Some of the best movies would work very well as stage plays. They are low-frills, performance-driven showcases for talented actors who receive a brilliant script and are encouraged to tear into it with dramatic ferocity.
Such is the case for Robert Eggers’ moody, suspenseful period piece, THE LIGHTHOUSE, which wowed audiences at the Toronto International Film Festival recently ahead of its October 18 limited release into theatres. This is where AMC managed to catch a screening, and like most of the viewers at TIFF, we left the theatre raving.
The bulk of the movie takes place at an isolated New England lighthouse in the 1890s. Two men, played by Willem Dafoe and Robert Pattinson, arrive ready to work their shifts for several weeks. Dafoe is the grizzled veteran keeper, and Pattinson the young buck with a mysterious past who’s trying to reset his life by holding down this steady job.
But there are mysteries to unlock at the lighthouse, as well, and Robert Eggers (who announced his talents with the terrifying horror-drama THE WITCH) keeps the audience guessing about Pattinson's intent right up until the very last shot in the film. We are meant to constantly question what we are witnessing in THE LIGHTHOUSE, as Pattinson’s character slowly goes insane from both the isolation… and the mad influence of his unpredictable colleague.
THE LIGHTHOUSE has generated a lot of hype and praise for the two main leads.
"Pattinson, who continues to prove he’s a real talent who just happened to get his start in the cheesiest of places, gives an all-time great monologue rant when asked if he likes Wake’s (Dafoe) cooking," wrote Sara Stewart in The NY Post. “‘But ye’re fond of the lobster, aren’t ye?’ Wake asks almost tearfully when Winslow (Pattinson) finally stops yelling. By turns funny, sinister, haunting, historically fascinating and mythical, THE LIGHTHOUSE is one of the best films of the year.”
The same praise is angled at Eggers’ filmmaking approach, which he continues to refine following THE WITCH.
“THE LIGHTHOUSE balances horror and history: Both dramas concern either the supernatural or the psychological effects of being isolated in a remote, rugged setting,” writes Nicholas Barber in his five-star review for The BBC. “But THE LIGHTHOUSE is a bolder and more skillful film. Some sequences build to such overwhelming intensity that you grip your seat as if you’re on the deck of a sailing ship during a savage storm. You realise that absolutely anything could happen — that there is nowhere the story won’t go and nothing the actors won’t do.”
It’s a wild ride at the multiplex, and even if you managed to see Robert Eggers’ THE WITCH, you still are not prepared for what you will find at the top of THE LIGTHOUSE. You can start to unravel the film’s many mysteries once it opens on October 18, so make sure that you have your tickets now.