Henry Rowlands’s review published on Letterboxd:
I'm still haunted by Robert Pattinson's distorted screams. I need professional help!
Its been three weeks since I've seen 'The Lighthouse' (I saw it on the 5th of October, and am writing this on the 25th of October, when it hits the States on wide release), and yet the spectre of it still hangs over me everyday. I was lucky enough to get two tickets for me and my friend to the Gala screening of the film at the Odeon Leister Square, and before the film began we got to walk to red carpet alongside Robert Eggers and Willem Dafoe. On entry we were almost flattened by a herd of passers by loudly claiming to be "with the Pattinsons'", however R-Bats himself never showed up. This years LFF was such a fun experience for me, and I feel very fortunate; I got to go to the 'Jojo Rabbit' premiere and be under the same roof as Taika Waititi, I met and shook hands with Armando Iannucci in passing, and yes I was mere feet away from Mr Willem Dafoe on the red carpet. He was in a pretty wild mood, and acknowledged our presence when my friend shouted a friendly "I'm something of a scientist myself" his way. But this is all just pre-ample. What did I actually make of 'The Lighthouse'. It was my most anticipated film of the year, the trailers drove me into wild anticipation, even though I still haven't seen 'The VVitch' (to give it its correct title). I was on such a high after the beautiful ending of 'Jojo Rabbit' (fuck the critics, its great!), that just before seeing Eggers's mad concoction, I was worried it would spoil the mood with some dastardly mind-fuckery. And oh jesus of course it did.
I really don't say mind-fuckery lightly. This movie gave me like 6 panic attacks. It properly attacked me psychologically like no other film has done ever; it was an insane experience. Utterly insane. And naturally I mean all of this in a good way. For me, 'The Lighthouse' is basically like a Harold Pinter play meets horror, with Dafoe and Pattison's interplay, and dialogue beats being very reminiscent of the Pinter I've read or seen on film ('The Caretaker' is a great film, highly recommended). They are such fantastically rich characters, and Thomas and Winslow are constantly spiralling through jagged, conflicting emotions - splintering off each other in their hard grudges and isolated camaraderie. Their fluctuating relationship (from deathly bitterness, to drunken merry-making), their contrast of character, and their bubbling anger at one another is a spectacle to behold. As Chris Stuckmann rightly put in his recent review of it, the power struggle of such confined toxic masculinity is a fierce battle, with Winslow in particular wanting to get one up on Thomas, driven by temptation and lust, and by his want to upstage the authority that the old wicky possesses. What delighted me was how funny the film was, and Dafoe has a lot of great moments. He is fantastic as the grisly sea-dog, a mysterious figure who is hiding something from Winslow. Its a great physical performance, and Dafoe gives it his absolute all. However, its Robert Pattinson's phenomenal turn that I want to trumpet the most. I've heard from many people over the last few years that Robert Pattinson is now a great actor. Having not seen 'Good Time' or 'High Life' I simply took peoples' word for it. But now I finally understand. Wow he's moved on since Cedric Diggory! Fucking hell. This.... this is probably the best performance I've seen all year. I want Pattinson to get an Oscar nomination for this. One of my favourite types of horror films is when a well-intentioned character arrives at a confined place (usually a house, in this case a lighthouse in the middle of the sea), who becomes intoxicated in his own insanity by the presence of others and the horrors he perceives. I'm probably reaching here, but this mental decline of Winslow was reminiscent to stuff like 'The Haunting' or 'The Innocents'; and in terms of quality it is definitely on a par with those, which is high praise from me indeed. And that fucking accent - it's baffling how that manages to work so well, but it really does!
I'd say it was a horror film, but not in your typical sense of the word. I doesn't delve in genre tropes, but theres bits that scared the living daylights out of me. SPOILERS: There's constantly scenes of Pattinson hallucinating these bizarre, horrific visions, and at one moment he walks over to a figure crouching on the lighthouse, turns him over, and stares down into the face of his double. I leapt out of my skin! END OF SPOILERS.
The kind of imagery that Eggers conjures up is unique. The cinematography is just superlative... theres a lot of H.P Lovercraftian stuff in there, and the thunderous presence of the sea - in many ways - keeps a tight grip over the film. Theres so much to talk about in terms of the film's look (that sweet aspect ratio!!!), but I won't give away anymore. I saw it on a huge screen, and thats the way I recommend this. And its additionally important to comment on the score, which *insert booming foghorn noise here* was terrific, and did so much when hand in hand with the narrative, as it mirrors the brutality, and downright hysteria of whats unfolding on that desolate rock.
I don't know if I'd say, like many, that the movie is perfect. It's not, or at least it wasn't for me on the first time. I don't think theres any flaws, its just that occasionally some of the searing, crashing Pinter of terror craziness, that was beating me over the head again and again more aggressively then Robert Pattinson's shed masturbation, became slightly problematic. But Eggers is a genius. A ruddy genius for making this. It is, in every sense of the word, a masterwork. And I'm sure this will long be remembered as an iconic piece of art. This review has not done it justice, but then again its a hard one to review without just saying "FUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUCK".
I want to fully spill my beans, but that would take too much time. Spooky, thrilling, compelling, demanding, and like a personal attack on all the senses. This is a cinephile fever-dream; but call it pretentious and I'll beat you up. Enjoy
I know this review was basically just me saying 'Its insane' over and over again. But it is. You'll understand.