“Nothing good can happen when two men are trapped alone in a giant phallus.”said the director of this film, Robert Eggers. And he wasn’t wrong. Two men, tending a lighthouse on a small rock in the middle of the ocean… what could go wrong? Well, plenty.
The lighthouse is the newest release from A24, the small powerhouse of a movie studio that cranks out nothing but critically acclaimed movies. And in true fashion, this outing will too be praised by the connoisseurs. It’s like a film made in the golden age of Hollywood, but with today’s standards of boundaries and sensibilities. But make no mistake, this is a pure blood horror movie, as if taken from the pages of a Lovecraft novel, dark, cold, wet and mad.
As already stated, the movie is about two men that are on a 4 weeklong assignment to tend to a lighthouse on a small rock, in the middle of the ocean. One is an old, sea battled sailor, played by Willem Dafoe, who is rather a dick. By the virtue of age and experience, not to mention post, he acts like a tyrant, but under that layer of confidence and authority there is a tremendous dose of madness and insecurity. The other occupant of the island is a young man, played by Robert Pattinson, that is visibly inexperienced and not keen of being where he is at the moment. But he views his post as a quick fix for his predicament, as in to get back on his own feet and becoming its own master. Now, if only his boss would not be such a major asshole… Now, I don’t have to emphasis that this whole movie rests on the shoulders of these two actors. And they deliver, in spades. Dafoe is just poster perfect for an old, battered sailor. His looks, his accents, his everything. We have all grown accustomed to his level of work quality and he does not disappoint. As for Pattinson, long gone are the days of Twilight. While everybody was sleeping on him, the man has quietly built up an impressive resume with roles in small, but universally acclaimed movies. He might have gotten a foothold in Hollywood due to a worthless cash grab of a franchise, but he sure as hell has the chops to prove himself worthy of his movie star status.
The movie is shot in black in white, with an unusual aspect ratio, that makes the frame into a square, basically. These choices just amplify the already lingering sensation of claustrophobia. Everything is just in your face and you have nowhere to go and get away. The film was shot on location in Nova Scotia, meaning that all the waves, winds, storms, every weather feature displayed on screen was shot for real, with no help of any machinery that would have been deployed normally to aid the film makers. No, everything was for real, which made the filming process as much of a horror show as the movie is. To be fair, this is not the first horror for the director, Robert Eggers. He is also the one responsible for another hit movie from a couple of years ago, The Witch.
Now, after all this that has been said, one would expect from me to say that I liked this movie. I really did not. It is a good movie. Great even. All the bits used in the making are top shelf and even more, they match. But this is just not my cup of tea. The whole time of the screening I felt like I am doing some nasty chore outside, while I am being rained upon. I have felt the same way as the protagonists, trapped on that island and wanting to go home. It is an uncomfortable watch and I don’t see myself revisiting it, ever again. But you should see it. If not for anything else, than just to see a truly original movie, that people say that is in short supply these days (it really isn’t)…