It's finally here! Ever since I saw The Witch back in 2015 I knew that Robert Eggers was going to be a director to watch. The immediate rumor was that Eggers was attached to a Nosferatu remake and while he does have a script that he has written, the movie never came. Instead we got The Lighthouse, a look into the psyche of two men on a remote island who have no company other than themselves. With this being only his second outing as writer/director, would lightning strike twice? I knew that I was going to see this movie no matter what based on how phenomenal The Witch was, and now that I've seen it it's time to break it down. Spoilers ahead for this one, so if you haven't seen the movie I highly recommend that you do before continuing.
The Lighthouse is a very intimate movie, having only two actors for the majority of the film. Starring Robert Pattinson and Willem Dafoe, The Lighthouse focuses on the pair of lighthouse keepers on their month long assignment tending to said lighthouse. The film is already getting universal praise, with 92% audience approval and a surprising 79% approval from audiences. I say surprising because at the time of the writing, The Witch still lingers at 58% audience approval and these are both very slow burning movies.
First thing's first, let's talk about the story. It's very abstract. Mostly we're following Robert Pattinson's character in his day to day chores on the lighthouse grounds, but things take a turn for the weird. Not in a "why was that decision made for the film" type of weird, more of in a "I'm not entirely sure if what I'm watching is real or not" kind of weird. The movie almost feels like a fever dream with both of the characters falling in and out of drunken stupors and the hallucinations that Pattinson suffers (if they even are hallucinations) really blur the lines between what's real and what's not.
That brings us to the performances. Both Pattinson and Dafoe absolutely kill it in the movie. These might be the two best performances of the entire year for me so far. They have great chemistry together which is fantastic because the movie relies entirely on their performances. They are alone on an island so there are literally no other actors. If their performances weren't up to snuff this could have quickly become an absolute slog of a movie. Not only do they portray the stress and and horror of the situation, but they also have some great comedic moments together.
Where The Lighthouse really shines (pun intended) however, is the imagery. Like The Witch before it, Eggers is a master of capturing the era in which he sets his films. This is another example of a period piece that is perfectly represented by Eggers, but what we're really interested in is the horror element, right? What makes The Lighthouse scary? Well, for starters there is some vague Lovecraftian horror elements with the actual lighthouse. Dafoe's character is has a weird obsession with it the plays into his madness, and Pattinson keeps seeing visions of Dafoe as this otherworldly sea creature. Unfortunately, the movie doesn't delve into that as much as I would have liked because I'm a big Lovecraft fan, but the scene that really sticks with me is when Pattinson kills Dafoe. You see Pattinson swing an ax, but you never see Dafoe's character get hit because he's off camera when it happens. It's over so quickly and is shot in such a matter-of-fact manner that for me it is easily the most disturbing shot in the film.
If you haven't seen The Lighthouse but were reading this anyway, you should still go and see it. This is easily one of the best movies I've seen this year with the two best performances of the year in my opinion. The Lighthouse further cements Robert Eggers as an amazing director and while I personally prefer The Witch over this, that is not to say that this isn't still a fantastic movie. The Lighthouse takes its time setting the stage for the madness to come and it's creepy, hypnotic visuals will certainly stick with you long after the credits roll.