The Lighthouse is like this box, this nearly square screen in salt-dried black & whites, into which Sea Dafoe and Sea Pattinson have been plunked, wearing nautical sweaters and gloomy gremlin glee. And gradually, as the wind and waves pick up, the box starts getting rattled and tossed around, the two of them scrambling and colliding bodily into each other, slipping in a brackish muck of kerosene and seawater and piss and semen, yelling in kelpy, semi-incomprehensible Melville. All the while, a foghorn keeps an eldritch time, a deep bellow like an exhalation from Hell, and a dizzying phantasmagorical Art Deco egg of thick glass-plated light slowly swings and sings overhead, as the timbers of the box begin to buckle and crack under the onslaught, the mad sea rushing and foaming in at the corners like a briny vignette, waiting to crash through and leave everything a tangled broken mess on the rocks.
It’s a rigorously deranged ride of barmy barnacled madness and we are blessed. By an absent fearful Christian God, or more likely Poseidon, invoked at one point by miniature craggy king Willem Dafoe in a maniacal, minutes-long ocean swell of a curse in which he apparently foregoes the need to breathe. When at last the booming torrent breaks, all Robert Pattinson can do is look up at him from his sprawl on the uneven floor with his haunted cliff-ghast eyes, and offer that alright, maybe not all of Thomas’s cooking is that bad. And our packed Monday night audience absolutely lost our shit.
Is it for anything besides this, this fever break of laughter before the barometer just starts rising again? Does it need to be? As the internet has asked, must a movie be good—is it not enough to sit in the dark and see an actor, unhinged? Do you question the SEA for ROILING?
In this case I think there is actually plenty of flotsam and jetsam tossed in this, but I don’t need all these references and elements (meteorological or otherwise) to be combed out. I don’t need to solve anything, be like oh it’s Freudian, oh it’s the myth of Prometheus—it’s enough that there are phalluses and light and at times those coalesce and almost drip into Robert Pattinson’s graven cheekbone. I really like reading Robert Eggers talk about making his movie, his fascinating reverse-hydra approach to production decision-making where he establishes something he must have, and then that one decision auto-decides a constellation of other decisions that he’ll insist serve this one. It would all sound rather draconian and unfun if the initial choice wasn’t whimsically something like, and I quote: “The reason why it became this period in The Lighthouse is because I wanted to have a foghorn, and I wanted to have a Fresnel lens.” You go, buddy. I respect this Quaint Nerd priority matrix.
This is what I mean by rigorously deranged. It means that Pattinson is wearing the exact right style of wickie overalls when he’s getting menaced out of his damn mind by a one-eyed seagull or fucking unearthly screamed at by an alarmingly anatomically correct Victorian mermaid or drunkenly hanging on Willem Dafoe as he slurrily slow-dances him around their cramped kitchen singing a song of which I caught not a word. But if there’s a message here, it might be on that last: go easy on the grog when you’re trapped on a rock, lest you go mad north-nor’easter, and don’t make it back to land.