Film Review: The Lighthouse

With his nightmarish thriller The Lighthouse, Robert Eggers proves The Witch was no fluke. 

A new lighthouse keeper and a cantankerous veteran arrive on a small island for a four-week shift. As time goes by, the isolation gets to both of them…

Filmed in black and white in Movietone aspect ratio, it is clear from the beginning that The Lighthouse is no run-of-the-mill film. Director and co-writer Robert Eggers explores isolation and mania in a loose narrative structure. The film has an immediately unnerving atmosphere. 

The first line of dialogue does not occur until several minutes into the film. Instead, Eggers builds a strong picture of the setting and the two figures which the film revolves around. Throughout the film there are long periods of no dialogue, interspersed with lengthy conversation scenes. This works to provide a rhythm of the characters’ existence and heightens the idea that it is just the two of them inhabiting the vast landscape. The dialogue (written by Eggers and co-writer Max Eggers) has an otherworldly feel. At one point, Wake delivers a Shakespearean-style monologue.

The longer the film goes on, the more disorientating things become. Both characters seem to lose any sense of time, and Eggers attempts to replicate this with the viewer’s experience. The Lighthouse is a downward spiral, with a jagged, disorientating descent. Eggers obfuscates several elements, making it so the viewer cannot trust the view of either character, or indeed the authenticity of what we are shown. It is unclear exactly where and when the mania will cease, but from the very beginning viewers will know this will not end well.

Cinematography in The Lighthouse is wonderful. Jarin Blaschke uses light and shadow incredibly effectively. The chiaroscuro of the lighthouse beam inside the building is beautiful. Eggers direction is great. There a some deft movements. Eggers depicts the dominance of each character at different times with his choice of angle. The sound design in the film is absolutely fantastic. From the very beginning, the sound sets the scene, with the unnerving reputation of the horn. Mark Korven’s score is restrained in its use, which makes it all the more effective.

Robert Pattinson offers a sturdy performance in this two-hander. He vey effectively conveys his character’s descent, yet wisely does not attempt to meet Dafoe’s power. The film is better for it. Willem Dafoe is authoritative and encompassing, yet not without humour.

Robert Eggers’ sophomore picture once again illustrates his prowess in creating unworldly and disconcerting atmospherics. The Lighthouse is a heady, unsettling yarn.

The Lighthouse is being screened at the BFI London Film Festival in October 2019.

BFI London Film Festival 2019 Launch

This morning saw the launch of the BFI London Film Festival 2019. In its 63rd year, the festival is screening 229 feature films, including 28 world premieres. Here are some highlights from the festival programme…

Headline Galas

The opening and closing films for the BFI London Film Festival 2019 had already been announced. The festival opens with the European premiere of Armando Iannucci’s The Personal History of David Copperfield. An adaptation of the Dickens’ classic, the film stars Dev Patel, Tilda Swinton, and Hugh Laurie. Martin Scorsese‘s hotly-anticipated The Irishman closes the festival. There is an embarrassment of riches among the other headline galas, including Rian Johnson’s Knives Out, Marielle Heller’s (Can You Ever Forgive Me?) A Beautiful Day in the Neighbourhood, and Michael Winterbottom’s Greed, starring Steve Coogan and Isla Fisher.

Strand Galas and Special Presentations

This year, films screening as part of the Strand Galas include Robert Eggers’ (The Witch) The Lighthouse, starring Willem Dafoe and Robert Pattinson. The Dare Gala is Mirrah Folks’ debut feature Judy & Punch, a fairy tale starring Mia Wasikowska. Among the Special Presentations are Takashi Miike’s First Love, and Bombay Rose, a hand-drawn animated feature from Gitanjali Rao.

Official Competition

Among the ten features in Official Competition at the London Film Festival 2019 are Haifaa Al-Mansour’s (Wadjda) The Perfect Candidate, about a young doctor who challenges Saudi Arabia’s strict social codes. Thomas Clay’s Fanny Lye Deliver’d stars Maxine Peake and Charles Dance, and is about a woman living with her puritanical husband in 17th century Shropshire. The Documentary Competition features Rubika Shah’s White Riot, about the Rock Against Racism movement, and Lauren Greenfield The Kingmaker, which focuses on Imelda Marcos. The First Feature Competition includes Joe Talbot’s The Last Black Man in San Francisco and Shannon Murphy’s Babyteeth, a drama starring Eliza Scanlon and Ben Mendelsohn.


The eleven thematic programme strands are back once more at the London Film Festival 2019. The Love strand includes La Belle Époque, Nicolas Bedos’ drama about an illustrator who uses technology to replay the past, and Ga-young Jeong’s Heart. The Debate strand is particularly strong this year with Citizen K (Alex Gibney‘s documentary on Mikhail Khodorkovsky), Chinonye Chukwu’s Sundance winner Clemency, Terrence Malick’s A Hidden Life, and Scott Z Burns’ The Report, starring Adam Driver. Comedies in the Laugh strand includes Billie Piper’s directorial debut Rare Beasts, whilst Wash Westmoreland’s Earthquake Bird in the Thrill strand stars Alicia Vikander in an 1980s Tokyo-set thriller. Cannes winner The Invisible Life of Eurídice Gusmão is among the films in the Journey category.

The Dare strand features animated coming-of-age tale I Lost My Body and Václav Marhoul’s The Painted Bird, about a Jewish boy on a journey home during wartime. The Cult strand includes Veronika Franz and Severin Fiala’s The Lodge and Lorcan Finnegan’s Vivarium, with Jesse Eisenberg and Imogen Poots. Also in this category is Richard Stanley’s Color Out of Space, a HP Lovecraft adaptation starring Nicolas Cage and Joely Richardson. The Experimenta strand includes Brad Butler and Noorafshan Mizra’s Ruptures, whilst Create includes Midge Costin’s documentary Making Waves: The Art of Cinematic Sound. Two highlights of the Family strand are Edmunds Jansons’ Jacob, Mimmi and the Talking Dogs and Lorenzo Mattotti’s The Bears’ Famous Invasion. Finally, classics that are showing as part of the Treasures programme include David Lynch’s The Elephant Man and Roger Corman’s The Masque of the Red Death, starring Vincent Price.

The BFI London Film Festival 2019 runs from 2nd-13th October. The full programme can be viewed here.

Stuff To Look At

Plenty of trailers this week, with Mortdecai, The Maze Runner, Maps to the Stars and more…


Here is the first trailer for Mortdecai. The film stars Johnny Depp, Gwyneth Paltrow and Ewan McGregor. Depp plays Charlie Mortdecai, an art dealer on a mission to recover a stolen painting. The film will be released in January 2015.

The Maze Runner

Above is an introduction to the characters in upcoming action thriller The Maze Runner. Based on the best-selling novel, The Maze Runner is set in a post-apocalyptic world. The film will hit UK screens on 10th October 2014.

Maps to the Stars

David Cronenberg’s latest Maps to the Stars is about the celebrity-obsessed culture. The film features an enviable cast, including Julianne Moore, John Cusack, Robert Pattinson and Mia Wasikowska. Maps to the Stars will be released in UK cinemas on 26th October 2014.

Love, Rosie

Love Rosie is a new British comedy starring Lily Collins and Sam Claflin. The film focuses on best friends Rosie and Alex who decide to attend university together in the US. Love Rosie is scheduled for release on 22nd October 2014.

Planes 2: Fire and Rescue

Planes 2: Fire and Rescue is out in cinemas now. The above video shows how to draw protagonist Dusty. No matter how good the instruction, mine would still turn out looking nothing like that. Although I did draw a good Mrs Potts once.


Well this looks unsettling. Supernatural thriller Horns stars Daniel Radcliffe, Juno Temple and Max Minghella. The film hits UK cinemas on 29th October 2014, just in time for Halloween.

Trailer Round-Up

This week has seen the release of the first trailer for new Bond movie Skyfall and the teaser for Anchorman 2. Also featured are The Campaign, Killer Joe and Cosmopolis.


Well isn’t this exciting? Albeit with less of the unreserved glamour of the Roger Moore days, Bond is back in what’s looks to be another frenetic adventure. The tube train excerpt is sure to strike fear in the heart of any London commuter. Quantum of Solace was a bit disappointing, but hopefully director Sam Mendes will return Daniel Craig’s Bond to the form of Casino Royale. Skyfall is released on 26th October 2012.

Anchorman 2

A belated sequel to a much-loved film is always tricky. Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy was a fantastic film, so the idea of a sequel is received with equal parts glee and skepticism. This teaser reveals nothing really about the film itself, but it is great to see Will Ferrell reunited with Paul Rudd, Steve Carrell and David Koechner. Hopefully that hot piece Baxter will also return for the sequel.

The Campaign

Before Anchorman 2 is released, here is another slice of Will Ferrell. The Campaign is a new comedy starring Ferrell, Zach Galifianakis and Jason Sudeikis. Ferrell’s line during the trash talking sequence alone makes me want to go and see this film. The Campaign is out on 28th September 2012.

Killer Joe

This looks like it will be a combination of tense and absurd. William Friedkin directs Killer Joe, based on a play by Tracy Letts. The film stars Matthew McConaughey, Emile Hirsch and Juno Temple. Killer Joe is released in cinemas on 29th June 2012.


David Cronenberg’s last film, A Dangerous Method, was a letdown. From this brief teaser, Cosmopolis immediately looks inherently more Cronenberg, which is definitely a good thing. Starring Robert Pattinson, Paul Giamatti, Samantha Morton and Juliette Binoche, Cosmopolis is released on 15th June 2012.

Film Review: Water for Elephants

Water for Elephants is an entertaining movie that should satisfy its target audience. The splendour of the setting is however betrayed by the flatness of the narrative.

Jacob is studying for his veterinary examinations when his parents are killed in accident. With no remaining family or home, he leaves his hometown. Jumping on a train, Jacob stumbles into the world of the travelling circus…

Based on Sara Gruen’s novel, Water for Elephants is at times a very sappy affair. Nevertheless, the violence can be startling; bring proceedings sharply back into focus. The drama retains the audience’s attention, even if it is not particularly original. Director Francis Lawrence tells the story in an appropriate fashion. The pacing is good; the film does not feel its two-hour length.

Although the backdrop of the circus is a little different, Water for Elephants is a standard romantic drama. As such, the characters are fairly archetypal for this genre. Given its period setting, female protagonist Marlena is confined by the restrictions of her gender. This allows her to rely upon a man to protect her, Marlena’s dependence being a condition of the era. Similarly, Jacob is a fairly typical hero. He shows no real flaws, and is the antithesis to circus-owner August. The protagonist is offered very little development; it is unclear what motivates him. It is also difficult to see why Marlena would fall for Jacob, besides the very obvious contrast with August. The protagonist has little spark, and pales in comparison to the great showman.

Water for Elephants appears engineered to generate a feeling of nostalgia. This is cemented by the 8mm footage, which attempts to look like real home movie footage. This adds very little to the film, and could have easily been omitted. Elsewhere, the imagery takes on a fantasy-like appearance. The circus seems overly pristine, but the costumes are wonderful. The editing is good, and combines very well with the sound in the more violent sequences. Effects in the climax are also good, but there is some inauthentic-looking CGI earlier in the film.

Robert Pattinson is adequate as Jacob, but shows little spark. This is partly due to lack of character development, but there also seems to be a lack of vigour in Pattinson’s performance. It does not help that he is shown up by Rosie the elephant and her wonderful tricks. Reese Witherspoon inhabits the character of Marlena well, but it is Christoph Waltz who steals the show as August.

Water for Elephants will entertain but there is nothing particularly special about the movie. The sense of spectacle of the circus is not replicated by the film itself.