It was weird.
The most freaked out by a lighthouse Australians will find themselves since Round The Twist, The VVitch Director Robert Eggers’ next feature sees a black and white Willem Dafoe and Robert Pattinson, continuing in his quest to venture as far from the mainstream as possible, land on a remote island as solitary keepers.
Shot in a not dissimilar manner to Bertrand Mandico’s The Wild Boys, the stark attention drawn to clearly staged foregrounds and props has the shrewd effect of pointedly pitting our figures against their environments. Heralding some gorgeous images, the production design thankfully remains consistent and once one has settled into Eggers’ style the approach makes it all too inviting to wholly immerse oneself.
It is however the performances which render this grand; nay a viewer might bear to tear their eyes away from the face of Dafoe’s shadow-ridden, browbeating commander spouting sea soliloquies nor Pattinson’s increasingly confused, panic-stricken apprentice capturing some of the best humour herein.
The moments shared between the pair amidst dinners prove highlights, as do excellent attempts at quite literal toilet humour. Pattinson, along with his co-star clearly having no end of fun in such a multifaceted role, gets to do much more physical comedy than in previous efforts to his and audiences’ great delight.
And now; Greek myth. It’s never gone out of fashion and is showing no signs of slowing down.
The Lighthouse will have varied interpretations, this author preferring the overwhelming emphasis on the Prometheus myth which has been very, very well covered in film to date; there having only been a few modern stories fulfil the scope of the archetype without overly relying on unnecessarily direct allusions to the early mythos or distractingly overt symbolism. Alien springs to mind, as does Pygmalion and its adaptations not including My Fair Lady. Frankenstein and the still justly-preferred 1931 adaptation likewise remains in this camp, though not too many of its (nor the Alien) follow-ups.
Eggers’ reliance on the ideation is entertaining if overly obvious and frustratingly diverting, as are reversions to the most fundamental myth’s imagery in the third act which bear much more mythological emphasis than practical weight within a narrative which is overly concerned with the expressive antics of two not entirely well people; dependent of course upon your interpretation.
Not distracting too greatly, The Lighthouse, a Pygmalion and Galatea to Shaw’s Pygmalion, is an entertainment that, given the emphasis on much else, could just as well have allowed its leads more scope.
The Lighthouse screened as part of the Fantastic Film Festival Australia and is in cinemas from February 6