First Impressions: Is ‘The Lighthouse’ worth the hype?

On a rainy Sunday evening, The McGill Tribune Arts & Entertainment team convened for one purpose and one purpose only: To watch the much-hyped Robert Eggers film The Lighthouse. Starring exTwilight cast member Robert Pattison and exMr Bean’s Holiday villain Willem Dafoe, The Lighthouse has captivated audiences since its release. Whether or not the film lives up to the hype, however, is up to the Arts and Entertainment team to decide. 

 

Patrick Gilroy: Unconventional and bold

When it comes to movies, I find that the crazier they are, the better. In this regard, The Lighthouse did not disappoint. 

Eggers does a good job of setting up a somber character study through the first third of the film. But, it isn’t long before he pulls the rug out from under the audience, dialing up the surrealist imagery and forcing the audience to question everything they thought to be true about the characters. The result is a beautiful film that toys with conventional narrative structure and deftly wields its symbolism. It remains a character study through and through, and Pattinson and Defoe nail their roles as the hysterical lighthouse keepers. By the end of the film, I could not tell if the characters were crazy, or if I was—it might have been a bit of both. 

 

Vanessa Barron: Baffling but beautiful

I went into The Lighthouse with high expectations, and it certainly lived up in terms of filmmaking quality, particularly in its surreal sound design. A blaring foghorn becomes a ticking doomsday clock, screams distort into grating static, and a silly line like, ‘Why’d ye spill yer beans?’ echoes throughout the space of the theatre, becoming a memorable, haunting omen of insanity and death. While the film was strikingly and grotesquely beautiful, I couldn’t tell you what this movie is about to be honest. There were clear mythological metaphors and phallic imagery at every corner, but even with that knowledge, I couldn’t tell you what kind of message Eggers was constructing. Perhaps this thematic ambiguity was intentional, and perhaps The Lighthouse deserves a rewatch on my part. Regardless, this film is hypnotically atmospheric, and downright disgusting at times, yet in the most aesthetically pleasing way possible. 

 

Katia Innes: Convoluted hogwash

The Lighthouse is undoubtedly a very scary movie. However, much of the imagery that  makes the movie so terrifying—hysterical mermaids, rotting flesh, and seagulls—ultimately add little to the film. Some symbols, such as the murdered seabird, carry profound meaning until the climax of the film. Others remain entirely unexplained. Perhaps these images were meant to deliberately disorient and confuse; perhaps reading Percy Jackson and the Olympians simply did not prepare me with an adequate knowledge of Greek mythology to understand the film’s frequent allusions to the Promethean fire story. Regardless, Eggers has spun a mythology that The Lighthouse cannot support, and the plot buckles under this weight. 

 

Jonathan Giammaria: A work of cinematographic genius

One could argue that The Lighthouse is nothing but the newest arthouse film of the month. It follows the recent trend of experimental horror in creating a slow-burn plot that withholds much of the gore and jump scares that characterize more mainstream fanfare. What distinguishes Eggers’s newest film, however, are his stylistic choices. Eggers harkens back to the cinematic language of yesteryear—monochrome film cinematography presented in a square aspect ratio—which entices audiences by  mirroring the claustrophobia and volatility that increase over the course of the film’s narrative. Many scenes take place over dimly lit dinners, where the two leads sit in an isolating darkness encroaching on them from the film’s edges. Likewise, some scenes use dark space so heavily that the image only allows for tiny slits of light, just to quickly cut to a scene in broad, stark daylight. In a film whose leads become fixated on light, it’s fitting that Eggers disorients his audience with it.

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