Here's a pro tip for all of you: if you've maybe, possibly killed your coworker and stolen all his belongings and have now taken up a job restoring a lighthouse as a means of staying in hiding, it's pretty likely that you're in no position to be prideful or entitled, so you should probably just do what you're told and accept your eternal retribution.
The Lighthouse is the second directorial effort from Robert Eggers and has been highly anticipated by many after the cinephilic success of his directorial debut The Witch back in 2015. Truly a stickler for research and period-appropriate vernacular, The Lighthouse maintains many of the rigorous attentions to detail and foreboding tone of its predecessor, but in far more ways feels like a truly unique experience unto itself.
The most obvious of these is the film's presentation in stark black-and-white 35mm with a 1.19:1 aspect ratio. These choices, when combined with the two wickies' sometimes near-impenetrable sea-talk do a fantastic job of keeping viewers off balance but still questioning as they're transported in to what could very well double as a German Expressionist set. The aesthetic of the entire thing is so refreshing and every shot is so intricately framed that one could choose to look no deeper and enjoy it purely as a mood piece and no one could argue with them.
But there is something deeper, and it might elude you upon first watch as it did me. A second watch is highly beneficial since The Lighthouse is a headscratcher (to the surprise of no A24 fan anywhere), but being familiar with the kind of atmosphere-centric, deliberately paced building dread approach that this more contemporary era of horror often brings may not be enough to fully process the allegorical tale Eggers is presenting via these two filth encrusted lightkeepers.
Watching Robert Pattinson and Willem Dafoe in this thing is all the proof you need to believe that back before their acting days, these two really were just a couple wickies trying to make a pretty penny off the coast of nowhere before a terrible storm took them and carried them all the way to the shores of Los Angeles. They're incredible. Their weathered, glistening and pore-filled faces are irresistible; their drunken sea-shanty singing couldn't be more out of tune and amazing; their heart-to-hearts about pretty ladies taking off their bonnets are just downright touching.
But only when they're drunk.
Early on, the bipolar nature of Dafoe's authority figure is established as he loads more and more labor-intensive duties onto Pattinson's character, to an almost comical degree. Over the course of the four-weeks he's signed on to work for, Pattinson's regular trips up and down the stairs of the lighthouse eventually lead to his obsession with the light, and his paranoia at his superior preventing him from seeing it. Once these feelings start to escalate, so does the rest of the film and all its haunting imagery and hallucinatory sequences. Gradually, the story of a man on the run refusing to acknowledge or pay for what he's done, being continuously put back in his place by the knows-better part of his conscience takes shape and the amassing momentum continues until it reaches a genuinely disturbing conclusion.
While The Lighthouse is definitely a dark, filthy, grim lesson of a film, it's not without its frequent humor. I can guarantee that you'll hear more flatulence coming from Dafoe's bloated gut than you did in the past 50 films you've seen combined, and farts are always funny. In the end, The Ligthouse gets the classic "go in with an open mind, and maybe see it twice" recommendation. It's a fiercely unique achievement with a look and feel all its own and boasts two of the most memorable and iconic performances of the year.