- Don Ford
Don Reviews "The Lighthouse"
Some people love solitude, but it can also drive someone insane. Growing up in Montana, I can personally attest to the fact that there are some people who love living away from other people. Of course, whether or not they have other human interaction is totally up to them. But what if being in solitude is not a choice, like those in solitary confinement in prisons (it could be also argued that this was a choice, based on what got them there) or the true life stories of people being stranded in deserted islands? Robert Eggers’ “The Lighthouse” deals with this very type of story.
This film literally stars only three people: Willem Dafoe (Platoon), Robert Pattinson (Twilight), and Valeriia Karaman. Taking place in the 1890s, this is the story of Thomas Wake (Dafoe) and Ephraim Winslow (Pattinson), who aree assigned to be lighthouse keepers for a four-week rotation at a remote location in the middle of the ocean. As they arrive, it is revealed that Thomas is the more experienced worker and works the night shift who is in charge while Ephraim is on his first assignment and will do the basic grunt work and maintenance. Over time, they bond but also start to go insane after their relief boat is being delayed for weeks due to the weather.
“The Lighthouse” was shot entirely in black and white and used a technique used in the early days of cinema with a smaller frame, which I felt added to the film being set in the 1890s. The sets have a real old and worn feel which help enhance the subplots of the film nicely also. Dafoe and Pattinson have very good chemistry, showing how emotions change the way they interact with each other, while Karaman (who plays an imaginary mermaid) compliments the story nicely. I really have to give it to Dafoe, who does an incredible performance portraying a man who has the emotional scars of living long stretches in isolated situations.
I am really conflicted when it comes to the script because although I really like how the film shows how living in isolation can really take a toll on a person mentally, the execution of that fact just got weird. For instance: there are stretches where it is foggy and they have to turn on the fog horn which could get annoying after a couple minutes, go on for hours, adding to their breakdown. It pulls no punches on how tough and gritty it can get living in a lighthouse shack with no usual comforts of life you can get used to, but it gets very graphic in some of its depictions, and I had trouble understanding what the points the scenes are trying to get across with adult themes, violence, and nudity, so I can barely recommend this film as the on cable recommendation with the dreaded cricket chips sound effect.