Weird and extremely messed up, THE LIGHTHOUSE can scare a regular viewer, but offers phenomenal performances by Pattinson and Defoe and superb cinematography.
THE LIGHTHOUSE is one weird movie and you will most definitely not like it. It is not viewer-friendly by any means. It is black and white, shot in 4×3 resolution, taking place in 1890’s, with just two characters who are slowly getting mad. They speak little and when they do you wish they would go back to staring at each other in silence, because dialogues are in old accents with sailor slang and are barely understandable. Add minimal exposition and long pauses and almost zero explanation of plot. This film is an ultimate antidote to a cinema lover who is tired of films that spoon-fed information and messages, preying on emotions, exploiting weaknesses and hiding behind pseudo-avangardism.
Film’s also not trying to be snobbishly smart or for elites. Even if there’s a message, this film is not a puzzle and shall not be dissected into an array of “explanation videos” on YouTube. I assure it’s a waste of time to watch any because none of the commentators know the answers. There can be no big answers when there are just too few questions. Events seem to happen because they happen. And just like some master art pieces this film needs to be admired and not questioned.
And there is a lot to admire. Firstly, this is one of the best cinematography I have seen in recent years. Robert Eggers uses blank and white just like masters of cinema of the early 20th century. Shadow play and highlights, camera setup, contrasts, even the hue of the black color truly reflect Kurosawa’s and Hitchcock’s works. This isn’t an amateur shooting in color and then grading the film.
Acting is superb. I can’t single out Willem Defoe or Robert Pattinson, because it is a duality of their performances that is phenomenal. It will be just a sin to award one and omit the other.
Atmosphere and build-up is tremendous. Eggers chose to shoot it like a true horror film instead of thriller. And unlike the other A24 horror creation THE HEREDITARY this time it works really well. In the spectrum of WTF-ery and dread this film lines up with David Lynch’s THE LOST HIGHWAY. But here lies some problems. As with most Lynch’s works film has some pacing issues. In THE LIGHTHOUSE tho they at times turn too vivid to ignore. Eggers is not Lynch, after all. Not yet.