The Lighthouse

The Lighthouse ★★★★

I just revisited Moby Dick last month via an excellent audiobook narrated by Anthony Heald, and had watched three B&W films in 1.19:1 ratio by Murnau in the past week, so I felt particularly primed when the curtains opened on The Lighthouse. While the aspect ratio and texture of the photography brought to mind those silent films, I was quickly struck by the sound of The Lighthouse, which makes an immediate impact, and heralds the oppressive and punishing tone. But there is humor, even in seeing Willem Dafoe's face 20-30 feet tall in close-up, reciting Mellvile inflected soliloquies, and certainly in Robert Pattinson at the breaking point from Dafoe's farts, wailing in some bizarre hybrid Massachusetts townie accent (Good Will Farting?). While Lovecraftian cosmic horror is evoked (I managed to resist calling out loud "We have tentacles!" at one point), it also brought to mind the earlier weird fiction of Algernon Blackwood's The Willows, though ultimately I felt this aspect was slightly underdeveloped, and the supernatural element is relatively minimal.

As far as "Black and White Movie(s) in a Stupid Aspect Ratio" go, perhaps more Dreyer's Vampyr than Murnau's Faust in terms of narrative clarity, but a wonder to behold, and really a wonder that it exists in today's film ecosystem. Really glad I got to see it on a big screen in a proper theater.

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