“The Lighthouse” is a shimmer of hope in a sea of subpar movies

By Brennan Atkins
Arts & Features Editor

By Noah Barnes
Entertainment Correspondent

“The Lighthouse” is the newest movie by up-and-coming director Roger Eggers, who also directed the 2016 horror movie, “The Witch.” The film stars Willem Dafoe and Robert Pattinson as two lighthouse keepers during the 1890s. Dafoe’s character is experienced with his lighthouse duties while Pattinson’s is still slowly learning the ins and outs of the job.

The film’s narrative seems like a strange amalgamation of Grecian, Romantic, and Biblical tales, at times feeling like a cinematic adaptation of Edgar Allen Poe’s “The Raven,” while at other times feeling like a story of caution straight out of Greek mythology.

To put it bluntly, it’s Pattinson’s and Dafoe’s best roles to date, and they really made each of their characters their own.

Dafoe plays Thomas Wake, an effective Captain Ahab stereotype, believing in superstitions and even going to the extent of saying, “Best y’leave the gulls be. In ‘ems the souls of sailors what met their maker.” He genuinely believes the tall tales that have been spread all across the seven seas, and at times, fears them.

This sets up a stark contrast to Pattinson’s character, Ephraim Winslow, an emotionally isolated individual who seemingly just wants to be done with work and go to sleep. He is skeptical of any mysticism involved and doesn’t find Thomas Wake pleasant to be around.

This becomes the catalyst for further conflict as Winslow can’t stand Wake, and he is given the most laborious tasks to do – including shoveling coal and repairing the roof.

Dafoe delivers monologues that seem straight out of “Moby-Dick” with such intensity you can almost feel the tension in the air of the theater.

Pattinson’s occasional drunken outbursts consistently have the audience at the edge of their seats, as there’s no telling what exactly is about to happen. There’s a genuine fear in having a character go from being this unassuming average Joe to an intimidating, unpredictable force who is capable of ending a life. 

Pattinson’s ability to make the same character have such polar opposite personalities is a testament to how far this actor has grown.

The film is in black and white and was shot on Kodak Double-X stock to create a genuine, early silent film look – and it achieves it with such ease that at times, we forgot we are watching a movie from a 2019 director, rather than a rerelease of a classic in theaters.

Another note is that the aspect ratio for the film is 1.19:1, which is commonly associated with the aforementioned silent films. It seems as if Eggers is trying to bring the audience into the movie on a deeper level than most, by actually making the viewer feel as if they’re also in the time period.

It’s an incredibly meta way of presenting a film, and we would love to see it done more in the future.

There is something inherently scarier about a man’s psyche at its limits than the conventional jump scare or dead person coming back to haunt a house.

One thing that was surely unexpected was the level of comedy that’s present in the film.

While it seems as if this would break the tension, it does nothing but add to it. Laughing along with these characters makes us want to see them more, and ultimately when something doesn’t go their way, it makes us all the more uneasy.

The soundtrack of the movie is composed by Mark Kroven, and many of the composed pieces really make the scene come alive. Each piece is played during a specific point in the film, and the soundtrack alone makes each scene memorable. There are many songs that instantly remind us of the exact scene in the movie, and that’s indicative of a strong soundtrack indeed.

The sound mixing also has to be noted, as sometimes, the soundtrack of the film is the world itself – the rhythmic shoveling of coal, the blistering loud foghorn, and patters of rain on the wooden roof are enthralling.

While “The Witch” was certainly an excellent movie, “The Lighthouse” takes the title of Eggers’ best film thus far. It feels as if he learned a great deal about directing and playing with the audience’s emotions from “The Witch,” and applied it tenfold to this film.

However, much like “The Witch,” this film isn’t for the faint of heart. It depicts graphic violence and sexual acts throughout the film.

Eggers’ love of film is inspirational. This dedication to his craft is an example to other filmmakers never to cut corners, and that hard work pays off immensely.

We’re just going to come out and say it – it’s a masterpiece. That word gets thrown around a lot by critics and general audiences, but in this instance, it’s deserved.