“The Lighthouse” is a bizarre, abstract movie in the best possible way. It tells the story of two sailors who have been stationed on a remote island and tasked with maintaining a mysterious lighthouse. The characters slowly lose their grip on reality, as they are forced to live together and endure each other’s company.
Willem Dafoe and Robert Pattinson sell these characters, in addition to the unique dialogue, and all the elements come together to create a nearly perfect film. Dafoe channels his inner Captain Ahab, embracing the insanity of the character while Pattinson plays the new hire, Winslow, who suffers under the rule of Dafoe’s character. The actors have great on-screen chemistry that really shows when the character’s personalities bounce off of each other, and their situation continues to escalate throughout the film.
The best part of the film is the dialogue. Robert and Max Eggers did a terrific job replicating the era-appropriate vocabulary. It works in tandem with Dafoe and Pattinson’s performances. Dafoe especially stole the show as a Captain Ahab-esque figure, though his accent made it a bit difficult to understand him at points.
The musical score is just a single ominous drone that increases in volume, building a sense of tension and dread. It reflects what the characters are feeling on screen. When they are completing their tedious tasks, the drone mimics the sound of a low baritone. It turns into a high-pitched wail during moments of suspense and revelation.
Sound is key in this movie. The music is great, and the sound effects are even better. The roaring waves crashing onto the rocks, powerful winds, clinking gears of the lighthouse, and blaring horns from passing ships, all help immerse the audience in the location of the film. At points, the audio reaches levels so high that the audio peaks. Rather than being annoying, this creates a feeling of anxiety and horror.
The weakest aspect of this film was the cinematography. Not to say it was bad by any means, but it felt lacking when compared to other aspects of the film. Most of the shots felt very bare, usually resorting to static frames of the characters interacting with each other. Fortunately, due to the strength of the dialogue, the dull cinematography does not ruin the film. It was adequate, and that is all it needed to be.
“The Lighthouse” is a mesh of several genres. It can be comedic, dramatic, and horrific in the same scene, and each mood works to the film’s benefit. Most people will find at least one aspect of the film to enjoy. “The Lighthouse” is being shown at Modesto’s State Theater from November 15 until November 21.