Fantastic Film Festival Australia Review: The Lighthouse

Did I even like this film? I keep asking myself this question. It’s been a day since I attended the launch for Fantastic Film Festival Australia and I’m still unsure. The Lighthouse, which came out in October 2019 in the US and just dropped on home video there, finally played somewhere I could see it. Sure it was 50kms away but beggars often aren’t choosers.

Was it worth it though? It was such a strange film and such an effort to see it. I’ve experienced months of avoiding chatter about the film. It debuted at Cannes in May and that coupled with its general US release three months ago means that the talk has been persistent. Just as much an effort to know nothing as it was to see it.

But what a film to talk about. Seriously. Any qualms I have can’t take away from its ambition, weirdness or the quality of the filmmaking. Robert Eggers (The Witch) has delivered a very good looking film. Black and White and shot in a 4:3 aspect ration it subverts modern convention. Willem Dafoe and Robert Pattinson are essentially the only cast members. Something that they appear to have relished and fully embraced.

The film is about performance. Both from its two leading men and from its director. Comparing it to a stage play wouldn’t be unfair. The dialogue, the delivery and the staging are all reminiscent of this. It has odd dialogue. Clearly written for the actors to really chew on. The film’s laced with pretension but it was fun watching Eggers play with the form.

Even if I were inclined to go into specific story details, I couldn’t. Honestly I have no idea what the fuck this film’s about. I can add that you should go into this film as if you were going into a comedy. It’s so absurd that it pulls laughter out of its confused audience. And for that matter, if you can, see this film with an audience. It’s a cinematic experience and the silver screen is the place to see it.

When I saw previous A24 film Hereditary I didn’t think much of it. It was ok as far as I was concerned. But then months and months after seeing it I couldn’t shake it from my brain. That film lived in me, haunted me for ages. Such was the impact of the ideas and imagery. Obviously time hasn’t passed enough for me to say the same of The Lighthouse but I get the feeling it will be a similar thing.

An odyssey of weird:

★★★

Written by Benjamin Boekelaar