A black and white, 35mm, A24 film sounds like every cinephile’s dream – and these dreams turn to reality in Robert Egger’s mysterious yet captivating; The Lighthouse (2019). Set in the 1890s – this odd and very unique tale chooses not to conform to most traditional storytelling methods, as it covers the experiences of Thomas Wake (Willem Dafoe) and his assistant Ephraim Winslow (Robert Pattinson), two lighthouse keepers who are living on a remote island of New England. This two-hour tale makes the viewer feel as if they are stuck on the island with both Ephraim and Thomas, questioning their reality and ultimately leaving this experience with no true understanding of sanity.
The very basis of mental stability is questioned in this twisted and nightmarish film – both Robert Pattinson and Willem Dafoe playing dark and unique characters. Opposing the natural and positive elements of protagonists, this tale weaves you into the keepers’ wondrous minds – leading the audience to question whether they are traditionally good or evil. Mimicking the nature of life, Egger’s work showcases how the most limited production value and minimal extravagance can lead to the most appreciated storyline and technically correct tale. The filmmaking of this piece is very simple and (quite literally) black and white, as it follows a linear narrative and consistent photography style. However, the intricacies of the plot and mind-boggling character types lead the film into a very dark and confusing world, sucking the audience into Egger’s avant-garde mind. This art-thriller focuses on the primitive nature of mankind, uncovering what isolation can do to a person, and further emphasizing the impact that two people can have on one another. This stands out of the drama genre, as it nears a horror film, touching on twisted elements and dealing with the inner workings of the psyche.
The characters of Ephraim and Thomas are both very strangely introduced in the storyline, as Thomas is the older and wiser keeper of the lighthouse. A storm strands them on this island, in which they slowly and gradually fall into a place of madness. In a world of hallucinogens and confusion, this tale leads you to question the very basis of the story that you are being told. In the midst of unreliable dream sequences and the questionable (often skeptically noted as homoerotic) relationship being formed between the two men, the audience must also pay careful attention to the words of the narrator. Sucked into this strange world that is both historic and mystical, one must piece together the tale – deciding between what is reality and what is a fabrication of the mind. This film heavily focuses on the themes of reliance and actuality, with the lighthouse acting as a focal point to the film, being the mens’ constant tether to real life. Noting the several literary illusions placed in this masterpiece of a film, every movie lover deserves to get to know Ephraim and Thomas, decoding and immersing themselves within the whimsical and loosely fabricated storyline.
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Laiba Saqlain is a passionate cinephile and avid writer. She enjoys both watching and analyzing different forms of media, all while looking at the technical aspects behind the arts. Moving into her final years of schooling - Laiba is looking to spread her love of the film studies, critically watching different pieces, and educating others on new and interesting perspectives!