THE LIGHTHOUSE gets 8.5/10 Illuminating lunacy

Directed by Robert Eggers

Starring Willem Dafoe, Robert Pattison


In the brand of films that depict a couple of men stranded together, going crazy, and then going at each other’s throats, The Lighthouse is a remarkable entry. With its unusual boxy aspect ratio, monochrome chiaroscuro cinematography, peculiar old-fashioned sailor dialect, and music made up of mostly brass wind instruments (emulating a foghorn), The Lighthouse looks and sounds like a film from the early 20th century, but it still retains a highly modern sensibility with just how bizarre its psychological insight is.

The film documents two lighthouse keepers, Wake (Willem Dafoe) and his young protégé Winslow (Robert Pattison), who become stranded on their rock when a massive unending storm keeps them there far longer than they are meant to be. They at first seem to be complacent with each other’s company, the film very dryly showing their barely communicative living standards together, but when their dire predicament is brought upon them, tensions continuously escalate, while their sanity drops to lower depths.

This thoroughly unique portrayal of cabin fever is a joy to behold, mostly attributed to the two powerhouse actors working at career highs. Dafoe entirely inhabits his quirky and emotionally unpredictable sailor role, while Pattinson seems like the perfect young counterpart to such a seasoned actor, portraying what feels like more than a handful of generations apart. There can be quite an argument as to who ends up crazier out of the two, as Wake has a more weathered sense of his mental limitations and tests, whereas Winslow seems less experienced and more unstable for what tests them, but the power dynamic between the two is always twisting and turning.

The production design, cinematography, and (in particular) the dialogue are very specific, precise, and constructed, but they contrast against the increasingly unstable behaviour that these two characters can barely uphold – the troubles with their food and water supply, as well as their increase in alcohol intake, just make their madness even worse. The Lighthouse is a stunning piece of cinema, lovingly crafted to every inch, but it’s the display of a work relationship disintegrating and strangely evolving that makes this film so utterly, weirdly, and even amusingly captivating.


The Lighthouse plays at UWA Somerville from Monday, January 13 – Sunday, January 19, 8pm.