20 January 2022 452 Views

The Lighthouse. It’s Bad! It’s Good! It’s an horse-shit parody

by James Murphy

When is a good film NOT a good film? WHEN IT’S..

..THE LIGHTHOUSE!..

The Lighthouse at Honfleur (1886). Accession number: 1975.1.705

I genuinely have no idea how to review THE LIGHTHOUSE. But I will give it a try. A BIZARRE CURIOSITY?!

It’s an experimental, very arty piece. One needs a balanced diet with movies, as in all things. And watching this, in its way, makes you earn a simple super-hero action flick for pudding.

The premise is that two men (Pattinson and Dafoe) are trapped in a lighthouse. 1890s. Canada, I think? They fight. They work. They eat, drink, endure, survive, dance, do toilet and maybe..just maybe..flirt with some gay sex stuff??

Atmospherics are the main USP here. As in, regardless of plot/character etc, one can and indeed should simply LOOK at this piece of cinema. The lighting, sound effects editing, framing: all innovative and also throwing back to the dawn of the artform. In that sense, one is watching a potted film school!

And yet, therein lies the problem. Because when you sit down and see the film, it kinda feels like a student product. A very GOOD student product. But student, nonetheless. Oh look at us and our aimless meandering literary experiment! That kinda vibe.

No accident, therefore, that the words ‘horse-shit’ and ‘parody’ are used, amidst all the quasi Shakespearean dialogue. The fact that said terms would very possibly be anachronistic is beside the point. For all the arty ambition verging on pretension? THE LIGHTHOUSE is yet another movie whereby they end up TELLING rather than simply SHOWING you what is happening, character and motif wise, in the end. Fine. But also, a massive cop out of didactic scripting and performance, thereby undoing whichever innovations frame the shots.

Pattinson is good here though he is imho drawing a LOT on Day Lewis/ DeNiro. Fine, so long as he does same with Keaton/Kilmer/Bale in his Batman. Dafoe is scary and mesmeric but also unintentionally funny in places, coming off a bit like Lloyd Bridges circa Hot Shots/Blown Away.

So: yes, by all means watch THE LIGHTHOUSE. It is a well made piece of film craft. Expect mermaids, corpses, supernatural vibes, confusion, masturbation, excrement, and bird torture. A curiosity, for sure. Just not quite as clever as it thinks it is. Think Dafoe’s spoof mini movie within movie in MR BEAN’S HOLIDAY but done fully and for real/reel. Add genuine ambition and atmosphere and laudably stretched ideas and bingo. That’s your movie right there. AHOY! 🙂



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