7/10 The second film from Robert Eggers, the writer/director behind the brilliant film, “The Witch” is back after a four-year hiatus. Although this film is not as strong as his debut feature, there is a lot to admire about this follow up. Before I go into details however, know that this film will not be for most people. “The Witch” was a far more accessible film than this one. Most people who see this film will either love it or loathe it, with not much wiggle room in between. One problem with modern films today is how forgettable most of them are. Perhaps the strongest aspect of “The Lighthouse” is how extremely memorable it is and how it will stay with you for long after you leave the theater. This might be the best score of the year and the mood, atmosphere and tone are palpable in how strongly the score, sound editing, sound mixing, black and white colors and 1.19:1 aspect ratio put you into the mindset of the film’s setting. In addition to the incredibly eerie score, Willem Dafoe and Robert Pattinson gives stunning performances as they allow themselves to be swallowed up into these characters who are as foggy and grey as the film itself. Eggers does a great job of slowly building tension and making sure the audience is shrouded in mystery with no idea what is about to unfold. Spoken in old English dialogue and using sailor verbiage with no easing into it, Eggers thrusts the audience into this time and place and has no intention of holding the audience’s hand and explaining anything. There is some striking imagery and beautifully haunting cinematography, especially when Eggers and his cinematographer play with lighting and shadows. This film has a few weaknesses which prevent it from reaching the level of “The Witch”. First off, the dialect of old English spoken can often be hard to understand what is being said and often when a storm is raging or characters are both yelling at each other, we have no idea what is being communicated. I normally don’t watch films with subtitles on but when I revisit this film (which I certainly will), I think subtitles will be in order. Also, despite an original setting and time period for a story like this, the slow descent into madness is a trope we have seen in many other films before. The fact that when this film ends, we have almost no idea what was real, what was hallucinated, how long the two men had been on this rock, etc. That ambiguity is fine to include in the film but leaves a bit to be desired due to so many unanswered questions. This is definitely a weird, independent film that doesn’t necessarily break new ground but it engages you the entire time and won’t leave your mind for weeks after viewing. Eggers has become an expert at creating environments and fully immersing his audience into them. Much like this summer’s “Midsommar”, it doesn’t quite live up to the director’s first film but is still worth seeing if you enjoy psychological horror films that are well made. I’m looking forward to what Eggers does next and hopefully we won’t have to wait four years until his next feature.
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