The Lighthouse is one of those films that can be unpacked and interpreted in many different ways. The biggest struggle many directors face after a hit film is avoiding a sophomore bomb. Back in 2015, Robert Eggers made his directional debut with The Witch, a film regarded as one of the decades scariest stories ever told. Four years later, he has returned with an even more engaging tale about two seamen going completely insane.
Directed by Eggers, who co-wrote the script with his brother Max Eggers, The Lighthouse follows Ephraim Winslow and Thomas Wake. Two wickie’s who spend four weeks on an isolated island only to be driven mad. William Dafoe (Thomas Wake) and Robert Pattinson (Ephraim Winslow) star as the two leads in this unnerving tale set in the late 19th century. Eggers has put together a film that will undoubtedly require more rewatches than The Witch. The Lighthouse is very ambiguous from start to finish, but it provides just enough for viewers to interpret all of the chaos in several ways.
Eggers and his brother have teamed up to present a story riddled with symbolism, Greek mythology, and lots of farts from Dafoe. The script has elements of humor to it, and most of it comes from Dafoe’s rear. Also, the story requires viewers to remain attentive because Eggers is not holding the audience’s hand here. Pattinson and Dafoe deliver some of the year’s best dialogue, but it can become confusing when they begin to ramble. While the story is a bit incoherent at times and repetitive, Eggers includes so many setups and payoffs it makes up for that minor issue in this near-perfect film. There are several instances in the movie where earlier references become a reality for a particular character.
Dafoe probably won’t be up for an Oscar award, but he should be for this performance alone. He comes across as a completely insane individual and devours every scene from start to finish. Pattinson even dug down deep and managed to put on a performance that is an acceptable companion to Dafoe’s. From the moment both men appeared on screen, it was clear that something special was going to happen in this film. Neither one held back from their vocal deliveries and facial expressions; they put on performances worthy of a standing ovation.
Eggers camera work is on an entirely new level here. Every shot in The Lighthouse is incredible. There is a sense of unease the moment the film begins, and then it just builds through till the final credits. Accompanying his marvelous direction is a score by Mark Korven that drives home the sense of dread and unease. The Lighthouse is very heavy on symbolism and mermaid imagery, all of which Eggers captures beautifully, but it won’t make sense if you aren’t knowledgable about certain topics. Regardless of that, Eggers has proven he is capable of securing audiences’ attention with his impeccable direction.
There is no right or wrong interpretation of this well-crafted film, as there is too much to consider and unpack for only one perspective to be valid. Not a complete masterpiece, but certainly something that deserves the attention it has received. Eggers will be disappearing for another few years before he decides to put out another film. It is clear that the gap between The Witch and The Lighthouse was used properly. Hopefully, his next project is filled with the same elements that made his last two films memorable and thought-provoking. The Lighthouse is one of the years best films, and it is brought to life by two actors who deliver award-winning performances.