A24 (2019)

The Lighthouse (Review) – How long have we been on this rock?

The Lighthouse is now available to rent or buy

Rating: 5 out of 5.

As the waves batter an isolated rock, hungry gulls circle for their next meal while the beaming torch of the barnacled lighthouse safely guides travelling sailors. Its thick stone walls hold two ‘wickies,’ both prisoners of the sea, surrounded by empty bottles of booze. Here both men search for meaning and purpose beyond the tower’s light looming over them.  

Following his 2015 horror masterpiece The Witch, Eggers again delivers a tour de force of nightmares, with a deliciously dark maritime horror that dazzles. With a claustrophobic 1.19:1 aspect ratio and grainy black and white film, Eggers’ movie is a dreamlike journey into human fragility, humour, ambiguity, confusion and fear. The result is a work of cinematic art that feels just as weathered as the characters at its heart, with each frame seeping into the subconscious as reality is slowly eaten away. 


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Former lumberjack Ephraim Winslow (Patterson) arrives on the shore of a small island, his new job as assistant ‘wickie’ of an isolated lighthouse looming. His boss is a grizzled and rude old sea dog named Thomas Wake (Dafoe), who has little trust or respect for his new partner, forcing Ephraim to undertake back-breaking work as he manages the precious and protective light above them. As the isolation takes hold, the men spend their days drinking, farting and smoking their way into oblivion. However, as Ephraim becomes more fascinated with the light Thomas guards, both men descend into a rabbit hole of fear and paranoia. 

Elements of The Lighthouse pay homage to early German horrors such as Nosferatu and The Cabinet of Dr Calligari. Still, this love of the silent movie is also coupled with the slow-building psychological tension of Hitchcock’s Psycho and Kubrick’s The Shining. Here Patterson and Defoe provide exhilarating and enthralling performances as they embrace the pure theatre of Robert and Max Eggers’ luscious and complex screenplay. Their characters bounce off one another with a mesmeric intensity as Ephram and Thomas find support, love, hatred and fear in each other’s arms. Here the weather-beaten lighthouse slowly becomes a mental and social prison for both men.


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Eggers Lighthouse is a truly unforgettable and unique theatrical experience that buries itself into your soul, carving an eternal place in your mind. Here you can almost taste the sea salt and smell the tobacco smoke that engulfs each frame creating something rare in modern cinema; a visceral experience.


Full fathom five thy father lies;
Of his bones are coral made;
Those are pearls that were his eyes:
Nothing of him that doth fade,
But doth suffer a sea-change
Into something rich and strange.
Sea-nymphs hourly ring his knell:
Ding-dong.
Hark! now I hear them,—ding-dong, bell.

William Shakespeare (The Tempest)


Director: Robert Eggers

Cast:  Robert PattinsonWillem Dafoe