Rating: 9/10 (Exhilarating Art Film)
Cast: Robert Pattinson and Willem Dafoe
Director: Robert Eggers
Written by: Robert and Max Eggers
Cinematography: Jarin Blaschke
Editor: Louise Ford
Music: Mark Korven
Theater Watched: AMC Lowes Palisades 21
There's something about the intrigue about movies that the audience can't seem to figure out. It is a source of entertainment or a piece of art that should be talked about and appreciated for ages to come? Perhaps the first thing that comes into a filmmakers mind is this question. And given the expertise and perfectionism of someone like Robert Eggers, it's safe to say the director aims for the latter.
Through scintillating trailers and an gutsy decision for film a modern film in black and white, Eggers takes a risk most filmmakers today wouldn't. Making a piece of art that is as ambiguous as it is entertaining.
On the surface, the story is simple. Ephraim Winslow played by Robert Pattinson and Thomas Wake played by Willem Dafoe are two sailors tasked with carrying out duties on an isolated rock for a lighthouse. Both men seem to have mysterious pasts and they need to figure out a way to survive, within themselves and with each other.
Sometimes in film we see a one man show. But Eggers pulls a casting coup and makes The Lighthouse a two man show from Pattinson and Dafoe. Both men are exemplary with their performances perfectly encompassing the emotions of pain, isolation, identity, and friendship brilliantly throughout. Pattinson in particular steals the show throughout with a magnificent performance and with a monologue towards the climax that is sure to impress even the greatest of haters and get the common person excited for that movie that involves a man dressed up in a Bat costume.
What ensues is a concoction of inexplicable things that must be experienced on the big screen. As mentioned before this is only the surface. Perhaps no film in recent times is rooted more in symbolism and ambiguity than the Lighthouse in recent times. Eggers script is simply brilliant and there are so many sequences which could be termed as mind bending that you are constantly asking yourself whether the narrative that's unfolding is real or just a imagination of what the character and director want you to believe. The seagulls, the lighthouse itself, the sea, mermaids, and lobsters are symbols and motifs that serve a much greater purpose in the narrative and it takes a true cinephile to understand and appreciate these tones.
Not only this but like the recently released Joker, The Lighthouse explores a myriad of themes such sexuality, isolation, companionship, identity and most of all sanity. All these move the narrative forward in a deeply compelling and timely manner.
After it's premiere all anybody could talk about were the technicalities of the film and rightfully so. Movies are about great storytelling along with the other crafts that are involved. The Music is fantastic but the Sound Mixing in particular is simply unreal. The sound effects involving the eponymous title itself or during a moment of tension only add to the feeling of what the characters are feeling. Cinematography by Jarin Blaschke is outstanding. The aspect ratio and the gutsy move to shoot the film in black and white pays dividends as each and every shot is a glorious painting in it's own right. The aspect ratio in particular enhances the claustrophobic feeling the movie serves to give. Editing by Louise Ford is perfect and sets the pace for the film much like Pattinson jobs shoving coal into a fire. It's a slow burner. The rest of the technical departments should be commended for making a wholesome cinematic experience.
That being said, the film's only flaw might be the pace. It is a slow burner and that might not be for everyone. But when watching a film like this, entertainment is not the goal. It's to appreciate the story telling and the art that is unfolding in front of us and for that reason alone, The Lighthouse is not everyone's cup of tea.
The ambiguity of the films narrative is what will stay with you at the end. If anything, the film is a thesis about human nature itself. Isolation, sex, and companionship are all things we need to survive as humans. Precisely, this was Eggers goal. And he achieves it mightily. Perhaps not everything should be explained in a film and the audience should be the ones to piece together the rest of puzzle and what just unfolded between their eyes.
Having not witnessed The Witch, one can easily the directorial style as a first time experience is simply brilliant. The ambiguity of the films ending is perhaps the most intriguing and leads to a cohesive investigation of the narrative all over again.
Overall, The Lighthouse is an exhilarating piece of art and a simply breathtaking film from Robert Eggers. With it's ethereal Sound Mixing, incredible cinematography, and ambiguous and symbolic narrative, The Lighthouse is a true cinematic experience that every hardcore filmmaker and movie buff should watch.
While the war between what films should be in terms of the art and commercial space rages on, films like The Lighthouse come around and reminds you why exactly we go to the movies.
Is to be entertained or make a piece of art to be dissected and talked about for ages to come? Choice is left up in the air. Much like the film itself.