I came into this film expecting to be at the very least impressed by the cinematography, and while I can say this film was certainly a black and white trip-fest, I still enjoyed it overall, albeit perhaps not as much as some of the critics did. The actual plot of this is relatively simple, as a young lighthouse assistant keeper arrives at a remote lighthouse in what is supposed to be New England, I assume, and together with the aged , long time keeper, slowly loses grip on collective sanity and culminates in the men turning on each other. The film’s pacing is actually rather quick, and while well edited, the whole is made up of a series of pasted scenes of varying levels of surrealism. The film-makers used unusual and old-school aspect ratios as well as full black and white film, which, in combination with the lighting techniques, was a unique and thoroughly enjoyable visual experience, much different than most films on the market today. The entire film takes place on one small island, containing the title lighthouse and a variety of out-buildings, and a central aspect of the plot is the isolated and desolate nature of the men’s employment plays a strong role in their descent into madness. The light itself serves almost a spiritual and holy role in the film, with both men being attracted to it like moths to a flame. In the absence of any female presence or comforts beyond alcohol, the allure of the light makes a certain amount of sense in hindsight, but while watching the film, I couldn’t quite tell if it was meant to be psychological or supernatural, which is true for most of the film, admittedly. In order to enjoy ‘The Lighthouse’ a viewer needs to be able to mentally zoom out a bit and take the film for what it is, rather than waiting for conventional plot lines and conclusions. If one can do this, as well as understanding the many references to myth and nautical legend placed in the film, one can enjoy it as I did. The dialogue was inventive and quite authentic, in line with Robert Eggers’ previous, ‘The Witch’, and Willem Defoe plays a standout role in his “crusty seaman” line delivery. I was already a fan of his work, but ‘The Lighthouse’ made me appreciate Defoe’s talent even more. Robert Pattison does a solid job here as well, although his character takes a bit of time to enter the more unhinged mental realms that Defoe’s character seems to already inhabit. By the second half of the film, the mental instability of both characters in on full display, and the exuberance of the film hits its peak. That being said, I feel that the film’s editing was skill-full enough that they avoided what could have been a bloated, overly crowded film that was far too busy. Instead, ‘The Lighthouse’ is an artistic film that provides a sort of movie experience not commonly seen in Cinema today, and for that reason I can say I enjoyed it overall.
Pros: Unique and compelling cinematography, Talented and committed acting, reasonably well edited, mythical references abound for familiar viewers
Cons: ‘art film’ aspects may turn away certain viewers, plot narrative is secondary to scene setting, requires understanding of allegory and myth