The Lighthouse Review: An Unnerving, Subtle Horror

Robert Eggers’ film The Lighthouse follows two lighthouse keepers, portrayed by Robert Pattinson and Willem Dafoe. As the elder worker (Dafoe) relaxes in a mysterious lighthouse, the young worker (Pattinson) performs every act of hard labor. These men appear to be at odds with one another, and after a massive storm hits the island, circumstances worsen. In time, it’s evident that they are stuck on the island for an undisclosed amount of time. Consequently, the men try to maintain their sanity over the course of this unnerving, thrilling film.

Willem Dafoe and Robert Pattinson sit opposite each other.
Willem Dafoe and Robert Pattinson in “The Lighthouse”

First off, I have to highlight the film’s lack of diversity. In all honesty, if you are looking for a film that embraces and displays diversity, you need to look in another direction. This picture is fully focused on the exploits of two Caucasian males, and the larger story is devoid of other ethnicities. However, if you are looking for an intriguing piece of filmmaking, The Lighthouse is a worthy option.

The Lighthouse was the most visually striking movie of the 2019. Jarin Blaschke, the cinematographer, deserved the Oscar nomination that he was given for his work on this film–it is stunning, and sets the mood perfectly for the events that are about to occur. The black and white photography is a blast to the past, forcing us into a distant historical period, complete with moody sensibilities and foreboding atmospherics.

Two men walking outside with a lighthouse visible behind them.
Still from “The Lighthouse”

Eggers is a master at transporting us into dark, eerie environments. Like The Witch, this film is unbelievably realized from a situational standpoint. In time, we feel humanistic isolation and environmental anxiety. When Pattinson works outside, we see a gray sky, an immovable element of depression. The cold, hard edged rocks paint another portrait of uneasiness, perhaps representing the stubbornness of man.

The Lighthouse is patient and hypnotic, pulling us in with its mysterious atmosphere and characters. The film’s slow pace proves to be monumentally effective, showcasing the tedious nature that comes with isolation and poor two-way communication. Even though the film is too long in spots, Eggers understands the importance of silence. We feel the strain that exits between these men. We feel the lack of creativity. And as these elements continually grow, the tension ramps up. The end result is a film made up of terrific performances.

In closing, Eggers understands the effectiveness of ambiguity. I suspect that many viewers will be upset by the film’s lack of answers, but for me, the layers work wonders. Eggers never reveals the actual date in which the film takes place, and as a result, the setting feels even richer. He never gives us definitive answers regarding the specific forces at play. We begin to ask ourselves many questions. Is there a mythological force that controls the island? Or is the chaos attributed to excessive drinking? These ambiguous elements mold the film into a source of obsessiveness, destined to be analyzed by cinephiles.

Star rating for "The Lighthouse". 0 stars for inclusivity, 4 stars for overall movie score.

Originally published by Dillon McCarty for Incluvie on November 18, 2019.






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