Lighthouse, The (2019)

Nightmarish if also baffling, Eggers’ sophomore effort is a strong one with compelling physical performances by Willem Dafoe and Robert Pattinson.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Dir. Robert Eggers
2019 | USA/Canada | Drama/Horror | 109 mins | 1.19:1 | English
M18 (passed clean) for sexual content, nudity, violence, disturbing images, and some language

Cast:  Robert Pattinson, Willem Dafoe, Valeriia Karaman
Plot: Two lighthouse keepers try to maintain their sanity whilst living on a remote and mysterious New England island in the 1890s.
Awards: Won FIPRESCI Prize (Cannes); Nom. for Best Cinematography (Oscars)
International Sales: Focus Features (SG: United International Pictures)

Accessibility Index
Subject Matter: Dark/Slightly Disturbing
Narrative Style: Slightly Complex
Pace: Normal
Audience Type: Slightly Arthouse

Viewed: In Theatres – The Projector
Spoilers: No

After hitting the ball out of the park with his debut feature, The Witch (2015), Robert Eggers is back with The Lighthouse, another nightmarish tale set a long, long time ago. 

Two men in the 1890s find themselves working on a remote island, taking turns to man a lighthouse and making sure everything is serviceable and running smoothly for a fortnight before they are relieved of their duties. 

Willem Dafoe plays the gruffy-looking older man, a veteran lighthouse keeper as it were, whilst Robert Pattinson is his younger sidekick, a greenhorn of sorts. 

They have feisty seagulls as company, but Pattinson’s character (the film is largely based on his point-of-view) begins to imagine ghastly things—or are they real? 

“Why’d ya spill yer beans?”

Eggers’ treatment is a classic take on surrealism, where realities are unstable and unreliable.  His cinematographer, Jarin Blaschke (nominated for an Oscar for his work here), achieves a haunting if crisp look with the claustrophobic 1.19:1 aspect ratio, playing with light and shadow to dazzling effect. 

What’s even more impressive, however, is Eggers’ effort in making sure his film sounds like a terrifying nightmare—foghorns blasting, machineries clanking, winds howling, waves crashing, rains pouring—and topping them off with suspenseful strings and brass music. 

The aural onslaught is accompanied by effective performances from Dafoe and Pattinson that see both exert physical and psychological strain. 

The Lighthouse is a compelling film, precise in its use of the cinematographic technique, not to mention some fantastic use of montage (of the Soviet kind) that immerses us into shifting states of mind. 

Grade: A-




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