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“The Lighthouse,” directed by Robert Eggers, debuted at the 72nd Cannes Film Festival on May 19, 2019. On Oct. 19, the film received a widespread theatrical release, giving this film the audience it deserves. The movie displays a methodical and dark experience through amazing cinematographically-sound techniques. Due to its presentation, the film upholds an outstanding level of immersion and stylization.
“The Lighthouse” features a young seaman, played by Robert Pattinson, working for an elder lighthouse monitor, played by Willem Dafoe. Gradually, the two workers lose their sanity due to the stress of being left alone on a stranded island, set in 1890s New England. The plot also revolves heavily on the men’s fears of traditional seabound tales, such as the dangers of seductive sirens.
If you’ve heard anything in regards to the film, it’s likely about the dedication during production. The movie was shot in freezing temperatures around the Atlantic ocean, with harsh storms consistently raging during filming. Therefore, scenes where actors struggle to walk around the island due to pounding rain are completely authentic. In addition, the seagulls, which become a central symbol to the film, are professionally trained, allowing them to “act” alongside the actors to fit the scene.
The old-fashioned presentation choices, such as the black and white colorization and the use of outdated camera technology, also adds to the film’s sea-based folktale inspiration. In an era where technological methods are readily available, it’s refreshing to see Eggers and his team put forth the effort to create such a grand and substantial experience.
Other design choices lead to a constant feeling of unease while viewing. Mark Korven’s score is mesmerizing, with the pulsating sounds of the ocean and bombastic horn fueling a sense of anxiousness. The constant incorporation of gut-wrenching sounds supports the bizarre imagery. Presenting a barrage of disturbing visuals, frightens the viewer without any unnecessary jump-scares. Even the physical set is superb, with the main cottage instilling claustrophobic feelings and more authenticity of sea-life.
While rumors of this movie comprising only two actors aren’t completely true, a majority of the movie revolves around Pattison and Dafoe. The two actors’ relationship was incredibly intriguing. The growth between them is dynamic, drastically altering throughout the film. Every scene with them felt authentic and emotional, with their emotions completely shifting the tone of the film. This even worked well when the actors became more playful, creating comedic scenes which feel both organic and uninterrupting to the movie’s sense of dread.
The only minor criticism I have of the film is the dialogue’s ambiguity early in the film. The actors not only speak in accents, but also utilize near-Shakespearian speech patterns and vocabulary. While I respect the work in the screenplay, especially with much of the dialogue being based upon seamen journals of the era, the unorthodox speech makes comprehending the plot sometimes difficult. This problem could easily be remedied if one were to watch the film with subtitles.
Despite this personal gripe, I’ll rate “The Lighthouse” a nine out of ten. A wickedly creative film arising from exceptional passion for filmmaking. Eggers has proved himself as a director to monitor in the upcoming years. It’s a patient film which will leave audiences bewildered.