After watching this movie, I am never going to look at seagulls the same way ever again. Every time I see one on the beach or somewhere else, this film will be running in my head. Take from that what you will. This psychological horror film premiered under the Director’s Fortnight section at the 2019 Cannes Film Festival, where it won the FIPRESCI Prize. Following more screenings at the Toronto, Austin, and Atlantic Film Festivals, it was released in select theaters by A24 on October 18th, 2019. Made for the budget of less than $4 million, it has gone on to gross over $9.3 million at the box office. As it continues to expand, it will most likely get bigger returns, despite middling positions at the weekend box office. Directed by Robert Eggers, the screenplay was co-written in collaboration with the filmmaker’s brother Max. Immense research was conducted in order to get the film as historically authentic as possible, including dialect, anatomical structures of certain creatures, and tools for the profession. Because of the extreme specificity of the script, the crew had to build a 70-foot tall lighthouse in Nova Scotia, and its surrounding structures, from scratch. It was also apparently such a grueling shoot for the star that he didn’t talk to anyone on set and repeatedly refrained from punching the director in the face. Set sometime in the late 19th century, Robert Pattinson stars as Ephraim Winslow, a quiet and heavy-drinking timberman. He is sailed to and landed on a remote island to help man a lighthouse for a period of four weeks. There, he falls under the apprenticeship of former sailor and current lighthouse keeper Thomas Wake, played by Willem Dafoe, who assigns Winslow a series of demanding tasks to keep the tower running. But as a massive storm rolls in, the duo begin to face their worst nightmares and question just how long they’ve been stuck on this rock. Although I failed to catch it in theaters, I was really impressed with Robert Egger’s feature debut The Witch. (Or The VVitch, whichever way you choose) There was so much specificity and originality to the whole movie that it sometimes felt like a real account of a New England story. The fact that it supplemented traditional jumpscares for pure dread and unsettling imagery also made it one of the more memorable horror films of the decade. When I heard that he was tackling another historical setting, particularly with the way it was gonna be presented, I couldn’t help but get excited. The trailers and early reviews gave me an idea of what kind of bizarre vision to expect from it, but I still wasn’t nearly prepared for it. The Lighthouse isn’t only a major step forward for Eggers, it’s also the best film I’ve seen this year and quite possibly one of the best I’ve ever seen in my life. If someone told me that this was a film from the 1940s or 1950s that was recently rediscovered out of a box and put into theaters, I wouldn’t question it. There’s so much class and so much power in every single frame that feels so original and new yet feels carried with the weight of a classical picture. Whether it’s the period accurate dialogue between the two protagonists or just the pure craft on-screen, there wasn’t a single moment where I wasn’t completely immersed in the setting and action. Much like his first outing, though, not everyone who sees The Lighthouse is going to feel the same way as I do; not even close. It’s much more psychological and abstract than one would anticipate and some of the imagery might just be too Goddamn weird for a lot of people to process. But if you sit patiently with it and keep an open mind, (And maybe read up a tad on sea and Greek mythology) it’s destined to stay with you long after the credits roll. I’ve been impressed with Robert Pattinson’s roles as of late, and this may just be his finest one I’ve seen yet. As Ephraim Winslow, he’s constantly drunk and out of tune, never quite aware of everything that’s happening around him or what implications they may have. He’s constantly stumbling over his own words and rarely makes any form of eye contact with Wake for the first half of the film, making it clear he wants nothing to do with the man or his career. As the film goes along and we learn more about his background, it’s riveting to watch him finally release all of the deeply repressed anxieties and rage he’d been holding since first arriving on the island. Opposite him for the entire runtime, Willem Dafoe is equally brilliant and memorable as Thomas Wake, a man with a presence and tone heavily reminiscent of Captain Ahab. Unlike Winslow, he relishes his stories of adventures out on the sea and always tries to share everything about him to his new keeper. There are a number of scenes where he goes on long, unbroken soliloquies about Neptune’s power and the sinister pull of the ocean, his voice perfectly reflecting a man with decades of experience. “I’m damn well wedded to this here light,” he says as he explains his unusual connection to the position. It’s really only these two actors for the entire 110 minute-long runtime and they couldn’t have been better picked. Their chemistry is dynamite, constantly evolving as the storm gets worse and worse outside. Even just purely looking at the technical aspects, The Lighthouse showcases Eggers as a master of the craft. Shot by Jarin Blaschke, the cinematography has a unique way of inviting viewers into its uncomfortable world. It was shot on black-and-white 35mm film and presented in the 1×1.19 “Academy” ratio, which helps to create a sense of claustrophobia and uncertainty with the environment. The camera is often very steady, choosing to either do static wideshots or close-ups that constantly track the movement of the characters. The stark visuals, combined with the harsh lighting and shadows, calls back to Germanic Expressionism, and there are even some shots that feel like a silent film. This matches perfectly with the editing job by Louise Ford, who manages to make a perfect sense of pacing. It’s never quite clear how much time passes between each scene, adding a Lovecraftian feeling of dread and doom. It also uses some smash cuts to heighten some of the dark comedy elements, such as moving from Winslow and Wake binge drinking to them shouting a sea shanty. Mark Koven does his second collaboration with Eggers to provide the instrumental film score, and it’s appropriately unsettling. It primarily consists of strings and low brass that flow in and out of tune with each track, which expertly matches the tone of the cinematography. In a way, it represents the headspace of the protagonists as they gradually lose their minds, especially as some deeply intensify. Some tracks even cut off abruptly to symbolize the mystery of it all, making it sound like literal Hell. The film also ends with a recording of the song “Doodle Let Me Go” by A. L. Lloyd playing over the credits. Considering all of the imagery and themes shown in the film prior, it seems like a perfect coda to the whole ordeal. The fact that it comes immediately after the frame is a harsh bookend to the story and maybe even will inspire viewers to sing along after leaving. With a wholly impeccable visual style, authentic costumes and sets, and a complete absence of fear for absurdity, The Lighthouse is a deeply immersive and bizarre psychological experience on the silver screen. With this film, Robert Eggers has only shown further proof why he’s one of the most exciting and unique voices in modern cinema. Anchored by incredible dual performances from Robert Pattinson and Willem Dafoe, it’s a truly captivating and unpredictable ride that puts us right into the setting without fault. Whether he actually goes through with his proposed Nosferatu remake or does another mind-bending period piece, I’m one hundred percent here for whatever Eggers makes. There is indeed an enchantment in the light, and it’s absolutely maddening and beautiful.