Robert Eggers has certainly established that he is a master of establishing creepy moods. Moods that are engrossed in their mysterious style that they’re almost inviting, like you want to know why this world is as weirdly fascinating as it is. I had no clue what was happening during Eggers’ “The Witch,” but its world was so unique in its old fashion archaic style that I didn’t really care about the plot and wanted to explore more of this subtly haunting world supposedly filled with witches.
Eggers newest film, “The Lighthouse,” works much in the same way, but is certainly bolstered by a pair of strong, raw performances from Robert Pattinson and Willem Dafoe. The mood is palpable, set on a small island surrounded by a restless ocean and fog with only a worn-out lighthouse and a fog horn that sounds for sailors that never come, all photographed in beautiful black-and-white cinematography with an aspect ratio that makes everything feel a little more cramped. What follows is a slow descent into madness, where Pattinson and Dafoe exchange old timey sailor yarns and attempt to show their authority over the other, often leading to disastrous results where the other lashes out like a frightened sea creature caught in their lobster trap.
Eggers’ mood remains the driving force though, as if the fog and blinding light of the lamp is playing some sort of spell on these two men, bringing out the worst in them. What starts out as simple attempts to not give in to loneliness turns into a power struggle, the two fighting over who does the chores and who gets to watch the lighthouse at night, the thing both of them were sent here to do. This transition is slow but not without its own rewards along the way, as hallucinations and possibly powers beyond their mortal control start to plague their minds, as if we’re going mad along with these men. That maddening mood of repetitiveness and isolation on this rock, serving no real purpose, is brilliantly captured by Eggers.
Overall, “The Lighthouse” is a beautifully and uniquely captured look at madness and paranoia. The cinematography is like nothing I’ve seen before, the chemistry between Pattinson and Dafoe is volatile in all the best ways and Eggers’ world is so perfectly sculpted that it drives the whole picture, answering all the necessary questions while still making you question reality and fantasy.
Final Grade: A