Hope everyone is surviving and being healthy as we wait out the coronavirus. As for me, I’ve been working from home and it’s nice I actually get to see my wife and son during the day, something that hasn’t happened in years! In my quarantine I’ve been drawn to movies with isolation as a theme, and this pick certainly fits, it’s...
The Lighthouse (2019). Amazon Prime.
Ever since I first saw the picture of Willem Dafoe and Robert Pattinson looking weathered and miserable I was immediately interested in this movie. I haven’t seen many A24 movies, but I thought The Witch was boring and filled with idiot characters so I deliberately avoided all reviews for this one. I think that partially ruined The Witch for me because I read so many glowing reviews saying it was so scary, only to be really let down. With that said, The Lighthouse is much better.
Before I get into the review, let me say this, after watching the movie, I am now even more confident that if The Batman is a lousy movie, it won’t be Pattison’s fault, while he may be a weirdo in how he goes about his craft, he’s a damn fine actor and he and Dafoe are just fantastic.
Dafoe and Pattison are two lighthouse keepers and they’ll be manning the lighthouse on a rocky island for four weeks before they get relieved. It starts off normal enough but Dafoe is just a little too forceful in letting Pattison know that only he gets to man the room with the light. Slowly things start progressing, a bad storm hits and both start to lose their grip on reality and descend into madness. That’s about all I can make of the plot haha.
The guy who made the movie, Robert Eggers, also did The Witch, so at the very least you know going in the atmosphere is going be thick. In this one, the setting, the lighting and the eerie fog horn are almost characters themselves. The movie is in black and white and every shot is lit for maximum creepiness. It’s a dark and dreary rock they’re living on and there’s not much natural light, so they’re using oil lamps and every second there’s some kind of shadow obscuring part of the scene or person’s face that puts a sense of unease throughout the whole thing.
I like H.P. Lovecraft a lot and part of it is I enjoy stories that involve someone slowly going mad. Dafoe can play unhinged really well, but I was surprised with how well Pattison pulled it off. The acting in this movie is absolutely top notch. The pair speak with a regional accent appropriate for the time and at no point do they break or lose the accent. I watched this on my laptop before bed and I could feel their claustrophobia and paranoia through them, they put on a clinic. At one point Dafoe puts a curse on Pattinson because he rags on his cooking, and it’s a 2-minute closeup of Dafoe’s face mixed with hurt and anger that’s just wonderful. Fun fact, it was done on just one take, and Dafoe didn’t blink the whole time.
Eggers, when writing this movie deliberately gave more questions than answers. Sometimes that can be annoying (“Lost”), but in this instance it works. The two are going insane and when Dafoe starts trying to mess with Pattinson’s mind you start to wonder if he’s telling the truth. The movie follows around Pattinson, but you learn pretty quick he’s not a reliable narrator. Then you get to the end and you get just enough to realize that there’s something truly off about this lighthouse, outside of its deliberate phallic shape, designed that way because there was a scene that had Pattison’s erect penis followed by a fade to the lighthouse that was cut. While you know something’s wrong about the place, it doesn’t show you what. The build is really effective and off putting, I found myself leaning in to my computer at the end, only to have it dashed away with about eight more questions. It’s very well done.
Some random thoughts:
This movie probably had the creepiest use of birds in a film. The warning, “It’s bad luck to kill a sea bird,” has a really creepy explanation that gets creepier on closer inspection.
The bad weather you see in this movie isn’t special effects or wind machines. They were really shooting in these storms. Filming this movie must have been Hell for everybody.
Did I mention how fantastic the acting is in this movie? When they’re drinking it’s fascinating to watch their emotions turn so quickly. They go from singing and dancing, to yelling and fighting, then laughing and cuddling then back to fighting.
Don’t go into this movie thinking you’re going to be scared. It’s extremely psychological and it would much rather mess with your mind than try to scare you.
8 Dr. Chainsaws!
The Lighthouse - Amazon Prime
Two lighthouse keepers (Robert Pattinson and Willem Dafoe) fight each other for survival and sanity on a remote and mysterious New England island in the 1890s. From Robert Eggers, the visionary filmmaker behind horror masterpiece 'The Witch'.
Directors Robert Eggers
Subtitles English [CC]
Audio languages English