The Lighthouse

The Lighthouse ★★★½

As writer/director Robert Eggers of "The VVitch" was fond of saying in interviews, "Nothing good can happen when two men are trapped alone in a giant phallus."

Filmed in a black-and-white, narrow & boxy aspect ratio to convey its 1890s period and claustrophobic titular location, the simple premise belies a mature complexity buoyed by intense and hypnotic performances from Pattinson and especially Dafoe. The story is rather demanding of the viewer, expecting a keen ear to penetrate the accents - particularly the frequent ravings, attention to detail for catching brief flashes of exposition, and a bit more than layman's knowledge of Greek mythology. Even so, the great opportunities for delivery driven by these acting chops is outstanding. The occasional doses of dark, irreverent, yet still thematically appropriate humor are a welcome break-up of the dirge.

As solid as it is professionally, the film's not exactly an enjoyable tale, much like Shakespeare is historically profound, but impenetrably unreadable. The nihilism is only tolerable due to the fine skills of the two actors, and the intense dedication to the art of visualizing the timeframe in every way forces it into an arthouse niche reflected by its RottenTomatoes audience score (71/68) vs. the raves it's receiving from film buffs and critics. Clearly, this wasn't made to be consumed by the rabble, like me, and it shows.

But if you're feeling intellectual and open-minded, don't mind a sea shanty that's basically repetitious artsy allusions to men's inability to cope with bottled sexual desire, and a smattering of slippery suggestive Lovecraft, "The Lighthouse" is a supremely watchable two-man show for adults to consume during this appropriate season.

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