The Lighthouse
Direction: Robert Eggers
Writer: Robert Eggers, Max Eggers
Staring: Robert Pattinson, Willem Dafoe

Release Date: November 1, 2019


“How long have we been on this rock? Five weeks? Two Days? Where are we? Help me to recollect.”
Thomas Wake


Am I to stupid to understand everything that is happening in The Lighthouse? Probably. But can I appreciate how this movie gives zero Fs about the viewers and goes gung-ho into the tempest of expectations; the answer is yes. Absolutely. The Lighthouse is unique, beautiful and haunting. It blends madness, flatulence, beauty and psychopathy. It is a remarkable achievement.

The Lighthouse illustrates the depraving and manic relationship between two light house keepers are trying to maintain their salty living quarters while also retaining their sanity. Robert Pattinson plays Thomas Howard, the younger and more innocent of the lighthouse workers. He is paired with Willem Defoe’s portrayal of Thomas Wake; a man whose emotional behavior and battery ebbs and flows with his consumption of alcohol and other proclivities.

Willem Dafoe as Thomas Wake (Scary Santa anyone?)

Director and co-writer Robert Eggers, pairing with Max Eggers, make The Lighthouse a series of character studies that are not meant to be fully comprehended. Dialogue can be missing entirely for minutes at a time or come rushing at the audience in bombastic soliloquies. Whether it be the moments of silence or chaotic noise, The Lighthouse is a breeze to watch because you do not know what to expect at all. The simple story is told through amazing cinematography and incredibly courageous choices. Eggers did not make The Lighthouse for viewers; it really feels like he made it for himself and we are to soak in it.

The framing and black & white aesthetic choices add to the depressing isolation nature of the story. The moments of silence or relative calm are always tinged with a “what’s going to happen next” feeling, much like the calm before a big storm. The instance where the shit really hit the fan comes when Howard is sneaking up the top of the lighthouse, where the all-to-holy lights bulbs are held. Wake won’t give up any responsibility to the beacons…AND IS THAT BECAUSE THERE IS A TENTACULAR MONSTER INVOLVED?? That was a twist…follow by Howard BASHING a seagull to a bloody pump on a door, which was is a harbinger of very bad luck as told by Wake earlier. This three-minute sequence takes what is a very good-looking movie, to one where the audience can’t look away for a single moment because something BONKERS might happen.

The building up of tension and drama throughout The Lighthouse unfolds like a horror movie, but not in the traditional jump-scare sense. The long foreshadowing moments, like the mermaid wood carving, or the folk tales told over the testy dinners, act like land mines. When the pressure is applied to all the trappings near the movie’s end…well I would like to say everything comes into place, but that isn’t the case. That is part of the horror is that there are questions that are not meant to be answered. While watching The Lighthouse, the realization that one is not going to fully comprehend this story eats at you like a nagging hunger.

The story being told is nothing without the performers involved, and both Pattinson and Defoe are outstanding. Their devolution into madness is mesmerizing. Defoe’s delivery of menacing threats and unrelenting demands perpendicular to his joyfulness and blissful nature when drunk. Pattinson…man he can freaking act. This is going to seems so pretentious…but what Pattinson can do with his eyes during the close-up shots is amazing.

Robert Pattinson as Thomas Howard

There are legit three people who play a major part in this movie. Just Howard, Wake and the Mermaid (Valeriia Karaman). That is all. Pattinson and Dafoe bear all the weight necessary to make Eggers’ vision work. Both of them got various nominations for their acting across a series of critics associations, but the main bread winner in terms of critical praise is cinematographer Jarin Blaschke.

The Lighthouse looks incredible from start to finish. From the epic wide shots that set the desolate scene, to the close-ups that show the visceral emotions of Howard and Wake. I am not film connoisseur, but here are a few of the most striking scenes and shots in the movie.

-When Wake gets slapped by Howard. There is the quick cut to a low angle shot looking up at Howard and the shock on his face with a shadow looming over him. This is the first time Wake really brutalizes Howard, and the shadow behind him acts like the dark things that will be chasing him for the remainder of the story.

-The “tunnel” shot of Howard channeling his way though a cavern of dirt of mud with the wheelbarrow was an awesome use of the environment. It’s like the walls are caving in on him, and he doesn’t even realize it.

-There is a shot later in the movie of Howard sneaking into a room, and the shadow he gives off looks like water hag. The shadow enters the room before Howard itself, so it’s like Eggers and Blaschke are telling the audience that Howard is becoming a monster and the environment is consuming him.

In terms of other generic thoughts on how strong Blaschke’s work is, lighting The Lighthouse must have been incredibly unique with shooting on scene and the miserable weather. Combining that with the unique look of black & white makes it even more impressive.

The Lighthouse is an absolutely bonkers watch. Admittedly, it is a hard movie to watch more than once too because it’s not the most uplifting tale. But if you love a director who is unapologetically sticking to a personal vision, and acting that is reminiscent of fantastic Broadway show stealers, then you HAVE to check out The Lighthouse. Let the waves of its chaos wash over you, and don’t think you’ll be able to get every piece of its muck off of you. The ending will stick with you and leave you with numerous questions, which is the sign of a strong and powerful story.

STANKO RATING: B+ (4.0/5 Stars)

“The Lighthouse” IMDB
“The Lighthouse” Rotten Tomatoes

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