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‘The Lighthouse’ (review)

Produced by Rodrigo Teixeira,
Jay Van Hoy, Robert Eggers,
Lourenço Sant’ Anna, Youree Henley
Written by Robert Eggers, Max Eggers
Directed by Robert Eggers
Starring Willem Dafoe, Robert Pattinson


The Lighthouse is the story of two lighthouse keepers stranded on an island held hostage by an unending series of raging storms the result of either bad luck or supernatural influence.

Beaten down by the isolation, the two men descend into paranoia and madness.

The Lighthouse is one of the most visually stunning films I have seen in a long time. If you covet films released from the Criterion Collection or Kino International, then every frame of this film is made for you.

The cinematography is gorgeous. It is easy to see how director Robert Eggers utilizes all of his skills having worked in the industry as a costume designer, production designer and art director.

The leap in polish from his full length feature directorial debut The Witch to The Lighthouse, which is his second feature as a director, is astonishing. In partnership with his cinematographer, Jarin Blaschke, the framing of each scene is meticulous without being stagnant. The choice to use black and white film is bold. His choice pays off. The richness of the light and shadows brings an expressiveness that enriches the experience. It sets the story.

Willem Dafoe’s performance, non-surprising, is nothing short of brilliant. His turn as the senior lighthouse keeper shows that even an actor with almost 40 years experience under his belt can still stretch himself into new shapes and characters. What was surprising was seeing Robert Patterson hold his own against such a titan. Patterson has moved far beyond his Twilight days and gives a chilling performance of a young man fading way before his time.

Robert and Max Eggers take the Small Islands incident that the story of The Lighthouse is based on and weave a supernatural thread through that tapestry of the story. While the lunacy of the two men sets in, the viewer is never quite sure if there is an outside influence at work or it is just the underlying human nature surfacing when there is nothing left to distract the men. The final take away is left to the viewer.

With all this said, I did not enjoy The Lighthouse.

Yup, you read that right. After all that gushing, I did not enjoy it.

It is a superbly crafted film. It provokes thought and conversation. The person I took as my guest and I talked about the film for days afterward, dissecting new thoughts and theories that came up as time went on. While fascinating, I can’t call the film itself enjoyable.

It got me thinking. Does a film have to be enjoyable to be entertaining? I have been entertained by The Lighthouse far beyond the time spent in the theater with the conversations that have been born out of seeing the film. For me, the answer is no, but I personally want to know what I am getting into. If it’s not something I am prepared for then all that brilliance might have been lost on me.

Nevertheless, if you are up for a visually striking art-house film that will stay with you for days to come, then The Lighthouse is the film for you.


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