The Lighthouse is a 2019 horror film by Robert Eggers starring William Defoe as Thomas Wake and Robert Pattinson as Ephraim Winslow.
Trying to pin down what this movie is about proves especially difficult because it's a psychological thriller that makes you question what is real and what is imaginary. Put simply, The Lighthouse is about two wickies (lighthouse keepers) trying to keep their sanity intact on a remote New England island in the 1890s. Thomas, Winslow’s boss, makes him do all the work around the lighthouse while forbidding him from accessing the lantern room. So yes, most of this film is just Winslow emptying chamber pots, cleaning the cistern, carrying loads in a wheelbarrow, and shoveling coal into the furnace. If that sounds incredibly boring, that’s because it is. However, The Lighthouse manages to create such a mind-altering yet interesting story through its aesthetic and multiple meanings.
When it comes to aesthetics, The Lighthouse is pretty unique. It’s in black and white with a vintage square aspect ratio that serves to highlight its old-timey vibes and how claustrophobic life is in the lighthouse. The score is full of tension and adds a never-ending sense of dread as Winslow hallucinates logs in the water and a tentacle monster in the lantern room.
Where this movie shines for me is the multiple meanings you can discern from it. Because of the hallucinations and the two wickies drinking alcohol on the job, many people speculate that most of the events that take place are not real. We find out in the film that Winslow's real name is Tom Howard and that Winslow was a foreman that he let die in a forest accident. As a result, some people have taken this to mean that Wake is Howard's subconscious. Many reviews on this film emphasize the theme of isolation or the spiritual connotations of the Light. That’s not to mention the explicit homoerotic subtext and explorations of masculinity. The best interpretations of the film that I have come across are from two video essayists, Acolytes of Horror and Kay and Skittles.
This is one of those movies that you have to watch to get a sense of how it speaks to you. However, I can confidently say that this film will not be everyone's cup of tea. It's weird, trippy, thrilling, and bombastic all at the same time. But if you are looking for that sort of horror film then I highly recommend it.
By Alpha Bah