TIFF19: The Lighthouse

The Lighthouse (2019) 1h 50min | Drama, Fantasy, Horror | 18 October 2019 (USA) Summary: The story of two lighthouse keepers on a remote and mysterious New England island in the 1890s.
Countries: USA, CanadaLanguages: English

Two lighthouse keepers slowly descend into madness in The Lighthouse. Set in the late 19th century, cantankerous lighthouse keeper Thomas Wake (Willem Dafoe) arrives at a remote New England island for a four-week term, along with his new underling Ephraim Winslow (Robert Pattinson). Thomas operates the beacon of the lighthouse at night, while Winslow is assigned to maintaining the upkeep during the day, which includes cleaning the cistern and bringing up oil for the light. However, when a terrible storm arrives, delaying the arrival of relief, cabin fever begins to set in, as the two lighthouse keepers begin to go mad.

Robert Eggers follows up his 2015 debut The Witch with this psychological horror story about two lighthouse keepers, who slowly descend into madness. Gloriously shot in black and white on 35mm film, the plot begins with Thomas Wake and Ephraim Winslow arriving for what is supposed to be a month-long term manning an isolated lighthouse. Winslow isn’t fond of being tasked with doing difficult chores, while the very flatulent Thomas sleeps all day and gets drunk before manning the lantern at night. As time goes by, the line between what’s real and what’s imagined gets deeply blurred.

The Lighthouse

Like The Witch, The Lighthouse is a very slow-burning horror tale that some may find a bit on the dull side. However, the film features an excellent lead performance by Willem Dafoe, going full sea captain, and a passable one by Robert Patterson, whose character of Ephraim Winslow straddles the line of being the film’s hero or villain. I would admit that I dug the more subtle first half of the film more than the more surreal and bizarre craziness of the second, though overall The Lighthouse is still a visually stunning sophomore effort for Robert Eggers.

TIFF19 screenings of The Lighthouse

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Sean Kelly Author

Sean Patrick Kelly is a self-described über-geek, who has been an avid film lover for all his life. He graduated from York University in 2010 with an honours B.A. in Cinema and Media Studies and he likes to believe he knows what he’s talking about when he writes about film (despite occasionally going on pointless rants).