Cast: Robert Pattinson and Willem Dafoe
Directed by Robert Eggers
Written by Robert and Max Eggers
Enchanting, mystical and truly enthralling; director Robert Egger’s invites the audience into a surreal environment with his latest effort, ‘The Lighthouse.’ Born out of extensive research into the lives led by lighthouse keepers throughout the late 18th, early 19th century, this narrative follows two lighthouse workers as they maintain the island that they inhabit. The elder keeper, Thomas Wake (Willem Dafoe), has inhabited the island for an unspecified, but lengthy period, but the younger of the two, Ephraim Winslow (Robert Pattinson), is set to only keep the light for a few weeks before moving on. Needless to say, not everything runs its necessary course, and the events that transpire are deliriously thrilling.
From the very first moment that Pattinson and Dafoe stand side by side on screen, glaring at the audience as if judging them for their voyeuristic interest, you can tell that this film is something special. The duo’s performances are undeniably one of the greatest elements of this masterpiece. Pattinson’s descent into madness is only bested by the mystical articulation that Dafoe applies to his own character, and altogether, whether it be the dialect, physical performance or general atmosphere, these two actors provide two of the greatest performances of the year.
‘The Lighthouse’ is a brilliant example of creating an overall atmosphere that is maintained throughout an entire narrative. Robert Egger’s choice to present the story in black and white, as well as the nearly square 1. 19:1 aspect ratio truly envelops the audience in the idea that what we are witnessing is the tale of two rough lightkeepers off the ragged shores of some unknown area of the Americas. Cinematographer Jarin Blaschke worked closely with the director to achieve this aesthetic, employing the use of 35mm film and vintage camera lenses from the 1930’s that reminisce on the classic horrors of ‘Nosferatu’ and ‘Dr Caligari.’ Through such an unorthodox style, everything within the world becomes a part of the overall intoxicating atmosphere of this fantasy.
Despite the cinematography and performances being so good, Mark Korven’s score still rivals them for the greatest element of this film. Incorporating the body-shaking blasts of a foghorn into his composition, the score reiterates the dangers that lie in wait. Any moment in which you feel settled into the narrative, the disturbing noise sounds once again, and once again the audience is plunged into the wracking tension that forms so much of ‘The Lighthouse’s’ twisted tale.
Not only did Robert Eggers excellently direct this film, but he also co-wrote the screenplay with his brother, Max Eggers. Known for their thorough research into any topic that they wish to adapt for the screen, the mythical elements of the story and the incredible scenes of dialogue reflect such a care and consideration for authenticity. The film was inspired by an Edgar Allen Poe story, ‘The Light-House,’ which presents the diary of a lighthouse keeper, but was unfinished due to Poe’s death, and concludes with the line, “The basis on which the structure rests seems to be chalk.” Just as this keeper fears for the structure of his inhabitance, the audience fears for the downfall of the relationship between Pattinson and Dafoe’s characters, which is made further complex by the dialect with which both characters speak. Poetic monologues inhabit some of the film’s greatest moments, reflecting director Egger’s emphatic appreciation for the works of filmmakers like Ingmar Bergman and writers such as Edgar Allen Poe.
There is a true mysticism to what has been created by the Egger’s brothers, and the articulation of these ideas has been told with exact precision in all elements of the films production, resulting in one of the greatest films of the year, and the one of the greatest tales for a long time.