Writer/Director Robert Eggers’ follow-up to The Witch, The Lighthouse, cements the filmmaker as a notable talent capable of drawing viewers into moody, evocative stories.
In the film. Willem Dafoe and Robert Pattinson star as two men manning an island lighthouse in late 1880s New England who find themselves going stir crazy, or perhaps outright crazy, in the midst of their long isolation. On the other hand, Dafoe’s seasoned seaman is a superstitious type who seems to truly believe in curses, and it certainly seems some strange things may be occurring around them…
Armed with questions from the Fandom community, we spoke to Eggers and Pattinson about making the film, it’s striking black and white imagery — complete with a 1.19:1, square-sized aspect ratio you’d find in the silent film era — and more, including future Batman Pattinson letting us know his favorite previous incarnation of the Dark Knight.
THE RIGHT PAIRING
Dafoe and Pattinson are the only two actors onscreen for the vast majority of The Lighthouse, making their chemistry key. So what was it about this particular duo that felt right to Eggers?
“That’s a good question and I still haven’t spent any time thinking for a good answer!” replied Eggers. “The film is somewhat about identity and — people have said this. I’m not saying I think this or I don’t think this either. People have said there are ways they wonder if this is the same person, or father and son. So the fact that they both have [prominent] cheekbones and noses and teeth is a good thing if you know what I’m saying. There was an Esquire cover in the UK where they cleaned them up and they looked like an estranged, sexy vampire father and son. They couldn’t have began their careers more differently but certainly as it stands now, both of them make strong choices about doing unique, challenging movies so I figured we needed people who were going to sign up for getting punished by weather and have to do incredibly challenging things, physical things and who would be up for it? Willem Dafoe and Robert Pattinson. Plus, they’re incredible actors. I couldn’t think of anyone else who could possibly play these roles and inhabit them the way that these two gentlemen do.”
When it came to spending so much time with one other actor, Pattinson remarked, “I’m happy it was with Willem because it makes it a lot easier. It’s a strange movie because in some ways it’s so dark. But if you had someone else playing Willem’s part, it could have been this miserable experience of someone being incredibly bullying or horrible in many ways. But there’s something about the way Willem plays him… He’s naughty and there’s something mischievous about him that makes it fun. It was a fun dynamic to build It was exhausting but definitely a pressure cooker.”
CHALLENGES, WE GOT A FEW
Watching the characters endure grim, grimy, punishing circumstances, The Lighthouse certainly seems like a film that would be challenging to make, prompting @hsaprhodite to ask what one of the biggest challenges was for them while shooting.
Said Eggers, “Everything was a challenge. The least challenging thing was the seagulls. They were incredibly well trained and smart and did their work quite fantastically. Most of the scenes are in this terrible weather. A human being cannot work quickly and efficiently with gale force winds, in the pouring rain, when it’s just above or below freezing, on a rock, in the Atlantic ocean. The camera equipment is going to break down in those conditions. It was always hard.”
Pattinson though said he welcomed the harsh circumstances, explaining, “It’s funny… I guess it felt challenging with the elements and stuff but it’s one of those nice little things where every challenging aspect of it fed into the character because the same challenges you’re facing making the movie are the same challenges you’re making in the scene so you’re never going against it. It’s cold and raining, but it’s nice… I think it’s more frustrating to have to play cold and rainy. If it’s [actually] cold and rainy all the time you don’t have to fake it.”
The Lighthouse features two men living in close quarters before proper plumbing was invented and Eggers definitely shows you what that would really be like, noting, “Any fluid that a male body can excrete is featured.”
Sure, movie magic can fake a lot, but still, this particular movie lends itself to the question asked by the amusingly named @soupinmypoop, which was… was it stinky on set?
Eggers got to the point, replying, “Yes, it was really foul on set toward the end.”
Said Pattinson, “It definitely was for the first day. Then you kind of realize that you’ve become one with the stink and you’re only adding to it yourself as well. I genuinely didn’t notice the smell of rotting fish after an hour.”
@LaszloBat asked why Eggers opted to shoot in black and white, to which the filmmaker replied, “On a very simple, surface level it’s old timey and it’s an old movie. It takes place in a time when black and white photography existed. But more importantly, it conveys the bleak and austere lifestyle of these two lighthouse keepers. I don’t think that color would help the movie at all. I think it would only hinder it.”
Regarding the visual style of the film, Pattinson said, “I love when something is very, very ambitious in its desires. I knew from the first page of the script it was very specific, that it was going to be on academy aspect ratio, black and white negative, and it’s going to have a mono soundtrack. I’ve never seen that in the script before, a note that before we’ve done anything, this is the look of it. And it’s kind of nice. It makes you relax when you know someone knows exactly what they want. It’s so cool. I think people are enjoying the experiential aspect of it. It doesn’t look like anything else in the theater at all.”
BLACK AND WHITE FAVORITES
Given The Lighthouse now becoming part of this very description, and it being Halloween season, @redrighthandxx asked what Eggers and Pattinson’s favorite black and white horror films were.
Said Eggers, “There’s way too many! The first one that jumps into my head is Jack Clayton’s The Innocents. It’s a film that I watch a couple times a year. But there’s Val Lewton and all the Universal stuff. And oh, Nosferatu! How did The Innocents come into my head before Nosferatu!?”
Said Pattinson, “There’s a movie called Eyes Without a Face. I love that movie so much. It’s a French horror movie from the 60s. It’s really good. It’s about a plastic surgeon whose daughter loses her face and he’s going around trying to perfect his face transplant surgery, finding girls who look like his daughter and taking their faces and putting them on his daughter. It’s absolutely terrifying.”
Of course, all eyes are on Pattinson as he prepares to play one of the most popular characters ever as the title role in The Batman and @AlcadeCane asked Pattinson what he thought of previous Batman portrayals.
Rather than bringing up an actor, Pattinson evoked a filmmaker when naming his own personal favorite version of Batman, replying, “When I was a kid, I loved all the Tim Burton ones. I think anybody who is kind of around my age, they made such a massive impression.”
Pattinson noted that when it came to Tim Burton’s Batman, “That’s my first memory of any kind of superhero or comic book movie as well. Yeah, I absolutely loved those when they came out.”
You can check out our video interview with Robert Eggers and Robert Pattinson about The Lighthouse at the top of the page.
The Lighthouse is now playing in select theaters.