Arriving to the party only fashionably late, I just found out that 2019's The Lighthouse existed & I watched it with friends last night. I loved it so much. It's just so good. It's an art film...
Arriving to the party only fashionably late, I just found out that 2019's The Lighthouse existed & I watched it with friends last night.
I loved it so much. It's just so good. It's an art film made by nerds, and I think it might be for nerds as well. Robert Pattinson, and Willem Dafoe, absolutely killed it in their roles. Really intense stuff. I believed I was watching two men go insane—just losing every last marble in their heads. The cinematography was top notch, and the confined aspect ratio really worked towards a feeling of claustrophobia without being distracting. I didn't notice the sound design in the moment, which probably means it was excellent. Or at least, not distracting. I'll need to give it another watch. The whole movie was... a lot. And I know there's a ton I didn't catch the first time around. So much symbolism, callbacks to folklore, classical mythology, and art. Detail in every frame. Comedy made both hilarious and uncomfortable by its context. I'm gonna go ahead and call it genius, and art that deserves to be called art.
It just felt so much that it was a work of passion, from those who all cared deeply about the craft of art, fiction, theater, and film, and so they poured all their effort into everything as respect towards the craft.
There's so much I haven't decided about the film yet. Top of my list though, were Thomas & Thomas the same man? Often throughout the beginning of the film I was under the distinct impression that two men were physically present. But later, it felt that maybe Old Thomas was a hallucination. Perhaps Young Thomas' subconscious. That whole bit with Young Thomas ranting about how much he hates how Old Thomas smelled gave me a real self-hatred kind of vibe. And it would explain how Old Thomas would speak to Young Thomas, how he always knew what Young was doing, and that the gaslighting by Old Thomas could have been that little voice in the back of your mind when coping with trauma, or a difficult situation. Although, Old Thomas could have just been a crazy old man that never allowed Young Thomas to feel alone. That one scene was obviously a reference to Sascha Schneider's Hypnosis, and I got the sense that Old Thomas was meant to be understood as the lighthouse itself. I haven't decided what I think the filmmakers was going for there yet, but it was clearly something. For now I think that both Old & Young Thomas physically existed, but as Young Thomas loses his mind, he's projecting his subconscious onto Old Thomas. Both the men are very unreliable narrators, and that's not at all helped by their insanity or by drinking turpentine & kerosene.
How much of the folklore was real? Are the seagulls actually the souls of dead sailors? Does killing one actually bring bad luck? The storm that stranded our two Thomas's didn't happen until after it was killed. Causality, or coincidence? That one seagull had only one eye, just as the (hallucinated? real?) head in the lobster trap had only one eye. Was that the head of a previous wickie, that Old Thomas was using as lobster bait? Fucked up, and too close to cannibalism for comfort. Or was Young Thomas hallucinating that head out of his guilt and belief that one-eyed seagull might have been a past sailor? The final frames are Young Thomas getting his insides eaten by gulls. Big Prometheus thing going on, but is Young Thomas being punished by those souls, or are they just seagulls being opportunistic?
Was that mermaid real? Was it a madman's vision of a manatee? I have it in my brain that sailors did fuck manatees, but that might not be true. Was the mermaid Old Thomas? Young Thomas was struggling with repressed sexuality that whole movie. Him snapping, then breaking Old Thomas to be a dog was super kinky shit. Ton of sexual imagery in that whole sequence. Rapey too, not consensual at all. They had some intimate moments while drunk before this. Convenient sexual outlet relationships are a thing that happens. That could work with that smell rant, coming from guilt and shame Young Thomas is feeling for projecting sexual thoughts onto an old, filthy sailor. If Old Thomas was the mermaid, then that's Young Thomas choosing to see the world different as it is as a coping mechanism. There was for sure a focus on phallic imagery, homoeroticism, and masculinity. But I'd say it was less of a closeted, self-hating gay thing, and more of a sexual frustration & guilt from it, kind of thing.
What the fuck was going on with the light? Old Thomas claimed it as his, not to share with anyone else. He had been insane from the beginning. Having that odd, possessive relationship with the light. Staring right into it and masturbating. Jesus. Does he cope with how shitty being a wickie is, by claiming it as a constant in his life and taking ownership of it? Young Thomas wants to see it because it's not his, he hasn't been allowed to see it. Prometheus stealing fire from the Gods. Was that light more than just an old mans coping mechanism, and more than just something a young man isn't allowed to have? That imagery with Hypnosis, and Old Thomas representing the lighthouse.. alright the light is hypnotic, and Old Thomas is willingly staring right into it on purpose cuz being a wickie blows, and he just wants to feel numb?
How long were they stranded? The dialogue lampshades that they have no idea, but Old Thomas was gaslighting along the way. Paraphrasing, 'I've been telling you to ration for weeks now' while he had only just discoverd their food had spoiled. Or, is that the filmmakers playing with the loss of a sense of time passing, madness, and unreliable narrators? They've got mad from isolation, tedium, alcoholism, and drinking fucking kerosene. 99% of this movie you can't trust that anything is true. The opening scene, and the ending scene are the only I noticed where the camera isn't showing us one of the Thomas's perspectives. I can't trust either Thomas, but I'll trust a camera not from their PoV. Which, makes that closing scene right confusion. Immediately prior, we have Young Thomas falling down the lighthouse. Next we see him stark naked, outside, being eaten alive by birds. If he did fall, how did he get outside? All his bones ought to be busted. What happened to his clothes? A friend suggested that Young Thomas was a shipwrecked sailor, and hallucinated the whole movie. But this movie felt far too smart to pull an "it was all a dream". Maybe it was just an imagery thing, showing the fate of Prometheus. I don't know, man.
This movie was so fucking good. I'm gonna watch it again. I'm gonna go hunt down interviews, and see what analysis has already been done on it. There's so much I haven't even touched on.
It makes me want to read about lighthouse keepers. How many of them went nuts? Makes me wonder how much of sea-folklore was the product of men just losing it; I always just assumed they were mostly just sailors fucking with people. The film had the Thomas's only scheduled to be there a month, but Young was going crazy before that time was up. The job surely must have sucked. But now I want to know, and two days ago I didn't give half a shit. Great stuff. I've got some Navy buddies, and I hear being on a ship blows. And that's with more people, and more structure. I've lived in a deployed, non-oceanic environment, and you certainly lose a bit of your mind. Though, it's always come back for me. To think of two men, who hate each-other, being stranded in such a bullshit environment for possibly months while getting blasted on actual poison, well I don't blame either of them for losing their whole humanity.
Side note: I didn't super-want to make this its own post. But I want to talk about it, and we haven't done a recurring "what have you watched" thread in a while. So here's my initial thoughts.
Post comments so I can talk about this with y'all >:0