With The Witch, Robert Eggers cemented himself as a director to follow. It was a story that was told in an artfully crafted way, and one that brought the audience into the slow-paced horror of a small family on new land.
It was a concept that was divisive, but for those whom it worked for, it was beloved. His new film, The Lighthouse—now premiering at TIFF 2019—is a very similar beast. It is a work of genius that may be hard for many to latch onto and enjoy to its fullest despite an expertly crafted script, masterful acting, and a wonderfully engaging descent into madness.
Set on an island off the coast of Maine, The Lighthouse is the tale of two lighthouse keepers (Willem Dafoe and Robert Pattinson). Stranded due to bad weather, their sanity and patience slowly break down as they obsess over their past and the very light they are tasked to maintain. While it is a simple story, it is the method in which it unfolds that crafts an engaging, difficult, and truly mesmerizing film.
The use of a 4:3 aspect ratio combined with a rich in contrast black & white 35mm film stock, craft a film that is stunning to look at. Every frame on screen is filled with a level of detail rarely seen in modern film making. The use of contrast paints a dark, disturbing, and often tragic world, one where the slow descent into alcohol and myth seem plausible and even understandable as the runtime counts down.
Yet, even with the level of balance always present on the screen, The Lighthouse does manage to be truly funny at times. The reactions to the mundane are pushed to absurdist levels, breaking the often palpable tension and giving a much-needed balance to what could have been a dire slog in the hands of a lesser director. Robert Eggers manages some expertly timed moments of brevity that resulted in moments of audible laughter in the theatre at TIFF. His comedic directing of the script depicts just how vast the range of this new filmmaker truly is, making me even more excited to see his career evolve.