Every year while attending the Sundance Film Festival I am reminded there 2 kinds of indie films. First, you have the crowd pleasing, more-mainstream films like Blinded By the Light or Late Night. On the other hand you have the true art-house indie that is experimental and more challenging to watch. Distributor A24 often selects these risky films and as with all high art some of it I resonate with and others I do not. Fortunately for the new film The Lighthouse I did respond to what it’s trying to do but I fully admit many people will not.
The Lighthouse is directed by Robert Eggers and stars Willem Dafoe and Robert Pattinson as 2 men who get more than a little stir-crazy while operating a lighthouse in the middle of nowhere. Much of what we see between the 2 men is questionable. Some of it is real. Some of it is a dream. Some of it is the delusions cabin fever can bring on. Some may be the result of a guilty conscience. We don’t know and the movie doesn’t tell us.
Both Pattinson and Dafoe do a great job with their physically demanding roles and the movie looks gorgeous. Shot in black and white with a 1.19:1 aspect ratio, Eggers helps us dive into the 19th century setting without ever saying that’s when it is occurring. The aesthetic also helps muddle the dream and real life scenes. In color it would be more clear what is gritty and real with what is an illusion. Here we keep guessing.
Watching The Lighthouse reminded me a lot of Ingmar Bergman especially The Seventh Seal. I also thought of Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining and Truffaut’s 400 Blows. There’s a mixture of surrealism and passion running throughout all these films that make them unforgettable. They are weird and different but that’s part of the experience of watching them.
That said, The Lighthouse is not for everyone. If you don’t like abstract, strange art-pieces you won’t like this film. I recommend taking a look at the trailer and if it looks intriguing to you, than you will probably enjoy it. It’s an intense, strange movie that got me thinking. Can’t go wrong there!
I’m still not sure what Eggers is trying to say with his film and there are scenes which feel more than a little repetitive, but I still enjoyed it. It’s a movie you can think on for several days. One where every person in the audience will have a different take on, whether they like it or not. I anticipate this film will have a low cinemascore because it is so different but I still recommend it.
If you want to see something challenging and more than a little nutty than give The Lighthouse a shot and let me know what you think in the comments section. Also what’s one of the most abstract artsy movie you’ve seen that you enjoyed?
8 out of 10