After his acclaimed directorial debut “The Witch,” director Robert Eggers is back THE LIGHTHOUSE and once again delivers unconventional horror fare that not only breaks genre boundaries, but also evaporates them into thin air. We reveal more about this in our review.
… before the two of them slowly fall into madness.
The plot summary
A remote lighthouse outpost on the New England coast becomes the scene of an archaic duel between two men on the verge of madness. Thomas Wake (Willem Dafoe) and Efraim Winslow (Robert Pattinson) are sent to a deserted island to maintain and keep a dilapidated lighthouse in operation. At the turn of the century on the rough Atlantic coast, this is an important task that is increasingly turning into a fight for survival. The two extremely different characters collide uncontrollably and when a never-ending storm passes over them, the psychological taunts soon turn into a brutal war of nerves.
The Lighthouse Movie Meaning & ending
Alongside “Hereditary” director Ari Aster and “Get Out” mastermind Jordan Peele, Robert Eggers is currently one of the most exciting horror directors working today. The reason: His debut “The Witch” was sometimes described by the press as one of the best horror films of his decade and generated as much praise in the features section as the works of the first two filmmakers mentioned. Nevertheless, Eggers has a pretty difficult time with the audience. The horror drama in question only received a below-average CinemaScore rating (CinemaScore is a market research company in the US cinema industry that allows viewers to rate the film they have just seen after going to the cinema) of C-, which roughly corresponds to a German 3- . With “The Lighthouse,” Eggers doesn’t come up with the idea of using his second film to appeal to mainstream audiences hungry for jump scares and quick shocks. The script for the two-person play starring Willem Dafoe (“Van Gogh – On the Threshold of Eternity”) and Robert Pattinson (“Good Time”) was even finished earlier than that for “The Witch”, as Eggers found that In case of doubt, his lighthouse island chamber play is simply easier to finance than his somewhat more lavishly furnished witch’s tale. Now, four years after Eggers’ debut, we can enjoy an acting tour-de-force that not only breaks down the genre boundaries between horror, psychodrama and morbid comedy, but also completely dissolves them.
Thomas (Williem Dafoe) and Efraim (Robert Pattinson) first have to get to know each other…
It all starts with us watching the two lighthouse keepers Thomas and Efraim as they travel by ship through the stormy sea to the island, take up quarters here and especially the newcomer Efraim explores the island on his own. Little is said. We also only learn fragments about the social and emotional backgrounds of the two men, both at the beginning and later on, which makes it easy for director and author Eggers to create a scene of diffuse unease. But it’s not just the question of what kind of people these people are with whom the audience is supposed to spend more than an hour and a half alone on this island that is a source of skepticism and tension because it’s almost impossible to answer. The island and its animal inhabitants also give early indications that they are not just a natural piece of earth. Sooner or later, these two forces of nature are bound to collide. In particular, the encounters between Robert Pattinson’s Efraim and a seagull that is constantly watching him (which is perhaps just always in the wrong place at the wrong time?) increase into an almost surrealistic tension with the help of long, sometimes distorted camera shots, which nevertheless never seems forced. Eggers simply observes the escalation; the strong acting of its actors, the visually intoxicating backdrop and the minimalist soundtrack (to call it a score would be overkill) do the rest.
In addition to the spectacular performances of Robert Pattinson and Willem Dafoe, who – in the truest sense of the word – drive each other crazy and whose facial performances seem visibly exhausting, one of the greatest advantages of “The Lighthouse” is the virtuoso camera work. Eggers’ regular cameraman Jarin Blaschke (“The Witch”) relies on the expressiveness of the grainy black and white in this already very reduced setting of a single and architecturally extremely simple rock island (seen this way for example in Xavier Dolan’s drama “Mommy”) the already extremely oppressive atmosphere on the island is further reinforced. It ensures that the claustrophobic confinement that occurs inside the lighthouse does not disappear even when Thomas and Efraim move around in the open air. At a certain point you just want to get away from here because you’ve long since realized that these two men are ticking time bombs. Then they throw ugly sailor yarn at each other’s heads, threaten, spit, argue (sometimes in a remarkably funny way) – and force moments of the highest intimacy, which, however, always also contain a quiet threat. Two less capable actors would never have been able to pull off this emotional balancing act as intensely as Dafoe and Pattinson. Her acting here is at least Oscar-worthy in its mania and willingness to sacrifice.
Watching Efraim and Thomas gradually fall into madness in a frightening mixture of Lovecraftian visions and the nightmare of loneliness is a very special kind of cinematic experience, which is also enhanced by the deeply piercing soundscape of the sounds of the sea and the lighthouse signal contributes a decisive part. And we explained at the beginning of this review that as a viewer of a Robert Eggers film you shouldn’t expect sensational jump scares or other shock effects. In the case of “The Lighthouse,” however, the filmmaker goes a little further and, unlike in “The Witch,” only works to a very limited extent towards a specific goal. His film is an ode to sailor’s tales and sometimes also parts of Greek mythology, but does not reward the viewer with any special insights. There is also no classic “resolution”, let alone something like a twist, although there are even hints in that direction right from the start. “The Lighthouse” is not a classic narrative cinema, but an experience that can be grasped with all the senses, an experience, a feeling. If you can get involved, you’ll have a good time on a lonely lighthouse island with Willem Dafoe and Robert Pattinson, but you should be warned: Not that the madness you stare at for 109 minutes will ever look back at you…
Conclusion: Anyone who wants to get involved in the outstandingly photographed “The Lighthouse” should be sure that they are not expecting the next horror thriller, but rather an oppressive, eerie psychogram of loneliness in which two insane actors play each other for their wits.
“The Lighthouse” can be seen in USA cinemas from November 28th.