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Film Review: “The Lighthouse” is a psychological thriller

After a stellar directorial debut in 2015 with “The Witch,” Robert Eggers marks a triumphant return with his sophomore feature-length film “The Lighthouse.” With only two films under his belt, Eggers already has won the public over with his recognizable style of filmmaking. His approach has curated unusual and uncomfortable stories, but casual movie-goers, as well as diehard cinephiles, take delight in his chilling New England-centered stories.

Robert Pattinson and Willem Dafoe star as two wickies—lighthouse attendants—in a late nineteenth-century island. The two strangers form an unusual relationship and begin to question the opposite’s every move in a thrilling, psychological tale that leaves audiences with more and more questions as the film progresses.

Shot in an old-fangled 4:3 aspect ratio, the film has a tight feel. The set is brilliantly detailed, with the lone island containing a handful of different rickety buildings for the maintenance of the titular structure. The constant nautical sounds of the gulls’ caws, fierce Atlantic’s waves and the lighthouse’s tolls add to the uneasy voice of the film.

Pattinson and Dafoe are a duo that works very well off each other as Ephraim and Thomas, respectively. Their offbeat, imbalanced relationship carries the movie through its rollercoaster of tone. They instantly entice the audience in frustrating one another. The thick tension caused by their constant bickering is dissonant yet so harmonic. The dialogue, whether it be Thomas’s monologue about the damning spirit of the sea to Ephraim’s annoyed defense against his partner, is also deep and full of rich character. Max Eggers, Robert’s brother, helped write the film.

The most popular categorization of “The Lighthouse” is horror, but it offers so much more than fear. A handful of perfectly-timed comedic breaks allows the audience to fully be immersed in the absurdity of the twosome. The music, whether it’s eerie strings in the background or extremely drunken sea shanties in the foreground, also plays a pivotal role in progressing the story along.

Many details are thankfully left up to the audience’s interpretation, which allows for creative conversation that will follow audience members far outside the theater. The increased disillusionment with reality and the ever-changing relationship between Ephraim and Thomas has audiences on the edge of their seats.

The cinematography matched with the chemistry of Pattinson and Dafoe produces a wild film to kick off awards season films. Robert Eggers continues to rise, and when he constructs wonderful pieces like these, he’ll surely find himself atop many lists of great modern filmmakers.

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