Cast: Willem Dafoe, Robert Pattinson, Valeriia Karaman
Director: Robert Eggers
Well, this should be a fun one. An artsy, abstract horror movie by A24 with two elite actors and a director fresh off an impressive debut, The Lighthouse is sure to be one of the most captivating and polarizing movies of the year. You can tell just from the way it looks that there was a significant amount of thought and care put into every element of this movie. Through the combination of two stunning performances from Dafoe and Pattinson and the creative elements that make the film unique, The Lighthouse overcomes some of its symbolic and complex issues to create a slow-burning, creepy 110 minute experience.
The film follows Ephriam Winslow (Pattinson), a young man who goes to work at a lighthouse in New England with Thomas Wake (Dafoe). While Ephriam is only supposed to work at the lighthouse for a short period of time, his time there muddies his senses and makes him see and believe things that were never there before. As time passes, the two begin to learn things about the lighthouse and each other that cause tension and creates a reality for the two of them that they can never leave. From a purely creative standpoint, you can see what Eggers was going for when he made this movie. The decision to shoot in black and white and use a 1.19:1 aspect ratio instead of something more conventional like 16:9 makes the film feel like you’re actually there. It looks like it was a movie made in the 1940s to reflect events that happened not too long ago, and that level of authenticity is impressive. Outside of the filmmaking process, the two actors in the movie are absolutely incredible together. Whether this is the naivety of Ephriam or the jaded realism of Thomas’ life, Pattison and Dafoe do a great job of recognizing the tone of the situation and using their abilities to match what Eggers was looking for. While the performances are fantastic and the film is very well-made, there are times where the concept and symbolism went way over my head. There has to be some sort of deeper meaning to this movie, but due to the generally abstract nature of the subject matter, it’s not exactly easy to pick out. Seeing after the fact that the movie was inspired by Edgar Allen Poe’s final poem, it would probably make more sense if I was familiar with that work. For those who like that kind of poetry and want to see developed into something that mainstream audiences can grasp, The Lighthouse provides a happy medium that should appeal to a wide array of people. I’m still not sure what the supernatural elements of the movie are supposed to represent, but I think with more due diligence and research I will have a better understanding of what was trying to be said here. I appreciate when directors go out of their way to make something unique and special, and it looks like for the most part that Eggers hit his mark with The Lighthouse.
Overall, The Lighthouse is probably the type of movie that gets better after multiple watches. When you start to pick up on things and catch moments you missed before, the film will more than likely be more enjoyable as time passes. I don’t know if I particularly want to watch it again because it is a generally unsettling and uncomfortable movie, but it’s the type of movie I can see being shown in film schools down the line. Eggers really does have a creative mind and I hope he has opportunities in the future to create movies just as creative and interesting as this one.
Overall Score: 7/10