It is hard to pinpoint what genre The Lighthouse is. It has elements of thriller, horror, drama, and even love. It will certainly garner award consideration because Robert Pattison and Willem Dafoe put on over the top performances as Ephraim and Thomas. They are two lighthouse attendants, wikis, on an offshore New England island. Thomas is the experienced one, while Ephraim is on his first deployment.
The days quickly blend with drunken nights and all concepts of time are lost. We see the film over Ephraim’s shoulder, so our perspective is skewed to his point of view. There are many situations where you must question what to believe as true and real and what is imagined. It is left to the audience to decide how reliable Thomas and Ephraim are.
The movie is full of late 1800s, nautical accented, soliloquies by both characters. Sea fairing myths and underwater gods are brought to life through the poetic words of Thomas. I only wish that there were subtitles because I fear I missed some hidden gems. Ephraim has his own monologue style. A particularly funny one revolves around the various smells of male genitalia. To lighten the mood there are recurring fart jokes placed throughout the film.
The movie is in black and white and 1.19:1. The aspect ratio was briefly used as movies were transitioning to include sound. It is a very close and cramped shot that adds to the constant reminders that this island is small and cramped despite having just two human inhabitants. It all adds to an unsettling restlessness and a sense of a foreboding and unsettling restlessness from the moment we hear the first foghorn.
The movie has been stirring around in my head since I finished watching it. Just as the genre is hard to define, conclusions are equally challenging to reach. If the mark of a good movie is that it sticks with you, then this movie is great. You can spend as much time as you want to dissect it. Please make sure to laugh as you watch it for the first time as there is plenty of wonderful humor.