The Lighthouse (2019)

Review: The Lighthouse (2019)

22 Feb 20

There is a certain 'enchantment in the light'

The Geets:

A diabolical and claustrophobic experience which illustrates mastery in capturing the pure essence of insanity in every single scene. Eggers is certainly making a name for himself with a perfected entry into the Horror genre showing just how effective the examination of the psychological state is in compounding terror and fear for the audience.

Irregardless of the top-notch acting performances by both Defoe and Pattinson, Eggers certainly brings this film to life with the purest forms of cinematic imagination, one where the surrounding environment is equally terror-inducing as the narrative depicted by the 2 protagonists. This film is soaked in a pool of foreboding imagery and explorations of faith in the unknown as much as it stays grounded on the human level of descent from sanity.

The substantial role of the environment in provoking a disturbingly profound sense of fear is haunting and makes its presence known in every scene. From the violently audible lighthouse alarm (that likens to the siren from the Purge series), to the aggressively crashing waves onto the rocky pavements (likened to Poseidon's wrath), to bellowing wind screeches (like a Banshee's scream) all work collectively to create a haunting depiction of a tempestual storm. As the movie progresses the storm becomes increasingly violent as it barricades the already isolated isle, perpetuating the feeling of inescapability, as if Poseidon is angered in the wake of failed obligations.

Equally haunting is the fearless presence of a flock of seagulls who, in this film, implicitly represent souls of departed sailors and components of the 'Sea King' himself. Thomas relates their death as bad luck, something which Ephraim knowingly plunges into with deadly consequences. The ruthless acts of the seabirds are likened to The Birds (1960). The are completely unbridled in their intent to punish Ephraim for ignoring Poseidon's signs of conformity. Out in the sea, the rules of mankind no longer apply as natural events drive the protagonists into a 'black hole' of endless resentment, madness and primal rage.

Both actors approach this film with an authenticity which harks to the depressive climate of late-19th century England by perfecting heir unique accents, behaviourisms and vulnerabilities. The social isolation and claustrophobic feeling already established by the outside natural environment and the closed-in walls of the lighthouse already exposes the hidden vulnerabilities of both actors. With words that strike with such intensity that it is a felt reaction in the audience the protagonists are alone capable of making us sympathise with their inescapable situations. Even though the narrative is predictable in foreshadowing the ending of this movie it is the acting performance that keeps this film alive as much as does the environment.

The contrasting working status of both men adds another layer of complexity which shows its true feelings in an already closed in ecosystem of dread. Ephraim's growing jealousy of Thomas's seniority and earned privilege of barking orders drives the narrative in a tangent which we were hoping it will go. Their behaviourisms, miniscule muscle twitches and positionings all work to speak volumes regarding their true feelings for each other, as these intents come to the surface more and more as the movie progresses. It seems that with isolation and dwindling supplies, the hidden primal urges come out, such as finding solace in light sources, alcoholism, intimacy, confrontation and psychological warfare.

The class system already established in the first act drives both men into a flat-out war of contrasting interests and religious beliefs. With Thomas being deeply religious, he attacks Ephraim with Poseidon's imagery and foreboding consequences. In contrast, Ephraim's more direct insults aim at status and perceived power positions which earns him appraisal from the audience. This only makes every scene with both men more disturbing, especially their drunken mis-adventures, which evoke contrasting impulses of anger, intimacy, brotherhood etc. It is interesting to see the acting prowness of both in the state of alcoholism, which is said to reveal the truest form of oneself.

A more interesting concept arises continually through the movie. The lighthouse represents a certain level of hope amidst being shrouded by palpable darkness. The lighthouse beam itself seems like an orb of light suspended in eternal darkness. Strangely, it brings out the hidden pleasures of both characters as they romanticise it as an ecstasy-filled experience of 'hope'. It is the 'enchantment in the light' that seeks to keep the characters from descending into insanity. However, the misuse of itself by both protagonists as an orgasmic experience could imply the ultimate fates of both characters.

The light itself is illustrated perfectly in every scene as it illuminates every scene and exposes the objects present in each shot. It is deliberately kept dim to illustrate the power of claustrophobic interiors and the natural forces outside. This along with the smoke exhaled from smoking adds a certain feeling of 'choking oneself from the inside' already exhausting the protagonists' personal space with unbreathable air.

The Phads:

Its difficult to overlook the cinematic and philosophical brilliance of this movie. However, as a devout slave to notions of examining both good and bad in the same thing, I am obligated to criticise this movie for having a certain level of predictability that may make it seem unbearable to sit through for almost 2 hours. The constant foreboding and progressively violent performances of both characters only further reveals the predicament of the ultimate fate of both of them.

Additionally, I object to the already perfectly layered movie with the inclusion of the Mermaid. It seems like the tempestual environment, the seagulls and the wind were itself enough to makes us believe in Poseidon's anger. The inclusion of a supposedly fantasised creature seems a wasted opportunity to already be invested in the interesting character developments. If anything, the Mermaid only seeks to distract us from the more raw, authentic human nature and pulls us into the sea of 'monsters and giants' etc. Most Horror movies already capitalise in the bland representation of demons, creatures and witches for us to be ultimately undermine their significance in the midst of psychological fear of the mind itself.

Rating: 8.5/10