Robert Pattinson Thrives in The Lighthouse

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Robert Pattinson Thrives in The Lighthouse

Cole Megna '21, Contributor

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It’s not often a movie comes out with the distinct intention to make its audience feel no joy coming out of the theater, but Robert Eggers’ The Lighthouse seems to have this as it’s principle philosophy. The film centers around Ephraim Winslow (Robert Pattinson), a first-time lighthouse keeper who has a month-long shift with the alcoholic veteran, Tom Wake (Willem Dafoe). Despite Wake’s attempts during night shifts to connect with Winslow, during the day he is abusive and controlling. Isolated from the rest of the world with only each other as company, Winslow and Wake make their slow descent into insanity.

 Every decision in the making of this movie is specifically made with the intention of keeping the audience on edge. While The Lighthouse isn’t intended for a fun Friday night out with friends and family, it’s still an enthralling story worth your time. Similarly to 2001: A Space Odyssey, The Lighthouse takes its time crafting a story of two people forced together and driven mad. While many may not like it, it is impossible to say that the movie was made incompetently. The masterful cinematography of Jarin Blachke who had previously worked with Eggers on The VVitch, shot almost every frame as if it were a painting you could hang on your living room wall. The unique 1.19:1 aspect ratio (the film appears smaller on the screen) combined with the black and white aesthetic makes the small island cabin feel even more claustrophobic. The repetitive and drawn out scenes of Winslow struggling through his tasks during the day and the tense nightly dinners between the two men give the audience an understanding of the horrible conditions that came with being a lighthouse keeper in the late 1800s. The movie is edited in a way that helps convey the psychotic and drunken stupor the two characters spend their days in. Winslow will be in one place and in the next shot be halfway across the island or will see creatures intercut with real life. From when characters smoke, to how they walk and the way certain objects are placed in a scene are all important details that help to explain/foreshadow events. 

Despite the skill behind the camera and in the editing room, this movie would have been horrendous without the equally skilled Robert Pattinson and Willem Dafoe in front of it. The wide ranges of both actors are successful in convincing the audience that they are miserable and slowly going mad. Pattinson and Dafoe had to spend the entire movie switching between depressed, insane, angry, and sorrowful in a way that no other actors could. Dafoe especially transforms himself into the role of an abusive and deranged lighthouse keeper. Throughout the entire movie, Dafoe never once breaks character, loses his limp or his accent. It’s one thing to expect such a performance from an all-time great, but the relative newcomer Pattinson is able to keep up blow for blow with Dafoe. 

Despite the praise I’ve levied on The Lighthouse, I must also warn potential viewers of some of the more unpopular aspects of the movie. This is very much an arthouse movie. There’s not much action, shots linger for a long time, disturbing imagery throughout, dialogue-driven and many small details that must be noticed in order to gain everything movie has to offer. This is the type of movie that will have you thinking about it days after seeing it. It’s easy for me to call The Lighthouse a great movie, but the trouble is finding the right person to suggest it to. Everything about the movie from the acting, directing and cinematography all make it a modern masterpiece. If you want to take a trip to the depths of man’s sanity, The Lighthouse will not disappoint.