Cinema Review: The Lighthouse

Posted January 27, 2020 in Cinema Reviews


The Lighthouse

Director: Robert Eggers

Talent: Robert Pattinson, Willem Dafoe

Release: 30 January

Robert Eggers’s follow-up to his much lauded The Witch is a fever dream yarn wringing the best out of its two protagonists. The Lighthouse sees Pattison (Efraim Winslow) marooned on a remote outpost in 1890s New England. We know he was a lumberjack and is escaping something, though we’re not quite sure what. His fellow stranded ‘wickie’ is Dafoe (Thomas Wake) who resembles our classic perception of a seafarer blending, the very best Captain Birdseye with a dash of beardy, boozy, Hemingway. They are cast in master and pupil roles with Pattinson tasked with the more menial jobs of scrubbing, sweeping, painting and polishing. “I ain’t no housewife, I ain’t no slave,” he protests, yet he’s beholden.

Shot in black and white 33mm, its grainy and heightened effect calls to mind everything from Hitchcock’s The Birds to Eisenstein’s earlier explorations in the cinematic craft. The Lighthouse is drenched in atmospherics, the language sways into sea shanty style dialogue and archaic utterances set against the sonic backdrop of an almost incessant foghorn. It’s a see-saw relationship teetering on the brink of stir-crazy territory. And at its dark and rugged heart is a question of masculinity, between the mysterious Winslow and the seemingly above-board Wake. A storm threatens to ravage the island as does their power struggle. Like two old salty soaks, they get blathered, fuelling further tensions.

Rolling throughout is a series of portentous omens which make us question the reality of the moment. The alluring siren pops up, as does the squall of the ever-circling, doughty seagulls. And, as for the light from the aforementioned house, its beams radiate a draw upon Wake. Whether this serves to illuminate or dazzle is something we fearfully edge towards discovering.

The Lighthouse is truly out there on its own, most welcome, cinematic outpost, a shining example of fearless film-making.

Words: Michael McDermott


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