It’s rather a cliché within cinema review and discussion to say that ‘x film has to be seen to be believed’, and whilst it’s normally applied, rather incorrectly, to Michael Bay’s action films, Robert Eggers’ The Lighthouse is truly the definition of a movie that must be seen to be believed. Throughout this article I am going to struggle to describe a film which depicts a scene of Robert Pattinson violently masturbating to a wooden doll of a mermaid – intercut with mortifyingly disturbing imagery – yet one which is simultaneously my favourite film of 2019.
Starring Willem Dafoe and Robert Pattinson, Robert Eggers directs a comedic, disturbing and intentionally-confusing journey into madness. The premise in itself is relatively simple, it’s simply two men in isolation at a lighthouse for an extended period of time gradually losing their grips on reality and sanity. However, the film itself is by no means basic, it is practically overflowing with beauty, symbolism and earth-shattering performances by both lead actors. There are several monologues which are phenomenally–captivating and consistently unnerving, particularly Dafoe’s cursing of Pattinson (where a change of angle turns Dafoe into a towering behemoth shouting about his lobster).
The film is practically overflowing with beauty, symbolism and earth-shattering performances by both lead actors
Even if you are one not to be captivated by cinematography, or are put off by the non-traditional aspect ratio or simply the fact it’s in black and white, this film has plenty more to offer (my personal favourite aspect is the hilarity of watching Dafoe and Pattinson get more drunk than any of us could ever hope to be for a Wednesday night at Pop!). While the stylistic elements won’t be to everyone’s tastes, I feel the 1.19:1 aspect ratio and monochrome colour pallet work to heighten the experience. The use of shadows and the unconventional screen size, in particular, is not a distraction but rather work to enhance moments of negative space, further emphasising the surreal nature of the film.
The film manages to maintain such a level of detailed intensity that even the smallest elements had me feeling unnerved
If you’re one to enjoy movies which can be interpreted, The Lighthouse is a gift. There’s play with time, perspective and reality itself. In a recent interview, Eggers emphasised the interpretive nature of the film, declaring “look at what Robert’s [Pattinson] character went through trying to understand the movie”. Upon a quick Google search about The Lighthouse, you’ll be bombarded by theory videos and in-depth analyses of the film’s potential interpretations, the most prevailing of these being the parallels with the story of Prometheus (the Greek one, not the Ridley Scott version), the potential for both characters to represent two sides of the same person, or the suggestion that purgatory torments all those who reside at the lighthouse for their life of sins.
The film manages to maintain such a level of detailed intensity that even the smallest elements had me feeling unnerved. There are several subtle details I noticed which either immersed me further into the world or slightly threw me off balance as a viewer, all the while keeping me entirely enthralled.
Robert Eggers has crafted a true masterpiece and all I can do now is wait with great anticipation for what has yet to come
Overall, I think all I can say is, if you’re a fan of weird intriguing films with many ways to be interpreted, watch The Lighthouse. If you’re a fan of character–driven stories with phenomenal acting, watch The Lighthouse. And if you just like watching Willem Dafoe get blackout drunk and shout about sea shanties, watch The Lighthouse! It truly is a wonder to be behold and I would encourage anyone and everyone to see it for themselves. Robert Eggers has crafted a true masterpiece and all I can do now is wait with great anticipation for what has yet to come.