The Lighthouse Review

Powell Nielsen

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The Lighthouse, second instalment from new director Robert Egger, features Robert Pattenson and Willem Dafoe in a psychological roller coaster located on a remote island in the Atlantic. Not only has the film drawn critical acclaim for the actor’s performances, but the low budget production value has been noted too. 

The Lighthouse is a psychological dramatic thriller that showcases the strength of true quality in writing, directing, and acting beyond the capabilities of large budget productions.

The movie begins with the two main characters deployed on a sparse rock in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean to service and maintain a lighthouse. Their job is to guide naval vessels on the high seas. Pattinson’s character, a young man with a troubled past, is to serve under Dafoe’s character, a cracked ahab caricature, as a wicky. The movie is shot in black and white, enhancing the bleak landscape that surrounds the two men.

The movie provides the perfect contrast between hard physical labor and the soulless terrain around the lighthouse. Pattinson’s character, Ephraim Winslow, does most of the physical labor around the lighthouse and the facilities that house the two men. Dafoe’s, Thomas Wake, tends to the mysterious light within the lighthouse. The movie wastes no time to up the psychological antics, from start to finish the movie provides a wild ride.

From the symbolism of the scrimshaw mermaid at the beginning of the film, to the mysterious neptunian tentacles up in the lantern room; the story creates a psychological hell for the two men. Throughout the story Wake subjects Winslow to a life of hard labor in the windswept, battered landscape of the island. Pattinson performs best at his limits, this is once again shown through the brutal conditions his character endures. 

Dafoe’s bearded, slightly mad character creates a mystery of the power of the lighthouse through his actions throughout the film. From his bizarre addiction to the light, and his connection to the landscape, Wake is almost an extension of The Lighthouse and the supernatural power that inhabits it. The madness of Winslow’s visions and dreams also prolong the sense of impending doom as the two men endure an endless storm at sea.

The two actors work well together as they build their relationship through the film. At times they are bosom friends, other times vehemently murderous. They fight, dance, drink, sing, and work in a sea shanty tale. As the two men eventually spiral into madness, their adversity spirals into brutal violence. 

The Lighthouse has multiple themes of paranoia, confession, madness, and loneliness. However, the real underlying theme of the movie is the male isolation and forsakenness that eat away both Wake and Howard’s minds. 

Along with the madness of the two characters, the sheer unforgiving strength of nature is another component of the film. The sea conquers all, controls all, and by the end of the movie, consumes all. 

Robert Egger and A24 created a low budget psychological horror film that rivals The Shining. The chemistry between Pattinson and Dafoe, both Hollywood veterans, provides performances that should gain more recognition throughout mainstream media. If anyone is looking for a movie that will leave them with chills for a few days, The Lighthouse is your film.