The Lighthouse is the second feature film by the director of the critically-acclaimed The Witch (2015), Robert Eggers. Though it’s his sophomore feature, it feels like Eggers has been making horror epics for a lifetime.
The film follows two lighthouse keeps, known also as wickies, Thomas Wake (Willem Dafoe) and Ephraim Winslow (Robert Pattinson), on a remote island as they work in isolation in the late 1800s. As the two endure the tough job, monotony and crude stormy weather ultimately drive Wake and Winslow into insanity.
The Lighthouse is eerie, creepy and unsettling. Eggers’ stark imagery channels what is most unnerving to viewers’ eyes, using Pagan visuals and lighting reminiscent of early silent horror films. The movie also utilizes sound, both in music and effects, to create an uneasy atmosphere.
Ultimately, the film is carried by great performances. Dafoe’s portrayal of an ancient wickie is of enormous proportions. His character delivers dramatic monologues, full of power and epic threats. Though Dafoe is the boss, Pattinson is equally as powerful. Despite beginning as somewhat of a straight-edged man, Pattinson proves himself to be just as crazy as Dafoe.
Unbeknownst to many based on trailers alone, The Lighthouse is filled with humor. Though a drama, a thriller and a journey, the film is also layered with humor, both visually and in the writing and performances. Dafoe’s dramatic performance is full of funny lines and deliveries as well as Pattinson’s role as the newbie putting up with his stubborn boss.
Eggers’ film gives audiences a lot to unpack. The director plays with references to classic arthouse cinema, like the films of Ignmar Bergman, as well as themes of Greek mythology, most explicitly the story of Prometheus, which perhaps is the ultimate theme of the film. The Lighthouse, like a lot of artistic cinema, falls to viewers’ interpretation. Audiences should not only go in with an open mind, but also leave with one — and allow themselves time to form an opinion.
Fitted with visually stunning images, superb lighting, and thematic contrasts, The Lighthouse is set up for epic proportions. Much like contemporaries such as Ari Aster or even Jordan Peele, Eggers has become a household name despite his small filmography.
The Lighthouse is currently playing at the Athena Cinema.