If there was to be one quote that I hope is used to describe how I lived my life, it is "I don't know how many years on this earth I have left, but I'm gonna get real weird with it."(Devito, 2011) That's the kind of energy I hope to find in all forms of art. Whether it's a piece composed by Erik Satie or a poem by Lewis Caroll, I love to find something so strange that I can't really explain it. That not to say that I just look for weird stuff; it still has to say something. It still has to actually be art. That is how I felt while watching The Lighthouse, a film written and directed by Robert Eggers and starring the two weirdest celebrities I can think of: Willem Defoe and Robert Pattinson.
This is a movie that perplexed me but I just could not look away. Contextually, it is the sophomore effort of a director who has already shown his strengths in thriller movies. The Witch (or VVitch as the poster says) is Eggers' only other film and follows a very similar structure to The Lighthouse. Both sets of characters are isolated in a setting where the majority of the hostility comes from each other rather than the sinister forces that a cursory glance might make you think is the antagonist. For both, the real antagonist is the human mind. However, unlike the Witch, The Lighthouse cranks this up to 11. It is completely psychological. The film's focus is on Robert Pattinson's character, Winslow, as a first-time lighthouse keeper, stationed for a month on a small island off the coast of New England with his older boss, Thomas(Defoe). From the outset of the film, you get this idea that it is going to be a slow burn as you watch Winslow slowly descend into delusion and despair, waiting for when he inevitably lashes out. Almost everything on this island is intent on not killing him, but annoying him and making him feel more and more isolated. His boss is a dick that only speaks in a Shakespearean form of an old sailors drawl, never speaking without going into a full monologue about nature and madness, never being direct on his point, and always hiding biting criticisms for Winslow wherever he gets the opportunity. It never comes off as forced or awkward and I have to commend Defoe for pulling it off so fluidly(especially in a later scene where he shows his full, foul fury). Despite this masterful performance, the gold for acting in this 2-man show really goes to Pattinson. I have never seen him in any other roles besides Twilight(I will not get into the time of how I saw it but I will never see it again). I did hear that he is actually a really good actor and had been spending the better part of a decade trying to shake that perception of him just being that sparkly vampire dude, but even then I was really surprised to see how amazing he really was. Both actors in this movie gave oscar-level performances and I really do think they were robbed of nominations.
On the technical end of this film, it is one of the most inventive uses of cinematography I have ever seen. Every shot is made to make you feel uncomfortable. The camera is purposely at 35mm for everything to feel cramped and claustrophobic. Even the outdoor shots give an eery sense of closeness. There are very little cuts or transitions, instead, the camera stays still or pans with the characters and it makes you feel as if you are in that lighthouse as well. All of this compounds on the audience's sense of tension and makes you feel as if Winslow is not only being crushed mentally but physically too with shots that barely fit the only two actors in the frame. The other technical element is the use of black and white toning as opposed to a full-colour pallet HD 4k quality. It is much more than just the novelty of making it black and white for a movie set 100 years ago that works, it also helps define the boredom and brooding darkness that comes with being stuck on an island with the worst person you know. You feel as if there is something more in the background. The lighting in this movie is nonexistent. Scenes are lit either by the sun, gas lanterns and candles that are lit in the frame, or the lighthouse itself as it spins around giving a moment of pitch darkness followed by a moment of blinding light. Once again, the lighting works magnificently in keeping this story as dark and strange as possible. It is further testament to the actors who can still pull off expressions with no color or lighting and still be intense. Finally, the sound is excellent. There is no music. Only in the credits and the last intense seconds of the film are we treated to anything other than the natural sounds of the world around. The lack of sound both adds to the monotony that leads to madness and adds tension by not giving us a rising score that would hint us to something happening. In all, the movie handicaps itself by making all the technical elements of modern films absent and it works. In a market where two moments can't go by without background music, blinding lights, and a ludicrous amount of jump cuts, this movie destroys that formula to give something real and mythical.
In all, The Lighthouse is a masterpiece. The elements of terror and suspense that are often used in horror movies have been completely taken out. It makes every moment suspenseful as there are no ways of guessing what is coming next. The movie is insanity and the actors perfectly reflect the darkest parts of that spiral. It is a technical masterpiece in the minimal sense and should be seen as a model in how to look at the technical end of a thriller. The script is a very good one, especially for Defoe, but a criticism I would give is its lack of one at many moments where some dialogue could have been more helpful. However, it does make up for it through its numerous themes of inescapable hostile work environments and gender norms, isolation on the human condition(this came out in December 2019 so it is a great parallel and predictor to all of us during lockdowns), and sex. Add a nice mix of mythological connection and it has me hooked. In all, I would give this film a 9.5/10. I will definitely recommend this to everyone if I already haven't a billion times over.
This is my first review but I did love doing this. May make one on a film I disliked now but in all, I would love to hear criticism and comments on it.
Also love doing this kinda stuff instead of reviewing the book that I should have been reviewing for uni ahahhaahahahahhahahah fuck