(3 / 5)
For fans of Edgar Allan Poe, The Lighthouse may have a familiar look to the legendary author’s fragmented tale of the same name. Max and Robert Eggers’ screenplay takes liberties with the original text and manages to bring forward a reimagined black and white version that will seep into your soul. What the Eggers manage to do is capture the haunting tone still at the heartbeat of Poe’s legacy.
Robert Pattinson manages to redefine himself and his career with his dark portrayal of Ephraim Winslow. A contract worker in the late 19th century who takes a four-week job as a wickie in a lighthouse off the coast of New England. His supervisor is the salty and mentally unstable Thomas Wake played with disturbing precision by Willem Dafoe. The two men work through their roles on the island and work to make the most of the month-long assignment. Wake establishes his role as the captain of the lighthouse. While relegating Winslow to physically challenging jobs like refuelling the light, carrying heavy kerosene containers and cutting the wood for the lighthouse. While the senior member is left to manage the light by himself and makes it clear that the young understudy has no access to the top of the tower.
Not unexpectedly, things within the close quarters begin to go from uncomfortable to utterly bizarre. Throughout the weeks of going to the outbuildings, Winslow is confronted by an aggressive one-eyed gull. Wake warns the wickie that it is bad luck to kill a seabird, even though it torments the young man every day. He also finds a small statue of a mermaid in his mattress, which leads him to dream of mermaids each night. While Wake continues to go into the lighthouse by himself, Winslow swears that he sees the old man naked as he speaks to the light itself. Then one day everything turns from merely strange to dangerous when the one-eyed gull is found dead in the island’s well. As the storms brew outside, the atmosphere inside becomes just as treacherous.
With whispers of Herman Melville and Robert Louis Stevenson added into the fragment of Poe’s writings, this project is a journey into the minds of men who are secluded and desperate. The use of 35mm black and white film provides the vintage style that offers a look and feel that is reminiscent of classic movies from decades gone by. The Eggers manage to build up the tension with visual artistry that delivers a horrific glimpse into the human mind.
Pattinson manages to come alongside and proves that he is worthy of sharing the screen with Willem DeFoe. These two go toe to toe throughout the film and manage to capture the dismal progression of two men left alone on an island for too long. Harkening back to the shadows and depressing clouds of Poe’s work, cutting a fine edge between psychological drama and pure horror. The journey goes down into the depths of hell, figuratively, and provides little hope or humour for the hearts of men. Despite DeFoe’s character being able to fart on cue, there is nothing to bring forward any glimmers of joy in these men’s lives.
The Lighthouse is a masterful depiction of the real state of the human experience, but it is not for those with weak constitutions. The psychological and physical elements of the story will permeate the very soul of anyone who looks upon this film.
REEL DIALOGUE: Is the heart desperately wicked?
The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it? Jeremiah 17:9
The heart is desperately wicked… The Lighthouse proves that the human condition has not changed throughout history. In this microcosm of the human experience, The Eggers’ film and the writings of Edgar Allen Poe prove that the line between good and evil is a very fine line. This perplexing experience is wonderfully played out in the minds and hearts of the two lead characters. Depicting the realities of what is deep within the heart of mankind.
It is evident throughout history or even by picking up the Bible that humanity may try to rise above the evil that is deep in their hearts, but continually fails. This could lead many to a level of depression, especially when evil infiltrates their lives. What are we to do? What is the answer?
Interestingly, the answer can be found in something that may be seen as exceptionally horrific. At the heart of the biblical message the answer to the wickedness of humanity is found in a man who is executed during the Roman Empire. At first it may sound counterintuitive, but this is a story that provides the answer to the issues of the human heart and the evils of this world.
The Story: The biographical accounts written by Luke