Written by Samantha Wolfe
“Keeping secrets, are ye?”
Since its premiere at Cannes Film Festival earlier this year, The Lighthouse has been generating conversation across film fans and critics alike. Coming four years after director Robert Eggers’ feature length debut, The Witch, his sophomore feature engulfs viewers in a time long forgotten, using excellent cinematography, a smart script and a minimal but excellent cast to transport audiences along to the lighthouse with them.
The film centers around Ephraim (Robert Pattinson) a drifter looking for work. He gets hired to assist Thomas (Willem Dafoe) an expert in keeping the lighthouse. The film follows the two as they bond the only way they know how—by getting drunk and sharing their darkest secrets, both of which they regret in the morning.
If that description seems oversimplified, it’s because that’s all the movie is. There’s no real plot; instead, it’s an opportunity to glimpse into the lives of two men slowly going mad together. They do their everyday chores, keep the lighthouse in order, eat dinner together; yet the entire time, something feels off. One is waiting for something—or someone—to finally snap.
Though the plot may not be very loaded, the themes that the film explores covers more than enough. Gradually exploring themes such as masculinity, homosexuality, and loneliness, one is left afterwards with a mountain of subtext to unravel.
With career-high performances from both Dafoe and Pattinson, there’s never an opportunity to be bored. Listening to their sailor-speak is entertaining enough, and when paired with the gorgeous black and white cinematography, it’s obvious that there is no filmmaker doing it as well as Eggers. Using vintage equipment from the ‘20s and ‘40s, the nearly square, seldom used 1.19:1 aspect ratio further creates a mood unlike any other.
Films like The Lighthouse are few and far between. Oftentimes, films made today sacrifice originality and risk for crowd-pleasing blockbusters that are sure to cater to as many people as possible. While this isn’t always a bad thing, it’s refreshing to see a movie as unique and odd as The Lighthouse. It doesn’t ask general audiences to immediately enjoy it, rather it invites the audience to sit tight and give something new a chance. Even after the movie ends, one is left with more questions than answers, mainly, “What did I just watch?”