TIFF 2019: ‘The Lighthouse’

With The Witch, Robert Eggers showed the world that there were untold, new ways to tell horror stories.  So, what can someone who has already reinvented a genre do as a follow up?  Eggers decided to tell a new story based on the research of horrific authentic historical documents, and it works.

The Lighthouse tells the story of two men, Willem Dafoe and Robert Pattinson, tasked with operating the eponymous lighthouse on a remote island.  This allows the two men to get to know each other, learn to hate each other and, eventually, begin to destroy each other mentally.  That is the strength of this film: the majority of the psychological trauma of the film comes from two people being isolated together.  Dafoe and Pattinson carry the film with Dafoe’s grizzled man-of-the-world playing quite well off of Pattinson’s young and cocky newbie.

The chemistry between the two is undeniable, as if they are actually involved in a gritty remake of The Odd Couple.  In fact, comedy plays a big role in this film, perhaps making it more terrifying in the process: moments of levity, including a particularly funny series of interactions between Pattinson and a seagull, frequently bring down the audience’s defenses, leaving them open to moments of brutal violence and unspeakable horror.

This film’s other biggest strength, however, comes in its aesthetic and technical prowess.  The very first shot—4:3 aspect ratio, grainy black-and-white film, banshee-like noises the only soundtrack for the first ten dialogue-less minutes—drags the audience in, letting them know exactly what to expect and never quite letting them go.  While the narrative does slow down a bit in the middle, the visuals and the soundtrack never release their grip on the audience’s throats until the fateful ending.


The Lighthouse screens at TIFF on: 

Saturday, September 7 at 9:00 p.m. @ Ryerson Theatre
Sunday, September 8 at 7:45 p.m. @ Scotiabank Theatre

Rating: R
Language: English
Runtime: 109 minutes

For more information on the festival, visit the official TIFF webpage here.

Buy tickets here.

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Shahbaz Khayambashi: @ShaKhayam

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