REVIEW: The Lighthouse (London Film Festival 2019)
After exploding onto the horror scene with his nightmarish folk fable The Witch, all eyes were on what director Robert Eggers would do next. His sophomore offering The Lighthouse is a maniacal maritime fever dream, which pairs robust filmmaking and gorgeous black and white cinematography with a double headline performance for the ages.
The Lighthouse is the real deal, an astonishing feat, and an utterly breathtaking experience from start to finish. With stark and unforgettable imagery, plus a truly unique visual style, this film is an experience in every sense of the word and it will linger with you for long after the credits roll. You might not have understood it, but there’s no denying you’ll have enjoyed the ride.
It opens like a silent film, at least in the dialogue sense, but the president is immediately set for the impeccable sound design to do a lot of the heavy lifting, which is something it maintains throughout. The crashing of the waves, howling of the wind, jangling of keys and squawks of seabirds are crisp and defined, making this a film crying out to be seen in the theatre. The ominous hum of the lighthouse itself blends seamlessly into the equally sinister score by Mark Korven, to the point where you’re unsure where one begins and one ends.
The boxy ratio and stunning cinematography from Jarin Blaschke creates a stifling yet captivating visual experience, and whilst the stylistic choice of black and white is one which should be used carefully, it is undoubtedly one that works in this film. The shadows and the framing all help to create that sense of foreboding which is essential for the tone of the film.
With all of the impressive technical achievement behind the camera, it is necessary for the performances in front of the camera to match this, but fortunately Willem Dafoe and Robert Pattinson give us two masterful performances in what is one of the most intensely watchable double-acts of the decade. You could honestly watch these two spar and back-and-forth with each other for hours, and they have an electric chemistry which instantly lights up the screen. Willem Defoe’s weathered face was seemingly made to play a crotchety, flatulent, salty sea-dog and his performance is absolutely incredible. Pattinson long shook-off his ‘Twilight’ years, but this performance only further cements his astonishing talent, and he is truly on another level in The Lighthouse. Quietly brimming with repressed mania throughout, when the full force of this is unleashed, the result is truly breathtaking.
The Lighthouse is a bonkers, brazen, barn-storming bombshell of a movie, the kind that only comes around once in a while. With two of the best performances you’ll see in any film this year, exceptional sound design and simply stunning cinematography, The Lighthouse is everything you were hoping for and more; a modern masterpiece.
Directed by: Robert Eggers
Written by: Max Eggers, Robert Eggers
Cast: Willem Dafoe, Robert Pattinson, Valeriia Karaman
Release Date: 31st January 2020