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The Lighthouse user review

  • Why'd ye spill yer beans?

    Robert Eggers most recent offering gives a lot more than fans of The Witch were expecting.

    Set in the eponymous lighthouse, a young man commits to a four week stint of well paid work, helping the keeper to tend the light. When a stroke of bad luck befalls the two men, they are forced to remain isolated on the island much longer than either expected and the simmering tensions between them threaten to boil over.

    A visually striking film in many ways, Eggers has chosen to create a sort of artificial historical document out of The Lighthouse. The combination of 4:3 aspect ratio, naturalistic lighting inside the the lighthouse, a sparse score and dialogue cribbed from genuine logs of lighthouse keepers combine to evoke the look and feel of a 19th century photograph.
    But entwined with this is a much more theatrical, even mythical element. Eggers uses the conventions of Greek tragedy to intersperse tableau; bathos; even a type of mask work in some instances and this turns the clash of personalities into a classically inspired struggle for the men's very souls.

    This all sounds very worthy and serious but when talking about The Lighthouse it is also vital to acknowledge how funny it is. The dialogue, once you tune in, is both witty and absurd. The tone of the film almost defies description. I found myself laughing with indreculity as often as I found my jaw dropping at the ferocity, an ambivalence which is evoked perfectly in one particular scene.

    The two men, drunk together, slurring, arguing about the quality of cooking ratchets up with intensity culminating in a defining moment where the lighthouse keeper turns lucid just long enough to deliver a most eloquent, hilarious and terrifying curse upon his subordinate, going so far as to invoke the name of Triton.
    It is a perfect delivery, as is all the dialogue, mumbled, shouted or slurred.

    Describing the achievement of Eggers here is not to undercut the two performances which do the heavy lifting of selling the ludicrous events. Willem Dafoe gives one of the performances of his career and is purely mesmerising as the old keeper. Robert Pattinson delivers his second performance in 12 months that has caused me to question why on earth he would throw away this blossoming career, built on trying to distance himself from one rabid fanbase, to be Batman.
    Tales of strained relationships on set and very different acting methods play out very believably between the two of them on screen giving real bite to their exchanges.

    Eggers' first film, The Witch was one of the best films of 2015 and he has certainly lived up to expectations with his sophomore film.
    While that film deals with the increasingly difficult task of navigating life as an adolescent girl and finding power in femininity, The Lighthouse very much acts in opposition, struggling towards the acceptance of weakness in typically masculine traits. Isolation, stoicism, strength, aggression, mastery: all of these are constructed and taken down. What Eggers subtly suggests however is that, when you deconstruct these elements of masculinity entirely, what you are left with is madness, or at the very least, emptiness. It's a bold statement and one that feels like it's ringing especially true currently, as an increasing number of men of all ages rail against a world in which their place is shifting. These typical male roles are dangerous, unhealthy, but so too is having no agency in the world.
    The problem is presented to us without solution. Maybe there isn't one.

    Grade: A-

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The Lighthouse

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Author
Malingo
Review score
9 / 10
Average score
9.0 / 10
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