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3 ½ (out of 4)
Daunting, stupefying and tactile, The Lighthouse is the American cinephile's moment of bliss for 2019. Doused in gothic, Poe-inspired gloom, Lynchian soundscapes, an expressionist aura and early surrealist spontaneity, director Robert Eggers' formal freakishness is one of such consideration that the mere montage of this scrupulous digression of sanity already easily supersedes contemporary attempts to cerebrally bewilder like Shutter Island or A Tale of Two Sisters, placing the film in the discussion of maddening psych-horror classics like The Shining and Rosemary’s Baby.
And for all its pedigrees in a primitive cinematic approach, Eggers' film and his touch will be everlasting to the art form by emphasizing the surest signs of great filmmaking: ceremonious performances, palpable production and the orchestration of motion or stagnation through all the consummate, painterly beauty you can muster. Rounding out a year of superlative second features for thriving horror saviors – Eggers’ film joins Jordan Peele’s Us and Ari Aster’s Midsommar as unquestionable evidence to the genre’s relentless revival – The Lighthouse lives up to every capacity of excellence demonstrated in that one sick New England Folktale instant classic debut that was The Witch.
But Eggers’ latest is really its own act of separate genius regardless of its forthright influences both mythological and cinematic. Willem Dafoe and Robert Pattinson are phenomenally convincing, the period garnishes are exhaustively researched and the dreamlike downward spiral is deliciously grotesque. The antiquated 1.19:1 aspect ratio and orthochromatic color spectrum, which gorgeously invokes the likeness of 18th century photography, is a decisive element of The Lighthouse's particularly illusory nature.
The psychological thriller has been the bedrock of classic horror for ages, and Eggers’ spectacular imagination is completely evocative of former filmmaking eras where philosophical drama was not incongruous with invitingly strange fables. But for every painstaking piece of the minimalist bedazzlement, the Shakespearean parlance and prose of Eggers' and his brother Max's script is primarily and staggeringly brought to life by Dafoe’s otherworldly conviction; he's doubtlessly true to his Melvillian character. Otherwise the hallucinatory passages are wonderfully implicit and chilling, so much so that the lofty ambiguity precisely employs the intended essence of mythic allegory, enrapturing theatricality and playful puzzlement. The editing and cinematography are as faultless as Eggers’ most obviously praiseworthy assets. The prolonged plunge into hysteria is hard to withstand.
The Witch’s sense of storytelling is more unadorned which is why I believe I prefer it to the more volatile obscurity of The Lighthouse – but neither film can be diminished when auteurism so astounding allocates so much attention. So far Eggers is so attracted to the area where the fundamentally real intersects with the supernaturally indefinite, and this fiber interlacing his two films is also a crucial condition of this corner of horror's history. His work as of now is the precise equivalent to campfire stories directed by Kubrick. The morose sequences of gaslighting, absurdist humor, suggestive poetry and spiraling monotony are so methodically arranged it’s impossible not to be hypnotized by blinding promise of Eggers’ brilliance. Whatever necessary pretensions lay within, The Lighthouse is an uncontestable, mesmerizing masterwork worthy of every and any morsel of praise it reaps.
To keep it brief...
Soon to Come:
The Rise of Skywalker
A Hidden Life
"So what've you been up to?"
"Escaping mostly... and I escape real good."
- Inherent Vice