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Masculinity & Mayhem in The Lighthouse

Robert Eggers' second film *spits on the ground* is a welcome *belches* conundrum of gross noises, bodily fluids, and *farts* barely intelligible diatribes.

About 1.5 hours after I left my 1:50pm screening of Parasite at the Arclight Chicago two weeks ago, I decided Bong Joon-Ho's latest is my favorite watch of 2019 so far. A week later I saw The Lighthouse and boom! Bong's reign as king of my 2019 Film Viewing Experience is over.

I'm a big fan of The VVitch, and, in a year filled with highly anticipated sophomore efforts that landed with big, dumb thuds, I'm relieved to call myself an even bigger fan of The Lighthouse. It's mostly impossible to encounter what one might call a spoiler for this film, but I went in to my screening "knowing" a few things about the plot/characters and came out knowing absolutely piss-all, so this is truly a spoiler-less film.

That said, I'm here to recommend The Lighthouse be enthusiastically engaged with by all, and the most enthusiastic way you can engage with such a strange film is to just go in like a small, nude baby (knowing as little as possible) so that you can come out a hairy, throaty-voiced swashbuckler (irreversibly transformed by all you've just seen).

Ahem. That means I won't be revealing any of the finer points of the plot, fer ye lads and lasses.

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This movie is mostly insane.

It's a fun watch that's not that easy to define, though I have heard it compared to a similar "crazy-by-association" film from 1971, Wake In Fright. Haven't seen it; it's on my Letterboxd watchlist. Along with 562 other films.

Anyway, The Lighthouse has a concentrated, frenetic energy that I missed as soon as the screen went black. Part of that is due to tip top performances from both Willem Dafoe and Robert Pattinson, who both seem unable to avoid playing roles requiring an off-kilter performance exploring the depths of a particular darkness. This is a darkness in which I also am interested, and is present in this film.

Literally, the film is dark. The black and white-ness of it all is as muddy as the rubber galoshes Pattinson's character wears throughout the film. The mud tracks into every crevice of every scene, actually: there are certain sections of dialogue (including the one covering the main graphic of this essay) that I couldn't understand at all due to both the strange dialect used by both characters and the frenzied way it was delivered.

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Watching The Lighthouse is like watching fruit slowly go rotten. It starts out normal enough. The two arrive at said lighthouse with a straightforward objective: Dafoe's character knows the ropes, wields all the power, and will withhold information, while Pattinson's character will follow orders, do all the dirty work, and will absolutely not reveal his mysterious origins. This seems normal enough; we all know what it's like to work a shit job for a boss that tells strange stories, drinks too much, and occasionally lets out a fat fart as he walks past you. Still, things really start to sour pretty much right away.

It seems as though everything is conspiring against Pattinson's character, whose main characteristic seems to be that he doesn't like gulls. Beyond that, like I said, the movie is fucking muddy. There's a lot of rain (a lot of rain), and plenty of bodily fluids, and dark crevices, and oil, and coal, and rocks, and alcohol. It's a mess visually, aurally, and narratively--in the most appealing way imaginable.

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Watching it you really feel disgusting, but afterwards, it feels like you were just baptized (in filth, granted) and have been purified by it's base energy. Actually, that might be the best way to describe the tone of this film: base. It's base!

The men are so manly, and isolated so completely that they can't help but realize their masculine machinations are meaningless. Unable or unwilling to question their actions or existence, they continue to toil madly and trouble each other--"yer fond of me lobster ain't ye?"--until they have no choice but to drink themselves to oblivion...and beyond.

The beyond is where the film shines and where I really fell into the trap of believing that The Lighthouse was going to give me some sort of tangible, meaningful idea to walk away with. I think I already have Hereditary-brain where I believe a movie's wild, unpredictable, horrific energy must have a focused end point. The Lighthouse, if it does have some sort of message, isn't all that interested in making sure you've received it.

I walked out of the Musicbox that day feeling really strange and energized. I didn't feel led to Google "what does the lighthouse mean?" afterward, either. I just wanted to disappear into its waves again.