An enchantment of dark and restless ocean waves pushing its force against the coastal bedrock. The screaming birds fluttering to find shelter as heavy rain clouds start to build up. Far in the distance, you can see the flickering of a fishing trawler making its way out towards the edge of the earth. Here the nights can become an entanglement of mystery and two men fighting off their own battles. Directed by Robert Eggers, “The Lighthouse”, leaves you deranged, he created a film that plays out how two men are on the edge of their sanity. His use of sound engineering and location design pushes the viewer towards terror and the feeling of watching someone else’s nightmare come true.
The lighthouse – official trailer:
From the very first frame, everything is already in the picture-perfect gloom that Egger is so famous for. Figuratively, many critics and viewers will list the film as “black and white”, but it would be more accurately categorized as “grey”. Life is mundane and monotonous for Thomas and Ephraim from the first encounter. The two men, played by Willem Dafoe and Robert Pattison, is a combination of unparalleled actions on the backdrop of a lighthouse at the edge of the world. Thomas is played by Dafoe, an older man, and the leader of operations at the lighthouse ensuring Pattinson’s Ephraim completes all the daily duties. Both men don’t find strive in what they’re doing, Ephraim cleans and repairs, but under the eyes of a man constantly reminding him who’s in charge. Thomas’s diminutive remarks towards Ephraim are a clear indication of their boss-worker relationship.
The film makes us question who will go crazy first. Every day is filled with back-breaking labour for Ephraim, with added rivalry with a seagull and listening to Thomas’ tall tales over dinner pushes him towards more inner confliction. Ephraim is denied access to the top of the lighthouse, and become obsessed with what happens when Thomas goes up there. His deranged obsession with the lighthouse and augmenting terrifying visions between fits of self-gratification and hard labour makes him a heavy character to follow around in the film. Egger has managed to build an entire cast and scenario on experimental surrealism, showing that the absence of joy and cheerfulness doesn’t make this a “buddy movie”. Nothing can be worse than being stuck with a person you can’t stand.
Dafoe’s presentation of an intrusive and unpleasant person makes for a captivating performance. Think of a real-life Simpsons Sea Captain, embodied in drunken slurs with the voice of Dafoe. Because of his physical role in the film, Dafoe’s Thomas remains quiet and vague for a while, but we’re not sure if he’s doing this to be a jerk, or purely out of trying to destroy Ephraim. It’s not difficult to summarize Dafoe’s character as he is equally hysterical and annoying in everything he does.
Dafoe has a long history of playing deranged characters, and his latest performance as Van Gogh in “At Eternity’s Gate” makes for a brilliant runner up to this film. The same can be said about Pattinson, with a long line of daring performances recently in “The Lost City of Z” and “High Life”, will make many see that this might be his best work yet. His hidden desperation and secrecy which is revealed later make his predicament even more tragic. Eggers use the character of Ephraim to portray the unbalance of life and darkness which one can fall in to. Pattinson plays this out perfectly as we later realize that he needs this keeper job as a way to survive. To climb out of the whole of life. He needs light. His hunger for success pushes himself and the viewer towards an edge of argument.
“The Lighthouse” is a true representation of uncensored and cryptic tales. It allures and captivates you, leaving you to question your balance of sanity. Eggers use of gloomy frames gives you an uneasy feeling that mixes with the troubles and toils found in his characters. Dafoe and Pattinson embodied their characters in every single breath, leaving you speechless as it progress, but making it exciting to watch.