Some Gab And Chatter On The Lighthouse’s New Blu-Ray

by Rachel Bellwoar

“It could always be worse.”
While that’s hardly a direct quote from The Lighthouse, it is an idea Robert and Max Eggers’ script keeps testing. How much worse can things get for Robert Pattinson’s wickie before he loses it? For although the film is, as Robert Eggers says, a two-hander between Pattinson’s Winslow and Willem Dafoe’s Wake, they’re only on the same boat as far as sharing a ride.

Robert Eggers’ second feature film as director is, like his first film, The Witch, a period drama. As important as the 1890s are for the look of the film (and that cannot be overstated – Eggers wanted the film to be as historically accurate as possible and in the commentary he even calls himself out for details that could’ve been more accurate, or points where holding himself to authenticity might’ve been a mistake), there’s a timelessness, as well, born from the characters’ isolation. Winslow and Wake are on their own. Meant to be on the island for four weeks, maintaining the lighthouse, time initially passes quicker than expected. It comes as a surprise, for instance, when Winslow asks Wake to call him by his name, Ephraim Winslow, and brings up that it’s already been two weeks since they arrived. Clearly it isn’t safe to assume the film is happening in real time, but when Winslow and Wake start disagreeing about how much time has passed, that haziness becomes significant. As much as you might be inclined to believe Winslow, and think Wake’s messing with him, there’s a chance Wake’s telling the truth. He’s not trustworthy (later he contradicts something we saw with our own eyes) but what’s real and what’s not is disputable.
The important thing isn’t that Winslow and Wake are at odds (though often they are). The Lighthouse would be a completely different movie if they got along but, ultimately, it’s the undefinable nature of their relationship that makes the film tick. From dancing, to fighting, to guzzling booze. How they feel about each other changes on a dime. There’s no progression or build-up to when you know they’re about to turn on each other.
Seeing the film in theaters, I remember wishing there were subtitles for Wake’s speeches, and you do get to savor his vocabulary more with subtitles on (it also helps knowing what kind of movie you’re in for, because it’s pretty staggering the first time around). In a weird way, having the subtitles had the opposite effect of realizing how much the film doesn’t have dialogue. It’s never silent, but that’s because of Mark Korven’s music and Damian Volpe’s sound design, not the “gab and chatter.”
Lionsgate’s new Blu-ray comes with a murderers’ row of bonus features; all of which are extensive and informative (barring possibly the deleted scenes, which are pretty slight).
The Lighthouse: A Dark & Stormy Tale” is a substantial, three-part featurette including talking heads with Robert Eggers, Pattinson, Dafoe, and other key players, like cinematographer Jarin Blaschke and costume designer Linda Muir. All of the buildings were constructed from scratch in Cape Forchu, Nova Scotia, and there are technical details (like how they used orthochromatic filters and needed stronger lightbulbs, which meant Dafoe and Pattinson could barely see each other in some scenes) and background research (like the Smalls lighthouse story).
Robert Eggers also recorded a commentary track, in which he talks about the accents Pattinson and Dafoe developed (using writer, Sarah Orne Jewett‘s, work) and Pattinson’s more Buster Keaton-like takes of pushing the wheelbarrow.
The Lighthouse is available on Blu-Ray and DVD starting January 7th and might be the closest a film gets to invoking a nautical Eraserhead.

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