Robert Eggers' debut feature film, "The Witch", was an astonishing piece of work. Written in old time English and brought a slow burning story to a disturbing end with beautiful cinematography and great performances. "The Lighthouse" is a very different film but still brings us a version of English we might not be so familiar with, a different pace and even more great performances.
Set on a lighthouse in the middle of nowhere, the new assistant and the old lighthouse keeper find themselves trapped as they fall deeper and deeper into madness because of isolation, booze and more than a small amount of supernatural insinuation as storms keep them from getting new supplies. DeFoe and Pattinson give top drawer performances that may be beyond many other actors. They both seemed prepared to do anything in their roles and it shows.
The editing and the cinematography is truly beyond almost any modern film I've ever seen. Shot on an almost square format in black and white by Jarin Blaschke who also worked on "The Witch", the film transports the viewer to a surreal, yet very believable world filled with dread and hidden horrors. It is notable to say that the lighthouse itself is a set in NovaScotia and while it reads as a real place, the surrounding terrain has a 1940s gothic horror quality about it that brings you even more into the film than if it was shot on location somewhere, I think. In the hands of a lesser crew, the transitions from shot to shot might seem pretentious and draw attention to themselves but as amazing as they are they only serve to draw you in
Not a traditional horror, but more of psychological thriller, this movie has elements taken from Lovecraft, Poe and while it often goes into violence it never seems exploitative or falls into standard tropes. The sound design is amazing and (especially very near the end) goes right into David Lynch territory.
With a budget of only 4 million, the box office was over 18 million - a good haul - and I wish there were more projects like this that challenge the filmgoer and don't require a 300 million Industrial Light and Magic budget to pull it off.
I look forward to anything Eggers does next as its obvious he is s serious force with a very strong personal vision in his film work that will likely build over time and leave us with a series of films that, while not to everyone's tastes (nothing is), will outlive any of the blockbusters that have come out in the same period. Pretty much every frame is a visual masterpiece.