The Lighthouse: Movie Review

the-lighthouse-film-robert-eggers-cannes2019-quinzaine-des-realisateurs-1155x700-1I thoroughly enjoyed The Lighthouse. I love well-made passion projects, and this film by Robert Eggers (the same director of The Witch, 2015) certainly qualifies as one of those, without a shadow of a doubt. Written with care and made with great craftmanship, for an hour and fifty it succeeds making the viewer uncomfortable and let her feel the humidity of the rain and wind seen on screen. It’s a profound movie that can be appreciated on several levels. There are a lot of things in it: Lovecraft and the 1920s German cinema; there’s a historical film and also a fantasy / horror one; there are Willem Defoe and Robert Pattinson in dazzling form; the black and white cinematography is incredible (in an unusual 1.19: 1 – the director of photography is Jarin Blaschke, keep an eye on him) and it was obtained by shooting on film with lenses almost from the era in which the film is set (end of the 19th century); there are the myths of Proteus and Prometheus; there’s Pattinson masturbating and there’s a huge and phallic lighthouse, omnipresent whether in the background or in the foreground… In short, The Lighthouse is a smart and well-made film that is really worth seeing!

The plot is simple: off the coast of Nova Scotia, Canada, two men begin a four-week shift as guardians of a lighthouse on what is little more than a rock. One (Defoe) is an old sea dog who due to a bad leg can no longer navigate, and the other is a young man who came to this job almost by accident, after experiences that had nothing to do with the sea. The two are terribly alone, it’s cold, the wind is blowing all the time, the sun is always behind thick clouds, and their house is far from welcoming. What could go wrong?

Several hours after exiting the cinema, the sound of the fog horn of the lighthouse still sounded in my ears, a deep sound that could drive anyone crazy if we imagine to hear it a few meters away and practically all the time for weeks. Mark Korven’s soundtrack, which rightly uses brass above all, is equally gloomy and it’s perfect for accompanying the viewer in this vision of another era in which isolation and alcohol can only bring harmful consequences.

But I don’t want to spoil anyone’s vision: skip this paragraph if you don’t want to read spoilers! As said, the film works on several levels, and as in The Witch, the supernatural elements could be either real or not. What’s inside the light that the old guardian is so jealous of? And how did he ruin his leg? And how many days did the two spend on the island? And what’s the real name of Pattinson’s character? And which versions of the stories of the two protagonists should we believe? The film gives us no answers, but opens up a thousand suggestive ways to let the viewer choose the most appropriate story. Do you want to believe in the presence of a bewitching siren? Or do you think that everything is the result of an alcoholic’s delusions? And is there something in the light capable of elevating the lives of those two or is it just an illusion of two derelict, lonely men whose ungrateful work makes them stay in a place so far from civilization? Maybe it’s just an ideal of beauty and purity, or maybe there’s something magical, a supernatural energy? My answer is that any version is possible, and this ambiguity is splendid because every possible version of the story works great!

I marvel at the beauty of a film like this: every image could be a picture, every scene is acted to perfection, every dialogue is suggestive, the soundtrack doesn’t miss a beat… I can only recommend the vision of The Lighthouse to anyone! Ciao!

PS: there isn’t much humor, but the scene à la The Big Lebowski (1998) in which the young lighthouse keeper empties the latrine buckets against the wind made me laugh a lot!


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