A couple travels to Sweden to visit a rural hometown's fabled mid-summer festival. What begins as an idyllic retreat quickly devolves into an increasingly violent and bizarre competition at the hands of a pagan cult.
Years following the events of "The Shining," a now-adult Dan Torrance must protect a young girl with similar powers from a cult known as The True Knot, who prey on children with powers to remain immortal.
Hal, wayward prince and heir to the English throne, is crowned King Henry V after his tyrannical father dies. Now the young king must navigate palace politics, the war his father left behind, and the emotional strings of his past life.
The film had its world premiere in the Directors' Fortnight section of the 2019 Cannes Film Festival, three days after the news leaked that Robert Pattinson was in negotiations to play the next Batman. When press outlets asked him about it, he declined to comment. Two weeks later, it became official. See more »
It's rare to see a new director develop such a strong personal style so early as Robert Eggers, but one really feels as though he has come into his own with The Lighthouse. While The Witch was certainly a wonderful film, and I don't want to say this one is better, the director's fingerprints are on even clearer display in The Lighthouse. Some themes are in common. We see, for example, how the stories we tell each other reflect our own weaknesses and our shared human frailties. We see how the supernatural (and the stories we tell about it) says as much about how human beings relate to one another as how we relate to it. Yet what shines forth from The Lighthouse is the care put into every moment and the consistency of vision; watching the film is akin to sitting around a warm fireside with Eggers, listening to his stories.
It's tempting to try to reduce the film to a small set of central themes, but doing so belies the complexity of the characters that makes any summary necessarily inadequate. Despite the fact that the story can accurately be called a yarn, the characters themselves are entirely believable as real people. It's impossible to come away from the film without understanding that the back stories of each character, shadowy though they are, play an irreducible part in defining the people we see on the screen. No one in this film can be entirely a drunkard, madman, or fiend, because any of these descriptions falls short of explaining them to us. Their authenticity as real people alone would make this film a must-see, as they are wonderfully portrayed by Pattinson and Dafoe.
Despite this, it is clear that Eggers has something to say about masculinity, and once again it's the subtlety of his approach that makes it exceptional. The Lighthouse is not out to preach to anyone. What another film would argue for, or rudely declare, Eggers gently portrays and leaves us to do the interpreting. Rather than give a rational breakdown of masculinity, or take a subversive approach by revealing its emotional side, Eggers chooses to depict. He gives us two characters who are quite aligned in personality, to reveal how two wills inevitably clash because of their similarities, not their differences. For Eggers, masculinity does not argue its case rationally, nor compel with emotional weight, but seduces, insists, and demands.
We see in the film the forces of guilt, power, libido, knowledge, and homoeroticism, and how they necessarily interlock in the masculine. While the sexual always plays out in terms of power relations, likewise power relations cannot exist without the sexual. Though one character tries to follow "the rules", applying his whole will and rationality to resist these urges, their enchanting power proves great enough to strain him to the breaking point. Throughout, the light they maintain together functions as a symbol of the irresistibly potent combination of knowledge, sexuality, and power that forms the ideological subject of the film. In one memorable flourish, Eggers ties these specific characters and their conflict to Greek mythology with a shocking visual - one that suggests the curse that lies on the path these characters follow. The scenes in the film dealing with these concepts provide a rather heady brew, but fortunately everything stays grounded in the excellent story-telling.
As most people have heard already, the performances and direction are both superb. Likewise, the cinematography and almost unnoticeable musical backing are not only beautiful and successful at making their mark on the viewer, they also intimate the same care and unique perspective as the script. It's not common to see a film with this much artistry in every shot; anyone who appreciates film will enjoy every minute.
My one serious criticism is about the pacing of a 10 minute stretch around halfway through the film. I did love the moderate pace of the long introduction, which really gives you time to sink into the atmosphere and these characters. But once the story seems to have picked up, it takes a brief tangent that slows the momentum built up by the middle of the movie. For those seeing it in theaters, I also noticed what seemed to be some strange moire-like artifacts in the grain during the first five minutes or so of the film, possibly caused by compression problems in the DCP. This wasn't too distracting, however, and I believe it went away after that.
Overall, Eggers has delivered another near perfect film that has quite a lot in it for everyone to enjoy. It's beautiful without being showy, and interesting without being didactic. Consider this review a 9.5/10.
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