The Lighthouse

The Lighthouse ★★★★★

The Lighthouse. 2019. Directed by Robert Eggers.

The Lighthouse (2019) is a story book approach to folk horror storytelling by Robert Eggers. 19th Century Lighthouse lore of northeastern United States and Western Europe is a major element that serves as inspiration for this instant classic. It plays like a combination of many of our favorite films including, Alfred Hitchcock’s The Birds (1963) David Lynch’s Lost Highway (1997),  John Houston’s The Misfits (1961), and Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining (1980). With the aforementioned movies in mind, one can get an idea of the grandiose scope and high calibre filmmaking/storytelling that Robert Eggers conjures up in The Lighthouse. There was no way around including classic literature, legends, and first hand diaries including marine storytelling from the time period. In fact, Eggers had a source material disclaimer near the end of the credits that stated, “The dialogue was inspired by and drawn from various period sources from Herman Melville to real life lighthouse keepers’s journals, and especially the work of Sarah Orne Jewett.”

Once the aforementioned ingredients were mixed with Robert Pattinson (Thomas Howard/Ephraim Winslow) and Willem Defoe (Thomas Wake) and put in a lighthouse in Maine in the 1890’s for four weeks, the outcome of the social experiment is electrifyingly wet, claustrophobic, violent, with some lovingly drunk scenes. In the beginning, Defoe is barking orders at Pattinson like a Marine Core drill Sergeant who has zero mercy. Pattinson’s character at first is a bit skeptical but goes along with this hazing. Then, as conditions go from bad to worse he is seriously hallucinating and considering killing Defoe. This film is all about these two characters. However, there is a mermaid/siren played by Valeriia Karaman. She is a wet sultry, seductive siren who lures Pattinson into a sensual love making scene on the rocks as water crash all around them. We see this as a flashback while he masterbates to a scrimshaw (whale bone carved) miniature mermaid. This style of storytelling is stellar and the stars are definitely crossed for all the characters concerned.

The cinematography was Oscar nominated and the DP was Jarin Blaschke (a regular of Eggers who filmed The Witch and The Northman). The composer (Mark Korven) and the “sound department” were so perfectly dialed into the scenes that all doubt was dispelled. We were tossed into this nightmarish four week marathon in the lighthouse yet enlightened when we left. The composition and sounds were so convincing that we were jumping occasionally and found ourselves on the edge of the couch more than once. The Lighthouse is another Eggers masterpiece. We have yet to see a bad film by this brilliant auteur. Every time we see one his films we say to each other, “He will have an Oscar or a Cannes Palm d’Or soon.” 

The choice to shoot in black in white added to the eerie nature and made the characters pop. In other words, if the film were shot in color, it would have lacked the gravitas. We do not want to go into the amazing dialogue that Defoe spills out like the professional actor he is but, it is so brilliant. It is like hearing Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s “The Rhyme of the Ancient Mariner” read aloud in bits and pieces in one’s favorite movie. This should have garnered multiple nominations in all the pertinent categories especially Best Original Screenplay. But, Eggers was not so fortunate. One day he will succeed. 

DNA A24 Marathon.

Purchased on AppleTV.

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