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“The Lighthouse” Is Another Strange Outing From Robert Eggers

Anyone who saw Robert Eggers’ prior outing The Witch knows that he’s a pretty weird dude. His film are odd, to say the least. Well, opening this week, his newest outing, The Lighthouse, manages to make The Witch appear mainstream by comparison. Ponder that for a moment. Though featuring a pair of bigger names in his cast this time, Eggers is doubling down on bizarre imagery and unusual filmmaking. A24 is going to have an interesting time convincing audiences to see this one. Luckily, one thing they have on their side is that, if you gird your loins and subject yourself to its weirdness, a certain type of cinematic nirvana takes over. It’s hard to explain, but while this isn’t a great work, it’s a good and, more importantly, an interesting one. Sometimes, that’s all that matters.

The movie is described on IMDb as “The hypnotic and hallucinatory tale of two lighthouse keepers on a remote and mysterious New England island in the 1890s.” That’s certainly one way to put it. When Ephraim Winslow (Robert Pattinson) arrives on the lighthouse’s island to serve a period under Thomas Wake (Willem Dafoe), the expectation is solemn hard labor. Instead, almost from the start, something is off. Ephraim and Thomas butt heads, but also bond. There’s ominous seagulls, a potential mermaid, and a mystery within the light that Thomas is holding close, slowly driving Ephraim mad. Or is he? Very little of what goes on here is easily explained. To really understand, it must be seen. Eggers directs and co-wrote the screenplay with Max Eggers. Valeriia Karaman rounds out the cast, while Mark Korven provides the score and Jarin Blaschke contributes the cinematography.

What mainly keeps you going here is Willem Dafoe and Robert Pattinson. Both are in top form, elevating potentially one note characters. Dafoe initially seems to be doing the Sea Captain from The Simpsons, but that evolves before long. As for Pattinson, this is yet another in a long line of strange roles that test him in new ways. Dafoe may be getting more attention for his work here, but Pattinson arguably has the more difficult role. Together, especially when they’re getting drunk and being weird, it’s almost a buddy movie at times. Then, there’s any number of turns. However, through it all, you have their talents to guide you.

The Lighthouse clearly won’t be for everyone. In fact, it’s arguably not for most people. Eggers’ filmmaking is precise, but keeps you at arm’s length. He mixes a sense of grim fatality with an odd bit of humor here and there, especially when flatulence comes into play. This is miles away from his already esoteric The Witch. Again using old fashioned language, one might prefer subtitles here, though immersing yourself in their babbling is actually somewhat of a charm by the end. This is challenging independent cinema, to be sure, but if you embrace the challenge, there’s elements of fun to be had.

This Friday, adventurous audience members (presumably mostly fans of Pattinson who are used to him making choices like this), those who love The Witch, and anyone who trusts the tastemakers at A24, can give The Lighthouse a shot. It’s an indie that doesn’t make the viewing experience easy on you, but it undoubtedly will leave you with a lot to talk about. It’s hard to tell what the audience reception to this flick will be, even though the movie had been almost universally praised by critics. From the Cannes Film Festival on, it has won raves. Now, the common folk will decide. Give it a shot and see what you think…

Be sure to check out The Lighthouse, in theaters this weekend!

About Joey Magidson

A graduate of Stony Brook University (where he studied Cinema and Cultural Studies), resides in Brooklyn, New York. He contributes to several other film-related websites and is a member of the Broadcast Film Critics Association.

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