“The Lighthouse” is the movie of the year
The Lighthouse is a psychological horror film that may be the very best movie 2019 has to offer. Coming out in late October, I was only able to view it recently and I haven’t stopped thinking about it since.
It’s refreshing after all the movies I watched over the break, as many of them reused ideas or sequels. It was a pleasure to see Roger Eggers’ artwork dance in front of my eyes. It’s a film that I enjoyed every second of and also one that I’m excited to watch again.
This is only Robert Eggers’ second film, his first being another horror called The Witch, which was another really great watch, but pales in comparison to his newest release.
The story follows two late 19th-century lighthouse keepers who man the lighthouse on a distant, mysterious island.
One is the old tried and tested keeper that mans the actual light of the lighthouse, Tom (played by William Defoe) and his worker/ caretaker of the establishment, Winslow (played by Robert Pattinson).
Winslow begins having difficulties on the island with nightmares, being pestered by seagulls, and witnessesing strange behaviour from Captain Tom.
A storm then comes and Winslow’s scheduled departure ship never comes. Himself and captain Tom descend into heavy intoxication and madness as more and more horrifying events come to haunt Winslow, as and his relationship with Tom grows stranger by the day.
In terms of the film’s cinematography, I can’t imagine seeing it in color. Going with a black and white colour palette was definitely the right choice for the presentation of suchthe grim events.
Where some horror films depend on cheap scare tactics to get a reaction out of the audience, The Lighthouse earns the audience’s fear.
The color also works wonders for the film’s consistent tone. More colors would’ve disturbed the complete sense of dreariness and isolation that Eggers traps you inside of. While there are many sequences of excellent camera work, they are only so excellent as a result of the lighting that is used.
There are such pronounced shadows that are used on characters that make them appear less like people and more like monsters which itself becomes very apropos to later events in the story. The setting is very believable, further assisting in the continued immersion of the audience.
The island and the lighthouse that sits atop it feel real, almost like you’re there with two stranded lighthouse keepers as you watch them go mad.
To me, Robert Pattinson was never really an actor of much interest up until a while ago. All I ever really knew him as was some pretty boy. Now though, having seen his performance in The Lighthouse has turned me into a fan.
Pattinson nails the progression of Winslow’s slow descent into insanity with the way he moves and interacts with the environment. The execution of the character is made more impressive due to the fact that we view the plot from Winston’s perspective, so Pattinson must find a way to stay relatable to the audience while also showing his progression into madness. He pulls this off masterfully.
Of course, one shouldn’t discount William Defoe’s performance. While his character was much more stereotypical and traditional, his passion, charisma, and flair really made him a perfect antithesis to Pattinson’s character. Defoe adds to his character’s mystique and personality, and his dialogue really blew me away just with how much conviction it is said with.
The horror elements are introduced gradually, making the eventual payoffs much more impactful. Where some horror films depend on cheap scare tactics to get a reaction out of the audience, The Lighthouse earns the audience’s fear.
Along with frightening visuals, it uses elements of sound, montage and lighting to collect the audience into the palm of its hand. The mystery of what’s happening to the characters is enthralling;, I was just craving more and more answers as I became fully invested in the fantastical tale.
There is an overwhelming sense of helplessness as the island continues to turn more and more into a nightmare. I feel the need to bring up that along with the overwhelming despair, there are instances where comedy is integrated into actions and dialogue flawlessly. It’s incredible how the film managed to make me horrified one moment, and made me laugh out loud during others.
Speaking of dialogue, the entire movie is spoken in an old seafolk dialect of English. It’s historically accurate and does add to the experience of the film.
However, I’d still recommend that you watch it with subtitles. I, for one, did not have access to subtitles and as a result of this, some of the dialogue was hard to really understand.
Also, there are many well done ‘weird’ instances, but there were a couple that I didn’t really understand. I couldn’t help with the impression that one or two of them were weird and scary just for the sake of it. This, admittedly, is very nitpicky but, overall, it’s very difficult to find anything truly wrong with this film.
I recommend this movie to anyone who likes movies in general, unless you don’t stomach horror very well. Often times when watching this, I felt as though I was watching someone’s actual nightmare, which is a compliment I cannot grant many other films. This is the best film of 2019 I’ve seen so far and if you have the time, check it out and see for yourself.