It’s difficult to find a more interesting director than Robert Eggers right now. The Witch was an incredible debut, The Northman was a hugely ambitious epic, and he’s now filming a remake of F.W. Murnau’s classic horror film Nosferatu. But perhaps his oddest film is The Lighthouse, now available from Arrow Video in a new 4K UHD edition.
The Lighthouse stars Robert Pattinson (The Batman) as Ephraim, a hardworking man who has decided to become a wickie, which is what they called lighthouse keepers back in the 1900s. He goes for a month’s work with the veteran wickie Thomas, played by Willem Dafoe (Spider-Man), whose hard drinking and hard farting life is at odds with Ephraim’s quietness. They soon get a camaraderie going, but Ephraim is haunted by hallucinations of mermaids and monsters, while Thomas works him to the bone but won’t allow him to tend to the light itself. The madness of the pair threatens to tear both of them apart, not least because Thomas is upset Ephraim doesn’t like his lobster.
That last part sums up the absurdity of The Lighthouse, but Eggers, along with his co-writer/brother Max, is able to back it up with substance. The picture digs deep into the heavy classical writing of the likes of Herman Melville and the poetry of Samuel Taylor Coleridge, as well as the works of Sigmund Freud, subsequently adding layers of homoeroticism and oedipal complexes which end up floating near the surface as barely subtext. The Lighthouse could be said to be many things – it’s a horror movie, it’s a drama, it’s a fantasy, but for sure it has a bedding of jet-black humour.
Dafoe’s outbursts as Thomas are both mesmerising and hilarious, and Pattinson has an incredible way with body language where some of it verges on slapstick. But the darker tones filter through much of the film, and you never know if Ephraim or Thomas are going to kill each other or fuck each other. It has some fairly spicy moments too, which again can be incredibly funny if your sense of humour tends to swim in the darker regions.
The Lighthouse is also a very beautiful film, not just aesthetically, but also poetically and thematically. That said, Jarin Blaschke’s black-and-white cinematography is absolutely gorgeous and is just perfect in setting the mood of the film and working with the subtext of the picture through shadows. And then there is Mark Korven’s yearning score, swelling and expanding like waterlogged wood, and as mysterious as the ocean itself.
Arrow Video has brought The Lighthouse to 4K with a new Ultra HD transfer in Dolby Vision, which Eggers has approved. It looks amazing too, with the film shot on 35mm and finished in a nearly-square 1.19:1 aspect ratio. It has beautiful clarity but that is obfuscated somewhat by the design of the film and Blaschke’s exceptional lighting. The sound mix is excellent, with a DTS HD 5.1 track that swirls around you like Ephraim’s hallucinations.
Arrow has given the film a number of new extras along with archival features from the previous Universal Blu-ray release. This includes a new audio commentary by authors Guy Adams and Alexandra Benedict, a new documentary called ‘Art of Darkness: Making The Lighthouse’, which features Eggers along with some crew and Adams and Benedict, and new writing in the booklet, although this was not made available for review. One thing I noticed, however, was that none of the special features seemed to have subtitles for hard of hearing, which is really unacceptable. This is not limited to this disc or even Arrow, as many of these labels regularly include supplemental features that do not have subtitles.
The Lighthouse is a brilliant and fascinating movie, with an oil-black wit and two bravura performances. You also get to see Robert Pattinson masturbating to a mermaid carving in ultra-high-definition, which has to be an attraction to Twilight fans. And maybe Batman fans too.
The Lighthouse is out now on 4K UHD and Blu-ray from Arrow Video.