“Doldrums. Doldrums. Eviler than the Devil. Boredom makes men to villains.”
It may not come as a shock to learn that one of my favorite pastimes is going to the movies. Preferably alone. A group of strangers come together, shut off their phones, munch on their favorite snacks, and collectively experience someone’s labor of love? It’s oddly therapeutic. It’s the ultimate form of self care. It’s something I cannot recommend highly enough.
Out of my countless trips to the theatre I can say, with confidence, that my most immersive and utterly jarring movie watching experience came in the form of Robert Eggers’ (The Witch) The Lighthouse.
Eggers’ highly anticipated sophomore film follows two fellows (Willem Dafoe and Robert Pattinson) stationed at a lighthouse located on a remote area in New England. Tensions quickly rise as the two men butt heads over every decision. Things only get stranger when they slowly begin to lose their sanity thanks to an approaching storm that leaves them stranded on the island.
I’m still not able to wrap my head around how such a visually pleasing film could leave such a deranging impression. Being shot in 35mm film, in a narrow, nearly square 1.19:1 aspect ratio, The Lighthouse permeates such a terrible sense of anxiety and dread throughout most of the film. The aspect ratio evokes a kind claustrophobia that makes for an outstanding and rare movie watching experience that I know I won’t soon forget. And the symbolism! The one eyed seabird, the deal with the mermaid, the mysterious enchantment of the light, I imagine this will be a major conversation starter among film students for decades.
Of course this ripping ride would be nothing without the superb performances by Dafoe and Pattinson. Dafoe was wild, entertaining, and comes across like he was born to play the role of such a gruff and gross individual. Pattinson emerges as a total powerhouse, I can’t recall the last time I’ve witnessed a performance so alienating and distant, yet so warm at the same time. It’s a beacon of vulnerability in the middle of all the existential peril. It’s almost comical to remember that this is the same guy that once played a sparkly vampire. I feel like I’m having a proud mother moment. Oh, how far we’ve come.
Well, what else can I say? Honestly not much else without totally ruining the movie for you. It really is one of those things you need to experience for yourself just because it’s so weird. Weird in a wonderful way. But weird nonetheless. Eggers’ The Lighthouse is an instant classic that unapologetically deals a swift but heavy blow, guaranteed to leave a lasting impression. Whether or not that’s a good thing is completely up to you, dear reader. It’s one of those movies that is damn near perfect. It leaves you in a constant state of dread as to what might happen next; which is basically impossible to predict thanks to the lunatic characters.
Hypnotic, gorgeous and unsettling, The Lighthouse is an absolute must see that I cannot praise enough. It would be a great disservice to you film buffs out there to miss out on such a dazzling flick. Lucky for you, you have the chance to make this a permanent part of your collection.
Rewatching the film at home, I was delighted to see that the DVD release includes an insightful commentary with director Robert Eggers, a handful of deleted scenes, and a behind-the-scenes featurette. The Lighthouse is available on home video now.
WICKED RATING: 9/10
Director(s): Robert Eggers
Writer(s): Robert Eggers and Max Eggers
Stars: Willem Dafoe, Robert Pattinson and Valeriia Karamän
Release Date: January 7th (Home Video)
Studio/ Production Co: A24