The Lighthouse

The Lighthouse ★★★★½

Rotten Tomatoes: 90%
Metacritic Metascore: 83
IMDB: 7.7


Distributor: A24
Budget: $4M
Worldwide Gross: $18.6M
OSCAR Nominations: 1
Total Film Awards: 29

Redbox Ranked
2019 Ranked

Thomas Wake: "Should pale death, with treble dread, make the ocean caves our bed, God who hears the surges roll deign to save our suppliant soul."

SYNOPSIS: Two lighthouse keepers try to maintain their sanity whilst living on a remote and mysterious New England island in the 1890s.

Robert Pattinson has officially shed his Twilight 'hunk' label that had cast a huge shadow over his career for the betterment of the last decade following the massive worldwide success of the Twilight franchise. Like Leo DiCaprio following Titanic's massive success in 97, I was unsure if Pattinson would ever be able to shed that label, but also like Leo following his roles in 'The Departed', 'Gangs of New York' and Blood Diamond, Robbie has officially moved forward in his career unlike his Twilight costar Taylor Lautner and began to evolve as an actor. Recent roles in films like Good Time, High Life and being cast as the next Batman along with a starring role in superstar director Christopher Nolan's next blockbuster only reaffirm that fact. Good for you, Robbie.

TRIVIA: The story is very loosely based on a real-life tragedy from 1801 (called "The Smalls Lighthouse Tragedy"), in which two Welsh lighthouse keepers, both named Thomas, became trapped on their lighthouse station during a storm. When one man died, it is said to have driven the other mad. Other influences were seafaring literary classics by authors Herman Melville, Robert Louis Stevenson, and the supernaturally tinged cosmic horror tales of H.P. Lovecraft, as well as Algernon Blackwood.

The first thing that jumps out at you in The Lighthouse is the aesthetic. The importance of Damian Volpe's incredible sound design is indicated immediately, as before we see anything, we hear the wind blowing and a foghorn rumbling in the distance. That horn is omnipresent throughout the film, and to say it gets under your skin is an understatement. It's unsettling, it's disturbing, and it makes it impossible to ever really acclimate yourself to this strange, claustrophobic nightmare. There's only one sequence in which we don't hear the foghorn, the pivotal opening scene of the third act, and the silence is oppressive - it's one of those instances where you don't realize how loud something was until it suddenly goes quiet and you're left with a ringing in your ears.

TRIVIA: The scene where Willem Dafoe's character gives the sea curse to Robert Pattinson's character because he doesn't like his cooked lobster was shot in one single take. According to director Robert Eggers, Dafoe didn't blink for over two minutes.

The sound design is matched by the stunning visuals. Working with cinematographer Jarin Blaschke, who also photographed The Witch, Eggers shot The Lighthouse on 35mm black & white celluloid in the relatively unheard format of 1.19:1. This ratio was a transitional format that was only used briefly during the shift from silent cinema to sound (1926-1932). And that's exactly why Eggers and Blaschke chose it. Yes, they do match form to content as the nearly square format traps the characters within the frame. Beyond that, however, this is a folktale, a fable from a by-gone age, so what better way to present that fable than by replicating the way the film would have looked had it been made during the early years of sound filmmaking? At the same time, although shot with modern cameras, Blaschke used period-specific Baltar lenses and an off-cyan filter to more accurately emulate the look of late 19th-century photography.

DIRECTOR: Robert Eggers
WRITERS: Robert Eggers, Max Eggers
FILMING LOCATIONS: Cape Forchu, Nova Scotia - Canada

The story is one of madness, and it's abundantly clear that neither man is a reliable witness, so everything filtered through their perspective (i.e. the whole film) could be tainted or unreliable. As things begin to fall apart, this sense becomes ever more prevalent - for example, in an important scene near the end, we see Wake do something, and in the next scene, when Winslow confronts him about it, a confused Wake points out it was actually Winslow who did it. Is Wake lying? Is Winslow projecting his own actions onto his companion? Who exactly is misleading who here? It's a wonderful use of a defamiliarising technique that works to keep the audience constantly on edge and constantly second-guessing everything they see. I nearly got sick a couple of times while viewing it due to the claustrophobic induced paranoia that Eggers put me in while being trapped on that island.

TRIVIA: Willem Dafoe and Robert Pattinson stated that they barely spoke a word to each other on set and were too exhausted to hang out together after a day of shooting because filming was so physically demanding due to the miserable weather conditions. While Pattinson stayed at a normal hotel with the rest of the film crew during the shot, Dafoe lived in a little fisherman cottage in solitude. On set, on the other hand, Pattinson would tend to eat and stay by himself in filming breaks, while Dafoe stayed with the crew. Both stated that they liked each other very much as soon as they had their first real conversation a few months later.

Willem Dafoe and Robert Pattison are absolutely spectacular and deserve every amount of praise they have received. The one regret that I have is not being able to see this in theaters.

The Lighthouse definitely isn't for everyone and is challenging and rewarding in equal measure. Personally, I loved every crazy minute of it. There's a lot that has gone into making this film what it is, both in terms of crafting the story and in the more mechanical sense of putting the finished film together - it's an aesthetic marvel in pretty much every way. Thick with mood and atmosphere, The Lighthouse proves that The Witch was no fluke.

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Fact-Checking / TRIVIA Source: IMDb

Stay safe my friends.

Directing - 4.5/5
Screenplay - 4/5
Editing - 5/5
Prod Design - 5/5
Cinematography - 5/5
Acting - 5/5
Pacing - 4/5
Sound - 4.5/5
Enjoyment rating - 9/10

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