Two lighthouse keepers try to maintain their sanity whilst living on a remote and mysterious New England island in the 1890s.
‘Nothing good happens when two men are left alone in a giant phallus’ was a comedic quote from director Robert Eggers about his latest film ‘The Lighthouse’, which sets out to prove that statement to be correct throughout the runtime of this movie. Set in the late 19th century, the film follows two wickies who arrive on a remote island to take over the running of the lighthouse for a four week period. When a storm strands them on the island for longer than expected and food supplies run short, the men find themselves heading towards insanity as their isolation hits home. It’s a visceral, gripping cinematic experience, enhanced by the stunning performances and the black and white cinematography that gives it a grainy, old fashioned feel.
The two men may both be wickies, but they’re very different in most respects and they don’t exactly get along. Thomas Wake (Willem Dafoe) is older, experienced and irritable, whereas Ephraim Winslow (Robert Pattinson) is akin to an apprentice, regularly demeaned by Wake who has no interest in helping out with the grunt work. As time goes on they build some kind of rapport, yet their relationship still alternates wildly between friendship and antagonistic, with these swings becoming more pronounced as the food supplies run low and more time is spent drinking. Both Dafoe and Pattinson are mesmerising, and really sell the more surreal aspects of the screenplay. Eggers previous film, ‘The Witch’, was widely acclaimed, but I really disliked it, and yet ‘The Lighthouse’ was a much more rewarding experience for me, despite sharing many of the same elements as the former film.
There are several scares, but it’s the psychological elements that are most interesting, and I was really invested in how these two men started to unravel amidst their conditions. From a purely filmmaking perspective ‘The Lighthouse’ is an absolute treat, from the incredible use of lighting to the framing that boxes the characters in and enhances the sense of isolation. One of the biggest surprises for me was how funny the film was, with several laugh out loud moments scattered around the existential horror that underpins the narrative.
‘The Lighthouse’ is a very good film from Robert Eggers, for my money a far superior film to his debut effort ‘The Witch’ and I found myself fully immersed in its growing madness.
Directed By: Robert Eggers
Starring: Robert Pattinson, Willem Dafoe and Valeriia Karaman