The Lighthouse (2019)
October 20, 2019 12:10 PM - Subscribe

The hypnotic and hallucinatory tale of two lighthouse keepers on a remote and mysterious New England island in the 1890s. (IMDB)
posted by Countess Elena (30 comments total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
I'm very curious to see this. Hoping some mefites weigh in.
posted by miss-lapin at 10:42 PM on October 20, 2019

It's fascinating. Not 100% sure how much I liked it (somewhere in the range of some to a lot), but I couldn't take my eyes off the screen. I think my hesitation is mostly due to the fact that the idea of an eerie movie about a remote lighthouse in the late 1800s just has a connotation to me of being a great cozy-by-the-fire watch...But while this movie does capture a lot of that (especially in the cinematography, which is astounding), it goes beyond that into some really uncomfortable madness.

There is a credit at the end that's similar to one on The Witch that states that the dialogue in this is based on actual writings/diaries of lighthouse keepers of the time (it mentions one person's name in particular that I wish I'd written down). When googling for that credit I found this interview with Robert Eggers, talking about the inspirations, including a true story about two lighthouse keepers in Wales in 1801:

The Witch director Robert Eggers spills his beans about The Lighthouse
Smalls Lighthouse on wiki
posted by doctornecessiter at 5:25 AM on October 21, 2019 [5 favorites]

Oh, the Vox review of the movie mentions the writer that was listed as the primary inspiration for the dialogue: Sarah Orne Jewett. Not a lighthouse-keeping diarist as I'd mistakenly assumed from the quick credit on the movie, but a regional novelist who specialized in the Maine coast of this era.
posted by doctornecessiter at 6:02 AM on October 21, 2019 [2 favorites]

Oh, wow, I found this thread on a photography forum, from 2017, where the cinematographer asks about, and then details, what he had to do to get a period look with modern film stock. It involved using obscure vintage lenses and custom-made light filters.
posted by 1970s Antihero at 6:53 AM on October 21, 2019 [8 favorites]

I have seen it and it was a LOT. It was QUANTITIES. It was the most amount of movie you could pack in per minute. I adored it.

This is for everybody who actually loves Moby Dick, and will probably lose a lot of viewers who hated it (which is okay--it's the licorice of American literature). The stunning dialogue sounded to me like a Melville pastiche. I'm glad to hear they used Sarah Orne Jewett, a relatively obscure female writer; I have read some of her work about women's lives in the country, but not about whalers.

I hadn't had one opinion or the other about Pattinson's acting--I figured Twilight shortchanged him--but he can absolutely hold his own against Dafoe not only in his manner but in deranged ranting, when necessary. And the handlebar mustache suits him very well. His face no longer resembles a foot. He looks like a man of the nineteenth century, which so many leading-role actors cannot do--or are not permitted to do, since it is often unattractive by today's standards.

And it is gross. Oh, it is so gross. I said the words "oh God no" in the theater out of its sheer grossness. I expect my dad will eventually see this and do impressions of Dafoe for days.
posted by Countess Elena at 7:20 AM on October 21, 2019 [11 favorites]

Robert Eggers is creating a whole new genre for himself - New England horror gothic - and I am here for it.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 8:18 PM on October 25, 2019 [6 favorites]

I just looked at Eggers' upcoming films, and according to IMDb his next project is called The Northman: "Viking revenge saga set in Iceland at the turn of the 10th century." Cowritten with Bjork's sometime lyricist Sjón Sigurdsson, starring Anya Taylor-Joy (from The Witch) and some Skarsgård bros. I would love him to stay in New England, but this sounds like the kind of thing he could knock out of the park.
posted by doctornecessiter at 6:11 AM on October 29, 2019 [3 favorites]

I've been waiting for more comments to show up here to see if I'm the only one who didn't love it, but they haven't shown up--here or much of anywhere else, either. Everyone seems to love this and I feel like I've missed something.

Because while the acting and cinematography were stunning and the attention to historical detail was interesting, it was an entirely gross, confrontational, uncomfortable movie with no payoff for the confrontation and discomfort. And I'm generally pretty into confrontational and uncomfortable art! But that's because usually I leave feeling some kind of way about it. This I just left feeling bad, and wishing I'd been able to find something redeeming to make the bad feeling worth it.

Also, not gonna lie, the flash of explicit and improbable mermaid genital anatomy made me dislike it at least an extra 15%.

I'll be interested to read more reviews!
posted by rhiannonstone at 11:31 PM on October 29, 2019 [1 favorite]

I love the Witch but I've only managed to watch it twice - once in the theater and once at home. I liked this as well, but I'm not sure I need to actually see it again... it's tense, claustrophobic, and somewhat disgusting. It isn't without levity, at many points the entire theater was cracking up (reminded me somewhat of Withnail and I or the Young Ones at times). But then it dives right back into madness.
posted by lefty lucky cat at 11:26 PM on October 30, 2019 [1 favorite]

I just want a poster-sized print of that one bizarre William Blake-inspired moment of Dafoe as some sort of titan with lighthouse beams emanating from his eyes and Pattinson cowering before him. That shot was absolutely my jam.
posted by komara at 9:26 AM on November 5, 2019 [15 favorites]

Saw this last night and I thought it was... fine. I didn't love it, I didn't hate it. I agree that there was very little payoff, and that that's the biggest issue with the movie.

The cinematography was consistently a delight. Great use of unusual angles throughout. I looooved the shot early on when Pattinson bumps his head on the ceiling, which is itself cutting off the top of the frame. Combined with the 4:3 aspect ratio, it gave an incredible sense of the cramped nature of that room.

Speaking of, when was the last time there was a widely distributed feature film shot in 4:3? That was such an interesting decision.
posted by vibratory manner of working at 6:01 PM on November 5, 2019 [2 favorites]

The last big movie I can think of shot at 4:3 was The Artist. Parts of The Grand Budapest Hotel were shot at 1.37:1.

The Lighthouse, is not 4:3, (or 1.33:1), it's even more square than that, 1.19:1.

Some early sound films were shot at this 1.19:1 ratio, because that's the aspect ratio you get when part of the frame gets used for the soundtrack.

However, even though these films were shot at 1.19:1, it is doubtful that they were meant to be viewed at that ratio; projectionists would mask the frames to something near 4:3 when they screened the film. Filmmakers would be aware of this, and protect the top and bottom of the frame when shooting. You can see this when looking at stills from Fritz Lang's M; you can see there is nothing important going on in the top and bottom of the frame.

The Lighthouse, however, is meant to be screened at 1.19:1, and the cinematographer deliberately uses the whole frame for his compositions.
posted by 1970s Antihero at 7:01 AM on November 6, 2019 [13 favorites]

Excellent clarification, Antihero, thank you!
posted by vibratory manner of working at 10:40 AM on November 6, 2019 [1 favorite]

Saw it this afternoon, am still digesting, not sure if I loved it or just liked it, but for anyone else who was fucking losing their mind wondering why you would need to dump chalk in a cistern -- apparently it was a government recommendation to help counteract the lead in the water since the cistern collected rain through lead pipes that caught runoff from the roof.

yes this was my most pressing question thoughout the movie. lighthouse tentacle? these things happen. but chalk in a cistern? w h y
posted by WidgetAlley at 9:08 PM on November 6, 2019 [10 favorites]

I'm kinda new to posting on Fanfare. I hope it's OK to include spoilers in my post. Just in case...***THIS POST CONTAINS SPOILERS***

So I'm in the not enough payoff camp, despite the incredible acting, cinematography and dialogue. I guess, because I felt like I needed some sort of, I don't know, "closure" maybe, I came up with a theory that it was the lead in the well that poisoned the French guy. He went mad. The whole thing is his lead induced madness. The Willem Dafoe character was an innocent (?) victim...maybe. He didn't drink the water in any case. The French guys predecessor also went mad, and there was the log that the Willem Dafoe character had been keeping which certainly didn't match what we as the audience just saw.

But maybe that was obvious to everyone else already, and it just took me a bit longer to figure it out.

I left the theater thinking I didn't like the movie, but I'm still think about it a day later, and it's growing on me. It's pretty rare that I see anything that sticks with me these days.
posted by WalkerWestridge at 5:07 PM on November 8, 2019 [3 favorites]

I’m not sure I would have favored a neater progression, exactly, but I felt the some internal logic, even the logic of madness, wasn’t quite there. I don’t know why scene followed scene, and I didn’t know what the characters wanted at any time. This wouldn’t have been a problem if the film weren’t so intensified. It made it kind of a headache all around — that, and how difficult the dialogue was to understand. I suspect the problem is mainly that Dave Eggers is a flamboyant but not great director.

That said, the final shot was something else. Obviously Prometheus undergoing his torture. Possibly in the afterworld, or another world. That and the sea chanty of the credits was very unnerving.
posted by argybarg at 8:23 PM on November 14, 2019 [1 favorite]

Saw it last night as absolutely loved it. (I also loved The Witch.) I can't articulate why I loved it, but it reminded me of a lot of other movies and directors I adore, including Das Boot, Lynch and Hitchcock. I am okay with the somewhat disjointed narrative and I think the payoff is just right — it's a fever dream and I didn't need it to make sense.

I like the idea that RPat's character ended up with lead poisoning, but also — THEY WERE DRINKING KEROSENE!!! Speaking of which, Dafoe's character is definitely fucking with him, right? Lying to him, confusing him about dates. The lighthouse itself is literally "lit with gas".

I think the square framing did a lot to serve the claustrophobia of the setting, and while I didn't love the conclusion of The Witch (I wish it had been left more up to interpretation), I do like that both movies feature ominous, seemingly-supernatural animals.

My absolute favorite scene was Dafoe's monologue where he calls on the mighty Neptune to smite RPat.

"Don't ye like me lobster?" is our generation's "I drink your milkshake."
posted by Brittanie at 3:29 PM on November 18, 2019 [3 favorites]

Saw this last night--perfect for right before a multi-day snowstorm. My viewing companion and I agreed with several commenters here that the aesthetics were fantastic (literally), but the underlying story and pacing maybe needed a bit more. I felt such dread from the opening shot that there wasn't really anywhere to go from there--violence felt inevitable, so when it came it was less shocking than it might've been. Wish we had spent some more time with the ordinary human tensions and claustrophobia before things got menacing and supernatural, so that I would have cared more about Pattinson's character and felt a greater range of emotional reaction.

That said, WOW. The set design, acting, cinematography, all incredible. I was particularly struck by the sound design. That insistent pounding rhythm, coming from so many different sources--waves, foghorn, dripping roof, coal-shoveling--did a lot to evoke the inescapable presence of the sea's pounding and the light's turning as characters.
posted by hippugeek at 11:59 AM on December 1, 2019 [2 favorites]

I finally saw this, and wish I had seen it on the big screen, but the good thing about seeing it at home was that we could rewind and listen to the whole curse that came from Ephraim not liking Thomas' cooking a few times.

Boyfriend said that the Academy Awards this year should just be a loop of that curse for three hours and give Dafoe all the statues. Either that or a loop of him naked shooting the light from his eyes. Scenes were thoroughly chewed and digested and expelled and chewed again, to great effect, I thought. Something very Eraserhead about parts of this.

Also, at some point during a bathroom break, boyfriend snuck into the kitchen and retrieved a plastic lobster we have there. During a tense moment in the film, he poked the lobster out from under the couch blanket and I might have screamed a little bit.
posted by queensissy at 9:54 AM on January 14, 2020 [4 favorites]

All the awards for best drunk acting.
posted by rodlymight at 10:05 PM on January 26, 2020 [1 favorite]

This just released in the UK and it is decidedly not for everyone but it is entirely for me.

Aquatic horror, isolation, loss of self and identity transference, claustrophobia, paranoia, male friendship and power dynamics, guilt, lost souls and damnation, mermaids, violence, gods and God all mixed together in a gorgeous looking and sounding package with two mesmerising performances that, while clearly heightened, felt authentic and appropriate.

I felt the film does an excellent job of keeping the viewer (and characters) unsure if the horror is internal or external.

On a recent Shockwaves podcast Eggers talks about how he just happens to like and spend his time thinking about folk lore, history, the occult and religion and that while someone like Guillermo del Toro can pluck elements of history and build his own world around them, Eggers just knows how to (and enjoys the process of) creating an authentic place in history and leaving the world building to just be well-researched fact. That seems to leave him the freedom to explore mood and atmosphere and far as I'm concerned, he's 2 for 2 in delivering with his particular approach.

See this in the cinema if you can, being immersed in the imagery and sound is an experience.
posted by slimepuppy at 1:50 PM on February 1, 2020 [2 favorites]

The Instructions to Light-Keepers book they talk about.
posted by TheophileEscargot at 8:13 AM on February 28, 2020 [4 favorites]

This movie came out relatively recently in the UK.

Glad that I saw it, especially at the cinema. I don't think it would have worked so well at home with distractions around. Great performances and an intense atmosphere.

One thing I didn't like was the soundtrack. The aspect ratio and the black-and-white gave the movie a distinctive, old-fashioned look, but the spooky electronic drones just sounded to me like every other horror movie of the last decade or two. Also seemed like it was competing bombastically with the weather noise and the speech, could have done with a bit less.

I was expecting an ambiguous ending and got it. Still find it a bit annoying that you never find out what happened to Old Thomas' last assistant. My fan theory is that the rot in the food gave them ergot poisoning and so they were both hallucinating.

The script is here if anyone's interested. The full curse goes:
Hark, Triton, Hark! Bellow, and bid our father, the sea king, rise up from the depths, full-foul in his fury, black waves teeming with salt-foam, to smother this young mouth with pungent slime... (to Young)... to choke ye, engorging yerorgans till ye turn blue and bloated with bilge and brine and can scream no more... only when, he, crowned in cockle shells with slithering tentacled tail and steaming beard, takes up his fell, be-finnèd arm -– his coral-tined trident screeches banshee-like in the tempest and runs you through the gullet, bursting ye, a bulging bladder no more, but a blasted bloody film now -- a nothing for the Harpies and the souls of dead sailors to peck and claw and feed upon, only to be lapped up and swallowed by the infinite waters of the dread emperor himself, forgotten to any man, to any time, forgotten to any god or devil, forgotten even to the sea... for any stuff or part of Winslow, even any scantling of your soul, is Winslow no more, but is now itself the sea.
posted by TheophileEscargot at 2:57 AM on March 2, 2020 [5 favorites]

I finally saw this yesterday. I thought it was brilliant and engrossing (and gross!) and gorgeously filmed. perhaps I should not confess this but the end made me laugh, a lot...maybe it was just a release of tension but the end did not disappoint me at all.
posted by supermedusa at 11:50 AM on April 19, 2020 [2 favorites]

My roommate and I watched through all the Best Picture nominees before the Oscars, and ended up watching the last on our list (Ford Vs. Ferrari) Saturday afternoon the day before the Oscars. We both agreed it was "Meh". Then my roommate said he also wanted to see this, since it had been nominated for cinematography; I'd already seen it, but said I would love to watch too.

As soon as it ended, I turned to look at my roommate - who was staring at the screen. He blinked a few times, and then finally said "Ford Vs. Ferrari was nominated for Best Picture and this WASN'T????"
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 10:02 AM on April 21, 2020 [7 favorites]

Just watched this, and not only was it my jam, but it is the ultimate quarantine movie. To quote Stefon, it had everything—isolation, claustrophobia, time becoming meaningless, weird expressions of horniness, excessive drinking, and an omnipresent and overpowering feeling of dread.

I thought this film was absolutely incredible, and I’m not certain why people above think there wasn’t a payoff. On the most surface level, Winslow killed a gull when he was warned not to and suffered the consequences. On a character level, Winslow came to be a wickie because he ran from killing the actual Winslow, but wound up repeating his murderous behavior because he carries it with him, and suffered the consequences. On a symbolic level, there’s too much to unpack in one post, but as Eggers said in interviews—Wake is Proteus and Winslow is Prometheus, and that gets paid off big time.

Now I have to go rewatch The VVitch.
posted by ejs at 8:25 PM on May 2, 2020 [5 favorites]

This was such an unpleasant watch.
posted by orange swan at 8:14 PM on November 29, 2020

orange swan: "This was such an unpleasant watch."

Totally, and I loved every minute of it.
posted by octothorpe at 6:47 AM on January 2, 2021 [1 favorite]

On a character level, Winslow came to be a wickie because he ran from killing the actual Winslow, but wound up repeating his murderous behavior because he carries it with him, and suffered the consequences.

It's not just that he carries it with him. It's also that he spills his beans, right? That's important, that he spills his beans. You get the sense, if he'd been able to avoid just saying it all out loud, he would have been fine. Or at least, not as bad off.

You know, last night, I watched a different movie that did the exhausting, 'omg, what's real and what's the character going crazy?' shtick, and it didn't work for me at all. But this? This works for me. This, along with The Witch, really captures that feeling where reality and delusion are convoluted, and all you can do is react to your situation as you experience it.

What was with the whole 'dog' theme?
posted by meese at 10:46 PM on August 8, 2021

I loved this but I completely understand if other people didn't rate it or actively disliked it. It's weird and spiky and gross, and I'm not 100% sure it works. But I love that Eggers, Dafoe, Pattinson and all the crew just fucking went for it.

For me, it's all about masculinity (toxic? patriarchal? some other adjective? I dunno). Wake is a gatekeeper, Howard is the challenger, and there's no living in second place. They don't really think of women as people, but as mysterious creatures who have something they want. They drink toxicity because it's all that's left. They try to fight nature but nature doesn't fight back, it just smashes through them because they're too puny to matter. And the moments they might actually like each other are the most dangerous because it makes you vulnerable, gives the other man leverage against you.

Wake did well as gatekeeper - he lies about his past but we know he's outlasted or beaten at least one previous challenger. But as he ages out of strength his skill isn't enough to stay on top. He resorts to gaslighting and trickery. When Howard gets what he wants, he has to become the gatekeeper and do this all over again from the other side. That's the Prometheus ending: every day is the same torturous punishment even if you win.

I don't think a feminist reading is the only way to think about this story. But I reckon from Egger's interviews that I'm at least picking up some of the right vibe.
posted by harriet vane at 10:16 PM on October 9, 2021 [1 favorite]

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