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By Megan Bianco
There really are two types of movie viewers. There are those who live and breathe film, absorb the history and production aspects of the features and study every frame on screen. And there are those who just want to be entertained. Robert Eggers’ The Lighthouse was one of those times where I could see both ends of the spectrum.
Shot in glorious 32mm black-and-white film with a retro 1.19:1 aspect ratio, the film centers on two lighthouse keepers in 1890 on a tiny island during a treacherous recurring storm. Ephraim (Robert Pattinson) and Thomas (Willem Dafoe) gradually drive each other insane from the isolation and their jarring personality differences. While trying not to lose his patience and sanity with the mercurial old man, Ephraim also begins to sense something supernatural might be haunting the lighthouse.
On a strictly technical level, The Lighthouse is very effective and breathtaking. You feel as though you’re watching a moving, vintage photograph with the cinematography. The atmosphere, tone and direction are also genuinely unsettling, and the acting from the two leads is superb, particularly Pattinson’s. But like with Eggers’ previous indie hit and instant cult classic, The Witch (2015), I left the film emotionally cold. By the end of both pictures, I didn’t particularly feel like I cared about the characters or what was going to happen next. Granted, Eggers is the type of director who is more about a mood than a plot. But sometimes that can be a divisive factor and not work as a viewing experience. So, in this case, I’m with the popcorn and candy crowd.