The Lighthouse (2019)

The Lighthouse
Director: Robert Eggers
Writer: Robert Eggers, Max Eggers
Cast: Robert Pattinson, Willem Dafoe, Valeriia Karaman, Logan Hawkes
Seen on: 3.12.2019

Ephraim Winslow (Robert Pattinson) comes to a small island off New England to work as a lighthouse keeper together with Thomas Wake (Willem Dafoe). Wake has been on the island for a long time, while Winslow is a newbie at lighthouse keeping. Wake is a strange fellow, and obsessed with the light of the lighthouse where he barely lets Winslow approach. Winslow starts having strange dreams about mermaids and feels under observation by a seagull that behaves suspiciously. And things become ever stranger.

The Lighthouse came with many accolades and sind I also liked Eggers’ first feature The VVitch, I went with pretty high expectations into the film. But unfortunately, the film couldn’t live up to those expectations. I was pretty bored with it.

The film poster in black and white showing half of Thomas Wake (Willem Dafoe) and half of Ephraim Winslow (Robert Pattinson). Between them we can see a lighthouse circled by seagulls.

The Lighthouse is a beautiful film. The cinematography is stunning and the way lighting, the black-and-white color scheme and the ratio of the film are used to create disorentiation and claustrophobia works completely. In that sense, The Lighthouse is an absolute masterpiece.

But I just need more from a film than visual aesthetics. I need an emotional connection and I want to care for the characters and be interested in what happens with them. The film succeeds on neither of those counts. The way Wake and Winslow get ever more entangled with each other and basically bite into each other, neither willing to let go – it just made me feel tired.

Thomas Wake (Willem Dafoe) and Ephraim Winslow (Robert Pattinson) in front of the lighthouse.

Yes, the film offers a lot of possibilities to interpret the story. It gives us homoerotic subtext, phallic imagery, and possibly malicious seagulls. One could gleefully dig into the symbolism here for weeks and weeks. But to want to do that, I’d need to care, at least a little bit, about any of it – and I just never did.

Pattinson and Dafoe are a dream team and the film enhances their strangeness to a degree I wouldn’t have thought possible. But I was also thoroughly repulsed by their characters. I wanted to leave them on that island and never go back, nevermind whatever happens to them. Who gives a fuck? I definitely didn’t.

Thomas Wake (Willem Dafoe) and Ephraim Winslow (Robert Pattinson) getting drunk in the stairwell.

Summarizing: Absolutely not my thing.

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