The Lighthouse Movie Review
Updated: May 28, 2021
Boredom -- eviler than the devil. Makes men to villains.
Disclaimer: This review was written in November 2019, but was left unreleased. Contains minor spoilers for the basic premise of the movie and characters.
The Lighthouse is a film directed by Robert Eggers and stars Willem Dafoe as Thomas Wake and Robert Pattinson as Ephraim Winslow. The entirety of the film's near-two-hour runtime takes place on an island with nothing but a cabin, a storage hut, and a lighthouse. The surface-level synopsis is that the two men tending to the island, when left alone, begin to go mad. It's impossible to talk about this film without focusing on the cinematography. Eggers frames each shot with care and purpose and the style of each scene changes with the characters.
The Lighthouse undeniably draws inspiration from Stanley Kubrick's The Shining in the symbolization and development of the characters. Scenes drastically change before your eyes as you swap back and forth between the perspectives of two different men who have lost their minds. While watching, it's clear that Wake, Winslow, and the island itself aren't exactly who or what they seem to be. Eggers purposefully leaves this mysterious force is up for interpretation and never provides a conclusive resolution for any of them, which only adds to the discussion value.
The film feels very much like a product of the 1940s or 50s in more ways than one, due not only to it being shot both on 35mm film and in black and white but because unlike many blockbusters from this day and age, it puts both story and entertainment on the back burner to focus on making an unsettling, blood-curdling, almost surreal experience that gets into your head. Watching The Lighthouse feels more like an event than a movie.
The brilliant opening scene is spent in almost complete silence, with only the harsh waves and blaring horn of the lighthouse on loop. This forces the viewer to take in the atmosphere, and the setting begins to speak, becoming a character in and of itself. Speaking of characters, Dafoe and Pattinson give performances of a lifetime that instantly captivate the audience cause you to ponder how their past and circumstances caused them to end up in this situation. Even with the lack of dialogue throughout, a combination of body language and facial expressions unquestionably sell these people as their characters.
Consistent with the twisted minds of the protagonists, the plot is downright confusing and convoluted. This makes it somewhat of a hard sell for general audiences, but for those willing to give it a go, be prepared for a disturbing cinematic experience that causes the audience to reflect on the human race's primal nature.