The Lighthouse is the second feature from acclaimed indie horror filmmaker Robert Eggers. Eggers first gained notoriety for 2015’s The Witch, a period-perfect film centered around a banished family of 17th Century New England settlers trying to survive in the wilderness whilst under a looming supernatural threat. With just two films, Eggers has already established himself an auteur of period dramas centering around isolated characters dealing with forces of other-worldly horror– and there’s always a demonic animal thrown in for good measure!
Set on New England’s coast in the 1890s, Eggers has described The Lighthouse as a film about two men trapped inside a giant phallus. The movie explores the lust, loneliness, and carnal urges of men cut off from society and slowly driven mad by what they can’t have. Willem Dafoe stars as Thomas Wake an unhinged Captain Ahab-esque sailor who finds more comfort in the sea and his lighthouse than with any real person. Robert Pattinson enters as Ephraim Winslow, a young “wickie” (a title derived from the trimming of the actual lighthouse wick) sent to assist Wake. Winslow keeps to himself at first and appears shrouded in mystery. Both men seem to be holding secrets… And once “the beans” are spilled, the seagull shit really hits the fan.
The Lighthouse was shot on black & white 35mm film leaving nearly every image so symmetrical and aesthetically pleasing that it could be framed and placed in a gallery. Meanwhile, Mark Korven’s score utilizes an array of horns and odd tones to continually amp up the foreboding and claustrophobia. Eggers again writes in a period-accurate dialect which does take some getting used to. The expressive and exaggerative character monologues often sound like something straight out of Shakespeare, but The Lighthouse was a viewing experience unlike any other I’ve had this year. If you have the opportunity, I can’t urge you enough to see this movie on the big screen.