The Lighthouse is yet another period film about supernatural terror striking among the mundane. So, why does this kind of film strike me warmer than say anything that Ari Aster or his contemporaries had been dropping these last few years? Well, I guess you can chalk that one up to me being a history nerd. It’s one thing to make a scary movie. But, it’s another to create a terrifying world in a narrow historical window.
Robert Eggers could easily be another A24 arthouse fart trying to play around on someone else’s dime. Yet, what Eggers does is stage deep looks into how fragile the human psyche can be under stress. Sometimes that takes the form of your daughter sacrificing your family to Satan. Other times, it’s a stunning look at generational differences among coastal workers.
Willem Dafoe is one of our greatest living actors. That’s not such a hot take, but it’s a declaration of talent. While Pattinson holds his own, Dafoe makes him raise the material so far beyond what is there. There are so many soft takes on how the film is about purgatory and how young Thomas is really dead. That is one read, but I don’t care to entertain it.
When Willem Dafoe summons a verbal plague from the depths of Poseidon’s nut sack onto Robert Pattinson, you feel it in your soul. But, it had been building for a bit. The front half of the film is watching Robert Pattinson stumble into a world beyond his understanding. Yet, Willem Dafoe carries him lovingly throughout everything. Pattinson never tries to be friendly back, but Dafoe keeps him in a loved spot in The Lighthouse.
Shooting in Black and White allows for something special. Look at the shots I include and take a notice of the faces. Pores, creases and wounds all appear super prominent throughout every scene. You can’t look away from either man, as the close framing and quarters pushes your eyes onto their every action and words.
Technical framing impresses me from a pure nerd standpoint. Yet, the special framing that so many of the A24 types deploy is meant to control your gaze. The Lighthouse uses this by making you feel like a third wheel. There is nowhere to go, but you get to be a friend to Old Thomas. By the same fault, you’re also pushed up against all of Young Thomas’s actions.
Due to the current pandemic, there is something about lust for essentials. When Robert Pattinson screams about wanting to fuck a steak, he’s saying something else. Young Thomas wants to have control over something. After stealing Ephraim Winslow’s identity and trying to find work anywhere, young Thomas knows he’s a fraud. A fraud stuck in a world that only entertains a crazy old man.
As Robert Pattinson does his best Don Draper throughout the film, you see something unnerving about young Thomas. He has zero hesitation to lie and drift through life. Old Thomas might be half baked, but he knows what he wants out of life. It’s just that no one else in the world wants his life in the Lighthouse.
The Blu-ray comes with a stunning 1080p transfer. The choice to shoot in 1.19:1 makes this disc look stunning. The old camera lenses crush out all reds and warms colors to flush everything in shades of black. Darker and darker people fall, outside of the titular Lighthouse bulb. By the end of the film, any chance at color is a welcome mesmer.
The special features range from featurettes to commentary and deleted scenes. I wish Robert Eggers talked more about constructing the dialogue. I have an ear for these things and I’d like to fill in the gaps on what I missed. This is one of 2019’s best.