Warning – spoilers ahead!
From the esteemed director who brought us ‘The Witch,’ comes another disturbing tale of ‘The Lighthouse.’ The film is loosely based on Welsh folklore and tells the story of two men (actors William Defoe and Robert Pattinson) who become marooned on an island while working as lighthouse keepers and start to go insane. The film leans heavily on mythological themes while exploring both sexuality, identity, and madness in midst of a nightmare scenario!
Ambience and Appeal
There is a relatively slow start to the film but immediately peculiarity and foreboding set in when Pattinson first arrives and finds the strangely carved figurine within his mattress. Is this the work of his predecessor who went crazy or an omen of a curse to come?
Uniquely, the entire film is shown in black and white, which adds incredible depth to the dramatics, enhancing the shadows and highlighting the aspects of gruesome scenes – when Pattinson brutally kills a seagull the flying blood and remains of the creature are shown as black tar! The monochrome effect also creates the impression of a tale from a different time, like an old sailor’s legend.
The lack of colour does not affect the vibrancy either – the characters seem all the more brooding and dark, and the contrast adds to the frightening dream sequences (ones that all too soon you can’t tell apart from the terrifying reality)!
The music often used to accompany the scenes almost mimics ocean noises such as whale calls, foghorns, creaking structures of ships, and the echoing depths; these reach a crescendo when a horrifying image is revealed.
The crazy conflicts
There is a massive power struggle throughout the entire film as the two men fight for the top position – namely who gets to tend the light. The light is presented as an alluring beacon that is greedily and viciously protected by Defoe and therefore becomes an incredible source of curiosity and is sought after by Pattinson. Defoe’s love for the light appears obsessive and even sexual – the odd scenes portray ritualistic displays as Defoe is witnessed standing naked at the top of the lighthouse. While Pattinson has a fixation on mermaid creatures that plague his thoughts increasingly throughout the story.
At times, the fights are comical as the men bicker over silly things like old roommates – cleaning, cooking, and excessive farting! But this quickly turns sinister with violent threats and physical attacks over the possession of the lighthouse light itself, and within the brawls the two being so close they almost appear romantic, reflecting on the theme of masculine sexuality.
Alcohol consumption also fuels the deranged situations that unfurl, in more bizarre ferocity as the story continues, and the audience is wondering how much is truly real! There are many macabre visuals depicting mermaids, dead bodies floating in the ocean, and tentacles of a monstrous creature which creates a delirious montage as bad blood increases between the characters.
They even ingest kerosene and turpentine!
Mythos and Lies
The director, Robert Eggers, expressed that the two characters were representative of mythological gods from Greek tales: Prometheus and Proteus. Proteus was an “old man of the sea” and keeper of knowledge while Prometheus was devious and stole fire from the gods to create mankind and thus was horrendously punished by the god Zeus – predetermining the grisly end of the film.
The two men are lying about their true identities and seem to cling to false names, ideals and occupations that they present to the world. Defoe is assumed to be an old-time sailor complete with a false leg, superstition and tall tales while Pattinson’s character is a withdrawn unassuming young man who seems to have a past to hide from.
The acting itself is truly superb and both leads do incredible performances; Defoe’s portrayal is raw and uninhibited as he completely brings life to a demented old sea dog persona, while Pattinson fully immersed himself in method acting and the result is so authentic and profound, even down to the accent and physical distress.
A truly chilling element towards the end of the film is that you lose the sense of time passing just as the characters do as they become isolated and abandoned on the island. Does a day pass or is it weeks since they last ate rations? Who is the truly crazy one? They argue and fight accusing each other of losing their mind until the conflicts hit a deadly climax and an otherwordly experience.
So if you are dying to add this movie to your watch list then first make sure you look at these spectacular Alchemy pieces that will showcase your passion for creepy nautical tales and myths of the great deep!
– Rose Jekylle 🌹