Saturday, November 9, 2019

[Review] The Lighthouse

Is there anything more terrifying than two hairy men cooped up in close quarters? That’s the idea that Robert Eggers sets sight on in The Lighthouse, a well-crafted tall tale of wet and rocky insanity.

Willem Dafoe and Robert Pattinson play the two lighthouse keepers. Dafoe’s character is kooky, brash, and crude. He’s the kind of person who won’t let silence rest. When we first meet him, he’s blasting off farts in the bedroom. In the path of that stench is Pattinson’s character, a quiet and reserved guy who’s just there to carry out tasks and get the job done. Gears are grinded and coals are heated, and so are these fellows’ nerves and tempers. Like a spiral staircase, what unwinds is a never-ending storm of nautical myths and bad omens. 

The Lighthouse is the trip that would happen if you consumed a whiskey-soaked mushroom and passed out while pissing into the sea. It’s a drunken “Twilight Zone” episode. It’s weird. It’s absurd. It’s hallucinogenic. It’s hilarious. The humor is as dark as the shadows in each room. The picture is presented in a square aspect ratio and a grainy black and white filter. It looks claustrophobic. It looks old-fashioned. And it looks uncomfortable. Starkly and artfully shot, the film comes off like a series of scenic postcards, but instead of saying “Wish you were here...” they say “Get me out of here...”

The sound design is intense and unsettling. The water dripping... The floor creaks... The wind whipping through the cracks of the “living” space... You practically feel like you have to watch this thing with rain gear on. In addition to the onslaught of farts, this is a film that looks like it smells really bad. The body odor... The wet clothes... The shit buckets... Willem Dafoe is excellent here. It feels like a lived-in role. He must have been a pirate in a past life. Robert Pattinson also continues to impress with his selection of eccentric roles. You can barely understand a word he’s saying in this, but it doesn’t matter — we know he’s going through it. These two fight, they bond, and they go stir crazy. One of the best lines of the year comes as Pattinson’s character frantically screams “I’M SICK OF YOUR GODDAMN FARTS!”

The Lighthouse drags and becomes a bit tedious toward the end, but maybe that’s fitting for a film of this nature. Lighthouses look pretty from afar, but this film makes you never want to spend a moment inside of one, especially if it’s with a stranger. 

( 8/10 )

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