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

Waves batter an isolated rock, as the gulls circle looking for their next meal. The beaming torch of the barnacled lighthouse providing safety for travelling sailors. While the keepers of the light slowly descend into insanity.

Following his 2015 horror masterpiece The Witch, Director Roger Eggers gives us a maritime nightmare of epic proportions. The claustrophobic 1.19:1 aspect ratio working alongside the grain and nuance of black and white film. In not only creating a work of cinematic art, but also one that feels just as weathered as the characters at its heart. As a result, creating a dream like landscape that seeps into your subconscious and slowly eats away at your sense of reality.

Ephram Winslow (Robert Pattinson) is a man on the run. His new role as assistant ‘wickie’ to the old sea dog Thomas Wake (William Defoe) a perfect escape. Both men a mystery to one another, the seclusion of their work a perfect cover from any prying eyes. While their fate lay tied to the rocky outpost they call home. However, as folklore, secrets and alcohol combine both men must face the true horror of their seclusion.

The Lighthouse is a masterpiece of atmospheric horror, paying homage to the early German horror of Nosferatu and The Cabinet of Dr. Calligari. While mixing in the psychological terror of Hitchcock and Kubrick.

Both Patterson and Defoe delivering exhilarating and enthralling theatrical performances. Bouncing off one another with a mesmeric intensity. As their characters find support, love and hatred in each others arms. The comfort and security of the lighthouse slowly becoming their mental prison.

In essence ‘The Lighthouse’ is a beautifully structured two man play that dives into the horror and folklore of the sea. While never forgetting the importance of its theatrical aesthetic. The films divine script (Robert and Max Eggers), echoing a long lost Herman Mellville novel in the hands of the highly skilled cast and director. As old sea stories and folklore mix with the grinding reality of a ‘wickies’ life. The lives of both men slowly unravelling in a sea of booze and haze of tobacco.

Eggers has created a truly unforgettable theatrical experience, one that buries itself into your subconcious. While also ensuring that you can taste the sea salt and grime. The Lighthouse steps from the screen into your soul in a way few other films could manage. Its direction, performances and design combining to create a modern classic of cinema.

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:
Hark! now I hear them,—ding-dong, bell.

William Shakespeare (The Tempest)

Director: Roger Eggers

Cast: Robert Pattinson and William Defoe

USA/Canada (2019)

Read more reviews from BFI London Film Festival here

Robert Pattinson also appears in High Life (2019) The King (2019) Essential Horror Films