Friday, 28 February 2020

Review: The Lighthouse

The Lighthouse
Cert: 15 / 109 mins / Dir. Robert Eggers / Trailer

So, the second movie of nautical #FilmDay in black and white, with a nigh-on 1:1 aspect ratio and where people smoke like chimneys. It's also a great compare-and-contrast model that demonstrates the divergent career-paths of Twilight alumni.

The Lighthouse dops the viewer on a rugged, minuscule island with keepers Thomas Howard (Robert Pattinson) and Thomas Wake (Willem Dafoe), arriving at the eponymous building for a four-week shift. Words are soon crossed, tempers flare and truces are formed. But when their relief fails to show up due to some boss-level-ironic fog, that's when the oars really fall out of the boat.

The maintenance not only of the lighthouse but also its ancillary buildings, in these elements, is bloody hard work. And of course for a lighthouse-keeper, doing the job properly means that nothing happens. It's this Sisyphean toil-for-inaction which quickly leads to madness.


This is a study of what happens when you put two men in a remote location and wait to see their primal personalities bubble to the surface. The film is stagey - in a very good way - with a strong Aronofsky-vibe. Surreal like a solemnly-paced, orchestrated nightmare of barely repressed dread. Director and co-writer Robert Eggers brings such a strong tonal vision that you know this is an idea realised to absolute perfection.

Pattinson seems to enjoy going for more experimental roles as he develops, and he's perfect for this. Similarly, Dafoe's part feels like it was written for him; as if Willem's always been a borderline psychotic sea-dog and we'd just never noticed. I'm not sure which accent each performer is trying to effect - could be Cornish, could be Irish. In a film as surreal as this one it may as well be Elvish, The Lighthouse takes place on one claustrophobic island and the rest of the world is effectively another reality.


From the dialogue alone, I have no real idea when (or even where) this takes place. There's no 'modern' technology on display, but the metaphorical and literal isolation of time as well as location means this could even be in-the-now. Canada is mentioned in the script and Pattinson has a monologue where a New England twang seems to be fighting its way out, but either way the vocal oddness really works with the film*1.

Other sections are deliberately repetitive like arthouse incantations, as if Stewart Lee did a pass as script-editor. There should definitely have been more of this shrieking insanity in The Light Between Oceans (which, oddly enough, I watched in that very same room).

We end as only a tale like this can; in a heap of stunned and writhing allegory, sated and baffled in equal measure. The Lighthouse is glorious, seek it out.

And I'll be hearing that foghorn for weeks...

So, what sort of thing is it similar to?
Inside Llewyn Davis, The VVitch, mother!.

Is it worth paying cinema-prices to see?
If you can, do.

Is it worth hunting out on DVD, Blu-ray or streaming, though?
It is.

Is this the best work of the cast or director?
It could well be.

Will we disagree about this film in a pub?
That's entirely possible.

Is there a Wilhelm Scream in it?
There isn't.

Yeah but what's the Star Wars connection?
Level 2: Robert Pattinson is in this, and he was in that Maps To The Stars with Carrie 'Leia' Fisher.

And if I HAD to put a number on it…

*1 And that montage-scene where Pattinson is er, "holding the mermaid figurine", plays like the best aftershave commercial you'll never see. Magnificently weird. [ BACK ]

• ^^^ That's dry, British humour, and most likely sarcasm or facetiousness.
• Yen's blog contains harsh language and even harsher notions of propriety. Reader discretion is advised.
• This is a personal blog. The views and opinions expressed here represent my own thoughts (at the time of writing) and not those of the people, institutions or organisations that I may or may not be related with unless stated explicitly.

No comments:

Post a comment