Monday, December 23, 2019

Movie with Abe: The Lighthouse

The Lighthouse
Directed by Robert Eggers
Released October 18, 2019

Being in the same place for a long time without much human contact is bound to drive anyone a little crazy. There are some jobs that require isolation and often – though not always – pay well because, though day-to-day tasks may be mundane and not especially challenging, being cut off and far away from civilization is a demanding ask. Some people thrive in those situations and know exactly how to keep themselves sane, and the advent of technology and ways to keep occupied have aided in making the time pass. Others, both in the past and now, find it maddening and simply can’t cope.

Ephraim Winslow (Robert Pattinson) arrives on a New England island in the nineteenth century to serve as a lighthouse keeper for a four-week term. His supervisor and lone companion on the island, Thomas Wake (Willem Dafoe), is unpleasant and unkind, and continues to give Winslow miserable and burdensome jobs. As he begins having visions that doesn’t make sense, he learns about his predecessor’s fate and begins to worry that he may never escape his present fate and return home.

This film is shot with a 1.19:1 aspect ratio, which aids the feeling of being trapped and boxed in considerably by presenting a literal square in which its characters exist and cannot leave. Presenting its events in black-and-white compounds that sentiment even more, since the nightmarish images that Winslow experiences are reminiscent of gruesome scenes from classic early horror movies that used the starkness of the pictures to make up for lack of technological visual effects. This film isn’t quite a horror movie, though it’s definitely accurate to describe it as a psychological thriller with tendencies towards the terrifying, especially since it’s seemingly Winslow’s mind that plays tricks on him just as the physical environment that surrounds him.

Pattinson is an actor who has improved his reputation considerably in recent years after his breakout role in the “Twilight” saga, turning in a formidable performance recently in the science-fiction drama “High Life.” Here, he holds nothing back as someone who is acutely aware that his grip on reality is slipping, and Winslow has no desire to be taken advantage of by Wake, though he is powerless to do anything about it. Dafoe, who could earn a third consecutive Oscar nomination for his performance, is delightfully unhinged, expressing great cruelty and maniacal enjoyment of his superiority in a turn that feels nothing like his work in “The Florida Project” and “At Eternity’s Gate.” Director Robert Eggers has made an intense, captivating second film after his debut, “The Witch,” one that does seem a bit too eager to follow its characters off the deep end. It’s nonetheless a gripping and deeply unsettling experience.


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