The Lighthouse, by Cameron J. Czaja

Unlike most films that I’ve reviewed this past month, The Lighthouse (2019) was one that I didn’t watch recently but rather back in October last year (specifically Halloween). It’s something that I wanted to review when I first saw it, but I had writer’s block because I couldn’t figure out how to approach it through a Catholic perspective.  However, after rewatching some clips and looking at the film through a different viewpoint,t I’m ready to share my thoughts on this film. Before I do that, though, let me explain the plot, and this review may contain small spoilers. 

Set on a New England island in the 1890s, in The Lighthouse we follow two lighthouse keepers Ephraim Winslow (Robert Pattinson) and Thomas Wake (Willem Dafoe) who are isolated on the island caring and maintaining the lighthouse and the surroundings on the island. They are scheduled to be on the island for four weeks.  After that a boat will pick them up and they will get paid for their services. Wake happens to be Winslow’s superior and tasks him with several chores and rules. One rule that Wake makes very clear to Winslow is to never enter the lantern room. Throughout the film, Winslow and Wake go through the mundane tasks that the job requires and everything seems to be going well.  But soon after Winslow encounters a seagull and ends up killing it after much annoyance, things start to go bad quickly.

So I’ll get straight to the point, I actually enjoy The Lighthouse quite a bit for mainly technical reasons. It’s shot in black and white and because it’s a bottle film (a film shot in a single location), I felt like I was watching a play driven by very talented actors. That said, it may be a bit weird for some people and there’s a lot in this film that many won’t quite understand. Even I had to look up some of the key elements and figure out the allegories that the director had put in. It is definitely something that I want to rewatch again to get a better understanding. 

One of the things about The Lighthouse that I didn’t think about at first was how temptation fit into this film. As Catholics we can reference how temptation is portrayed in the Bible, such as Eve being tempted to eat the forbidden fruit and how Satan tried to tempt Jesus when he was in the desert. Winslow throughout the film is tempted by the light provided by the lighthouse and towards the end of film his temptation gets the best of him with extreme repercussions. In the end, it is a cautionary tale about how we as Christians can’t fall for temptation even when we are at our most vulnerable state. 

The Lighthouse is a unique film to enjoy on a cinematic level. I deeply enjoyed the creepy black and white look and the warnings provided when we don’t go towards God when tempted. The surreal imagery and artistic setting may not be for everyone, but if you’re somewhat interested then I highly recommend checking this out on Amazon Prime. Hopefully you’ll enjoy to the same degree as I did.

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