DATELINE: Masterpiece Emerges
Dafoe v. Pattinson vs. Lighthouse
It was a dark and stormy movie.
If there are two actors making films for intelligent audiences, they are Willem Dafoe and Robert Pattinson. Now they have teamed up for a Robert Eggers film called The Lighthouse, and the result is electrifying. Set on a Maine island in the 1890s, it is an amazing setting for an unusual encounter.
Sold as a dark horror picture, that’s a simplification. This may be black and white and filled with atmosphere but this movie sends metaphointo a new realm, away from picturesque seaside imges. This lighthouse is perpetually gloomy and dark.
We have not seen a teaming of two actors in point-counterpoint performance since Peter O’Toole and Richard Burton. You may have had a few of those encounters in the 1960s when thoughtful scripts inspired brilliant actors. Well, we have it here.
The third performer in this weird triangle is the setting of the Maine lighthouse on a rocky, barren, unpleasant little island filled with squawking seagulls. They are, Dafoe tells us, the spirits of sailors lost at sea. To kill one is bad luck, to say the least.
Pattinson is the younger, but no means a lad, but he looks the part. Dafoe is grizzled and the boss who has power on the brain. What results is cabin fever that might make Charlie Chaplin eat his shoe.
With impending doom around every corner, it is hard to look away from Eggers camera. He has provided a compelling picture, nothing short of hypnotic and suspenseful. What we have here is “what?!” which is a scene that shows us an arrangement of derangement. The dialogue is a battle of single word argument: “What.” There is no shortage of seamen in this film.
In terms of overall impact, there is something akin to Kubrick’s Shining here, but the overall doom is far more reminiscent of Edgar Allen Poe. In any case, you will be watching a most unusual film.