! Was another kind of film where an odd situation gets turned into a complete nuthouse by the end. But since the Lighthouse is glued to a real and realistic environment, we are tied into the action.
Are there supernatural things going on? Is the senior light keeper deliberately making the younger one go crazy, does the younger one really want to get rid of the older one just so he can see what is at the top of the Lighthouse for himself? There are a number of possible scenarios that go through your mind while watching, and one smart thing about the script is as the movie ratchets up the action, you don’t automatically start deleting many of the possibilities from your inventory. 

One thing that didn’t gel for me, is that right after the quite striking final sequence, with not even really enough time to take it in, the credits start, complete with jaunty song. The effect is not quite as jarring and obnoxious as it was in “Buried” but I still wasn’t a fan. 

There is a lot in this movie; and I don’t doubt it would reward multiple viewings. Even to get more of a handle on the history directly and indirectly referenced, and the poetry and mythology will certainly be useful. 

This is a creative, visually and sonically striking film anchored by bravura virtuoso acting performances.

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