Robert Eggers’ second feature continues to madden and mystify on home video
In following up the elemental dread of his debut feature The Witch, Robert Eggers taps into the more primal side of human nature with The Lighthouse — a film that, while a similar slow-burn to his last effort, taps into the even weirder sides of human nature, as gritty, gnarly, and gut-bustlingly hilarious as they may be.
In the film, Robert Pattinson and Willem Dafoe play two lighthouse keepers who succumb to madness fueled by machismo and mind-numbing boredom in the midst of their isolating duties. Compared to the grim austerity of The Witch, The Lighthouse is a far more rambunctious, frenzied film, one that uses the stillness of its pillarbox cinematography to trap its two lead actors into a cage they spend the rest of the film trying to escape. It’s also a far more hilarious film, wallowing in the absurdity of their behavior and unashamed crudeness. There might also be mermaids. There’s definitely fart jokes.
But this lighthearted humor belies Eggers’ earnest explorations of authority and identity — and how fragile the constructs that hold them both together in our minds really are. It’s not long on the island before Pattinson and Dafoe’s clearly defined relationship begins to crumble and blur like the swirls in the lighthouse’s septic tank. The two men endlessly challenge each other, gradually exposing long-buried truths and not-too-dormant truer natures. And amidst it all is the grueling weather, an endless volley of storms, floods, and other flotsam that externalizes the torrential inner insanity of our leads. It’s far from a subtle conceit — but the sheer gusto with which Eggers, Pattinson, and Dafoe bring The Lighthouse to life almost requires a total lack of subtlety. Modesty be damned in a film with as much murder, masturbation, and mayhem as this one.
After its successful theatrical run, Lionsgate and A24 bring The Lighthouse home in a Blu-ray that’s as stellar in its picture and sound quality as it is in its supplemental contents. One of the highlights of the package, though, is the degree to which the film’s English subtitles replicate Eggers’ period dialogue. Robert Eggers’ knack for replicating his settings’ contemporary turns of phrase was part of what made both The Witch and The Lighthouse such memorable and immersive experiences — and having his dialogue on easily-digestible display (verbal tics and all) allows viewers to truly appreciate and revel in this aspect of his film.
The Lighthouse is presented in a 1080p HD master pillarboxed to preserve the film’s 1.19:1 aspect ratio, accompanied by a 5.1 DTS-HD Master sound mix. English SDH and Spanish subtitles are presented solely for the feature, and not for the accompanying extras.
For my money, The Lighthouse is one of the best-shot films of 2019 — and Lionsgate’s Blu-ray successfully preserves its immersive theatrical experience with this home video release. Jarin Blaschke’s orthochromatic cinematography truly shines here, rich with all the grime and texture that makes Eggers’ feature such an uncomfortable and spellbinding watch. A healthy amount of 35mm film grain never overwhelms the set’s chipped plaster or rivulets of wood grain, enhancing the film’s timeless qualities. The disc’s audio captures Eggers’ crackling period dialogue with crisp clarity, and both Mark Korven’s score and Damien Volpe’s sound design work in tandem to be deeply unsettling without overwhelming the efforts of the film’s two leads.
- Audio Commentary with Director & Co-Writer Robert Eggers — Much like his commentary track on The Witch, Eggers provides a captivating, humorous, and humble oral history of the arduous shoot of The Lighthouse. Many interesting anecdotes are included, including an explanation of some practical trick photography, the insane period details that Eggers is proudest of that go unnoticed, and just how well-trained the film’s seagulls really are.
- The Lighthouse: A Dark & Stormy Tale — A substantial near-feature-length triptych of making-of featurettes featuring interviews with The Lighthouse’s cast and crew. It’s quite a surreal piece to watch, as all of the behind-the-scenes material is in vibrant color. Compared to The Lighthouse’s stark black-and-white cinematography, the set’s moody browns and olives feel like something out of The Wizard of Oz.
- Deleted Scenes — Five minutes of easily-removed material, bookended by their placement in the final feature.
The Lighthouse is available on Blu-ray and DVD on January 7th courtesy of Lionsgate and A24: https://amzn.to/36EmspJ