Release date – 31st January 2020, Cert – 15, Run-time – 1 hour 49 minutes, Director – Robert Eggers
Two lighthouse keepers (Willem Dafoe and Robert Pattinson) are left alone on a remote island for four weeks, however the isolation begins to play with one of their minds.
Back in 2015 writer-director Robert Eggers made his debut with one of the decade’s best horror films, The Witch. Much like Jordan Peele followed his equally terrifying Get Out with Us earlier this year Eggers second feature has been highly anticipated for a fair while now. Similarly tackling some previous themes of historical horror and isolation The Lighthouse sees Robert Pattinson and Willem Dafoe – equipped with glorious facial hair – as two wickers, tasked with maintaining and lighting the titular building for four weeks.
The look of the piece is a gruelling as the work depicted; dark, grey (the film is effectively shot in black and white to enhance the feeling of the 1890’s) and grimy. And much like the time on the island the film itself is a slow-burn, but an effective one. The more time that passes the more connected, or rather trapped, the viewer becomes with the world and the two central characters. As the time on the island gets extended; due to harsh weather conditions, it initially seems like the elements are against the two keepers of the lighthouse. However, as time wears on it becomes apparent that everything might not quite be as it seems. Pattinson’s character begins to experience haunting visions. What isn’t made clear is the nature behind such visions. Is it the harsh conditions? Is it the island itself? Is it the drunken nature of his character – although one that can’t even begin to compete with that of Dafoe’s commanding booze-hound, Thomas Wake. Is it simply his own madness at being left on such a small patch of desolate rock for so long? Or is it the light of the lighthouse itself? An area of the building in which Thomas never allows Pattinson’s Ephraim Winslow to enter. The way the light is restricted and referred to makes it seem like something alien, something which Ephraim begins to feel like as his potential delusions become increasingly frequent and realistic.
With elements such as this it would be easy to compare The Lighthouse to the likes of The Shining, a number of the close-ups throughout the film almost seem to be inspired by this film in particular. Focusing on the terrified eyes of Ephraim’s tormented figure much of the sea-salt coated narrative is told through these eyes. All building up to the point where Eggers, along with brother Max; who has co-written the screenplay, flicks the switch from intermittent bursts of torment to a constant stream of madness. With the claustrophobic, restrictive and pressured feeling of the island still weighing heavily, through Jarin Blaschke’s stunning, highly cinematic, cinematography the full intensity of this mostly two man piece is released.
There are many undertones and possible themes within The Lighthouse. One prominent potential theme is that of male repression. Holding in personal feelings, rage, upset, boredom and even sexual frustration to lead to demons of all forms on the outside. All making for an intense, unique and deeply unnerving cinematic experience filled with detail and enough to make the most ordinary of seagulls appear as far, far worse than just the chip stealing thieves they might initially seem.
Highly cinematic and deeply unnerving when mixed with the intense performances, drab look, and detailed nature of the piece you’ll leave the desolate madness of The Lighthouse not knowing what’s real and what’s not.