“The Lighthouse” Review: The Hilariously Disturbing Reason Someone Needs to Check on Director Robert Eggers

By Josiah Wampfler

Director Robert Eggers is fucked in the head and it should be a crime for him to make films. Also, “The Lighthouse” is one of the funniest, weirdest and best films of the year.

At the center of what makes “The Lighthouse” so good is obviously the performances. Who would have known that Willem Dafoe and Robert Pattinson would make such perfect scene partners? But, this brilliant two-hander brings the actors their biggest challenge in years and they absolutely nail it. Even through the accents, the old-timey dialogue, the beards and the farts (there are a lot of farts), Dafoe and Pattinson manage to bring a true humanity to the characters that we can latch onto. And best of all, they are truly funny! Two actors not necessarily known for their comedy chops deliver on the much needed comedic moments throughout the film.

Beyond the actors, Eggers continues to show himself to be one of the most interesting new directors working today by being obsessed with a more classical style of filmmaking. The film at times truly feels like something made at the height of the black and white era. Shot on true black and white 35mm film and presented in the nearly square 1.19:1 aspect ratio, Eggers brings the past back to life on the screen. And it is Eggers images and sound design that deliver on the true horror of the film.

The film is dark. It is grimy. The foghorn is constantly sounding, breaking through the even more constant crash of the waves upon the rocks. With all of this, Eggers delivers a foreboding and genuinely unnerving atmosphere. And when you add Dafoe’s crotchety, abusive Thomas Wake to the mix, you get a place that truly feels a bit like hell on earth and Wake is its devil.

Thematically, there is a lot you could pull from “The Lighthouse” depending on how you choose to interpret it, but for me, the thing that kept on going over and over in my mind was the analogue of Dafoe’s Wake as the boss and Pattinson’s Winslow as the worker. In this way, “The Lighthouse” retools the age old story of Prometheus into one of class struggle. In the end, the overly hyperbolic phrase I could use to sum up my reading of the film and the one I could not stop thinking would be this: Kill your bosses.

Willem Dafoe and Robert Pattinson star as sparring lighthouse keepers who drive each other mad in Robert Eggers’s “The Lighthouse.” CREDIT: A24 Pictures

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