A24 (2019)

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

4 mins read

Waves batter an isolated rock, while hungry gulls circle for their next meal. The beaming torch of the barnacled lighthouse providing safety for travelling sailors. While its thick stone walls hold two ‘wickies’ prisoners of the sea. Their relentless maintenance and isolation surrounded by empty bottles of booze. As both men search for meaning and purpose beyond the light of the tower looming over them.  

Following on from his 2015 horror masterpiece The Witch, Director Robert Eggers once again delivers a tour de force in nightmares. With a deliciously dark, comedic and different maritime horror that dazzles the viewer. Using a claustrophobic 1.19:1 aspect ratio alongside grainy black and white film, Eggers creates a dreamlike state of ambiguity, confusion and fear. While layering this with maniacal comedy. Ultimately creating a work of pure cinematic art, that feels just as weathered as the characters at its heart. Each frame surprising its audience as it seeps into the subconscious and slowly eats away at any sense of reality. 

Former lumberjack Ephraim Winslow (Patterson) arrives on the shore of his new job as assistant ‘wickie’ of an isolated lighthouse. His boss a grizzled and rude old sea dog named Thomas Wake (Defoe), 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. His days spent drinking, farting and smoking his way into oblivion alongside sea shanties and folktales. However, as Ephraim becomes more fascinated with the light Thomas guards with his life. Both men find themselves descending down a rabbit hole of fear, in a cloud of cigarette smoke, alcohol fumes and paranoia. 

The Lighthouse clearly pays homage to the early German horror of Nosferatu and The Cabinet of Dr. Calligari. While equally layering this aesthetic with the slow building psychological tension of Hitchcock’s Vertigo. But its true genius lays in the ability to dovetail the creeping madness of Kubrick’s The Shining with Shakespearean tragedy. With Patterson and Defoe providing exhilarating and enthralling performances as they embrace the pure theatre of Robert and Max Eggers luscious screenplay. Bouncing off one another with a mesmeric intensity, as Ephram and Thomas find support, love, hatred and fear in each others arms. The weather beaten lighthouse slowly becoming a mental and social prison for both men.

Robert Eggers has once again created a truly unforgettable and unique theatrical experience. One that buries itself into your memory long after leaving the cinema. While ensuring the viewer can almost taste the sea spray and smell the tobacco that pervades each frame. Ultimately creating something rare in modern film, as The Lighthouse steps from the screen and into your soul. Its direction, performances and design combining to create a truly unforgettable cinematic 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:
Hark! now I hear them,—ding-dong, bell.

William Shakespeare (The Tempest)

Director: Robert Eggers

Cast:  Robert PattinsonWillem Dafoe

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

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