Friday, October 25, 2019

The Lighthouse

The was a moment a little more than halfway through The Lighthouse where I was forced to look at the movie from an entirely different perspective and reconsider what I was watching. More than anything else, the nebulous nature of the proceedings provide the greatest strength of the latest film from writer/director Robert Eggers.

The script, penned by Robert Eggers and Max Eggers offers a simple premise of two strangers assigned to a lighthouse for a period of weeks. Cut-off from the world, the grizzly veteran (Willem Dafoe) and newbie (Robert Pattinson) struggle with the solitude of the remote outpost far from any other living souls.

The Lighthouse is a tense psychological drama presented mostly from the view of Pattinson's character as we see one, or possibly both, men descend into madness. Set in the late 19th Century, there's no outside communication of any kind as the pair are completely isolated. As odd things begin to happen, who do we believe? Are any of the bizarre hallucinatory sequences real? Or is it nothing more than fevered madness?

By the very nature of the story, it drags on at times building the tension between the two men. This offers a slow-paced story that relies on some tedious sequences to balance out the more flamboyant scenes during the 109-minute running time (which feels longer) before paying off with in the final act. Although quite fascinating at times, the film isn't perfect. The black-and-white photography certainly helps frame the gray surroundings the pair find themselves in, but the camera's 1.19:1 aspect ratio and the overuse of natural sounds and a booming score make the film feel overproduced as it overcompensates its slow, quiet tale.

Dafoe and Pattinson are both put to good use as flawed men burdened by enough secrets to seek shelter as far away from the prying eyes of the world as possible. As for the hallucinations, those are certainly visually impressive, and I'll give Eggers praise for not divulging more than is necessary, even in the movie's closing moments, and instead allow the audience to do the heavy lifting in deciding for themselves what has occurred and what it all means.

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