Eye For Film >> Movies >> The Lighthouse (2016) Film Review
Reviewed by: Emilia Rolewicz
Set in Wales and, more specifically, 25 miles off from the Welsh coastline, this thriller shows the intense incidents of 1801 that led to much-needed change for lighthouse-keepers. Namely, having more than two men on duty at any time as a remedy for the dangerous effects of remoteness. We are shown a tale of two Thomases, Tom (Mark Lewis Jones), who enjoys the isolation of his work, and Thomas (Michael Jibson) who longs to escape its loneliness.
What brings these two men together are pasts dowsed with death. For Tom, the loss of his family, and for Thomas a darker incident involving his colleagues, for which he feels responsible. Although far from the mainland, they find these morbid memories are only brought closer to their consciousness through Thomas’s vivid nightmares, which recount the six men he let down, and Tom’s moody yet disturbed demeanour.
At first you feel the clashing of their disparate attitudes, Thomas ritualistically praying before his dinner, while Tom obnoxiously slurps his soup. The sluggish mundanity is captured perfectly through montage, repeating their routine alongside a recurring score in all its slow sharpness. Even the potential beauty of their surroundings is diluted to grey gradients; the sunrise lacking any semblance of fierce awakening.
Everything seems to fade when set against the warmth of the lighthouse flame as it spins with its own beat, mimicking that of a heart. Tom treats it as his ideal woman, caressing the wood and whispering to it dutifully. Thomas’s obligation, on the other hand, stems not from love but guilt. As the film goes on, the line between Thomas’s penance and punishment begins to blur as a sudden onslaught of stormy weather and smog cloud their chances for rations, rescue and survival. Now being cut off from the rest of the world seems not a choice but nature’s pitfall trap.
Even though Tom critiques Thomas’s Christianity, their increasingly desperate situation reveals his own superstitions, exposing a strangely sadomasochistic relationship with the lighthouse. Tom both acknowledges a cursed and cruel aura it inhibits, and yet is unable to tear his affections away from the lonesome rock. With every whip of lightning and thunderous slaps from the storm, the chance of a relief boat rescuing the men seems less likely, they instead turn to dusty bottles of liquor to drown out their fear.
As their intoxication grows the frames become an increasingly dynamic blur while they stamp out the tempest’s presence with Welsh song. The shift in visual style also mirrors the growing madness of Thomas, whose prayers can’t seem to save him from this purgatory. The Lighthouse may be inspired by issues caused by the isolation of Welsh workers, but it also speaks to an unhealthy yet instinctual nurturing of guilt. It’s a slow burn film, but not one which is easily extinguishable from the mind.Reviewed on: 27 Jun 2018