Liz Foster ’22
Since my eyes fell upon a black and white poster featuring a fully mustachioed Robert Pattinson and an equally disheveled Willem Dafoe, I knew The Lighthouse was a must-watch feature.
The film was distributed by A24, an independent film production company with a devout following whose releases are often met with praise by younger audiences such as the self-described area of the internet known as “film Twitter.” The company, founded in 2012, has racked up awards with releases such as Ex Machina and Room. More recently, A24 has ventured into television, notably producing the recent HBO hit Euphoria among other well-known and critically acclaimed titles..
As a fan of previous A24 backed films such as Ari Aster’s widely praised horror works Midsommar and Hereditary, I had sky high expectations as a fan when heading into my viewing of The Lighthouse. I also assumed that I would undoubtedly like the film after reading countless vague analyses crafted by 17-year-olds on reddit.com/r/movies.
After putting off this viewing for far too many months—and with absolutely zero acceptable excuses—I finally settled down whilst in my own lighthousian-isolation to relish in a quarantine experience more devastating than my own. I’d like to advise readers that heavy, heavy spoilers are to follow, so please read on at your own discretion.
Though the film was originally intended to be a modernized take on Edgar Allen Poe’s maybe-unfinished short fiction piece “The Light-House,” director Robert Eggers ended up with a notably different story.
On an unnamed island off the New England coast, Pattinson’s young and spry Ephraim Winslow works under Dafoe’s crotchety Thomas Wake as a lighthouse keeper whose tasks grow increasingly more tedious and whose sanity shrinks by the day.
Throughout the film’s first act, Ephraim continuously spars with a gull with Thomas warning him to never kill a seabird as the souls of dead sailors are trapped inside their little flying-rat bodies. Oh, and Ephraim continues to hallucinate a terrifying image of a pseudo-sexy mermaid.
Also, his name isn’t even really Ephraim, but come on, were we really going to believe someone was named Ephraim?
The chaos continues as the two become undoubtedly more estranged and insane. A box of presumed supplies turns out to be merely alcohol—something that does not disappoint the two men. They binge drink for days, fighting and laughing with each other intermittently. Ephraim wonders about the mysterious light at the apex of the lighthouse as Thomas maintains his secrecy. The eventual reveal proves more Pulp Fiction than anticipated, or quite frankly desired.
This movie is honestly absurd and that’s what makes it so damn compelling. Pattinson’s character beats the ever-loving fuck out of the seagull, Wake chases after his wickie yelling about spilled beans and feverishly waving an axe, and the two drink paint thinner just to maintain their intoxication.
There’s shots of mermaid vaginas, decapitated heads, and tentacles a plenty. An NSFW scene involving Robert Pattinson and a mermaid shell was a thoroughly unanticipated moment in the film. Despite its absurdities, The Lighthouse maintains its integrity in Pattinson and Dafoe’s stellar performances as the actors fully embody the insanity of abandonment and isolation. Similarly, the film’s cinematography stuns in dramatic black and white shots that emphasize the empty melancholy of Wake’s island.
The Lighthouse is a dramatic, engaging viewing experience. Its shocking moments and sweeping cinematography combine with the narrative to create an adventure that immerses the viewer in Egger’s twisted world. Quell your anxieties about the real world and instead worry about two isolated, unhinged characters suffering under extreme mental duress simply by watching The Lighthouse. Robert Pattison may be our last hope.
Though The Lighthouse was only able to obtain one award at the Cannes Film Festival and garnered just one nomination for Best Cinematography at the Academy Awards, the film has largely been met with critical acclaim.
For those interested in catching the movie, The Lighthouse is available for streaming now on Amazon Prime.