The Lighthouse – Review

Rated: 15
Cast: Robert Pattinson and Willem Dafoe
Directed by Robert Eggers
Written by Robert and Max Eggers
Length: 110mins

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.

Knives Out – Review

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Rated: 12A
Cast: Ana de Armas, Daniel Craig, Chris Evans, Jamie Lee Curtis, Michael Shannon, Don Johnson, Toni Collette, Christopher Plummer, Lakeith Stanfield.
Written and Directed by: Rian Johnson Length: 130mins.

‘Knives Out’ is a whodunit murder mystery from director Rian Johnson, which brings us into the home of the Thrombey’s, an auspicious and privileged family that garnered their success from the murder-mystery writings of Harlan Thrombey (Christopher Plummer), the family’s supposedly eldest member. To ensure no spoilers, the key points of the story that I investigate within this review can all be found within the film’s trailers, as this is a film that should definitely be seen with as little prior knowledge as possible.

Perhaps the clearest element in which this film excels is the stylisation that’s maintained throughout. From the very opening shot, ‘Knives Out’ incorporates a brilliantly inventive use of cinematography, editing and mise-en-scene to further the drama of the story, as well as incorporating more implicit themes of privacy, trust and family. Furthermore, the status of each character is either emphasised or undermined as a result of the cinematography, allowing the audience to begin to gather their own opinions on each member of the family, encouraging a form of detective work that most viewers will be attempting going into a film like this. It’s very clear that Johnson understands the genre in which he is working in with ‘Knives Out,’ and as a result the mystery elements of the story are effectively told through the visual elements of film form.

I don’t think that I could properly review this film without mentioning the cast. Featuring a wide array of extremely talented actors and actresses, ‘Knives Out’ creates a family of performers who all serve the purpose within the narrative effectively. Daniel Craig plays detective Benoit Blanc in a way that J.B. Priestley would be proud of, and Ana de Armas also fulfils her role as the caretaker brilliantly (again, don’t want to say too much). Chris Evans provides a few lines that are slightly cringe-worthy, but aside from that is successful in his portrayal as the complex Ransom. However, I did feel that at times the fame of the cast slightly hindered the story, as there are so many performers that you wished had more screen time, but weren’t fitted into the two hours and ten minutes run time. Jamie Lee Curtis plays the intriguing Linda Drysdale, but lacks any key scenes as the film progresses. Toni Collette’s Joni Thrombey faces a similar problem, however she does still retain her title as possibly the coolest person alive. Overall though, the characters effectively tell their sides of the story, as well as providing a comedic side to the film.

Finally, the most important element of a whodunit is the plot itself. In ‘Knives Out’ the story keeps you guessing throughout and frequently subverts your expectations. With such a great number of characters involved in the story, you never know what the conclusion may be, and as a result the final act features an exciting ending. Straying away from anything that could lead to spoilers, I want to focus more on the relationship between the character of Marta Cabrera (Ana de Armas) and the Thrombey household. Harlan Thrombey’s caretaker, Cabrera is a key element within the story, and through her status as the daughter of a South American immigrant, Johnson investigates a more subliminal idea within ‘Knives Out’ – Americas perception of anyone who could be considered as an immigrant. Frequently patronised by the family and told that “we’ll look after you,” Cabrera’s ethnicity very clearly influences how those around perceive her, and she often unwillingly becomes a part of whatever political discussion the family are having – whether that be border control or illegal immigration.

Though this is a film that focuses on the death of ­Harlan Thrombey and the mysterious circumstances that surround it, and can often appear as a comedic and entertainment-focused piece of cinema, I think that when watching ‘Knives Out’ it’s important to consider a more implicit level of symbolism that Rian Johnson attempts to convey. Go and see the film, enjoy the drama of the story, and immerse yourself in the world of ‘Knives Out.’