Karyn Kusama: Robert Eggers’ ‘The Lighthouse’ Could Be ‘One of This Year’s Most Hopeful Films’

Read more from Variety’s Directors on Directors, in which filmmakers praise their favorite movies of the year, here

Light and sky.  Rain and wind.  Sea and smoke.  These are the fearsome natural elements that Robert Eggers’ “The Lighthouse” explores, creating a modern cinema that manages to look both backward and forward. Backward, to an almost square format and to the visual sorcery of Bergman and Dreyer, of Herzog and Lang. But forward as well, to Eggers’ own imagining of a peculiarly American past, and toward his own brutal conception of masculinity in a death match with itself.

The seemingly simple story of two lighthouse keepers — one older (Willem Dafoe, in a titanic performance), one younger (Robert Pattinson, equally bracing) — thrillingly operates on multiple levels. For me, the film serves as a parable for alcoholism, capturing the mania of its deadly grip with a visual perversion of space and the narrative collapse of time. It also plays as a mythic story of human conquest and folly, with one man squabbling for supremacy over another, while both face a storm that drives them to madness and ruin.

But perhaps most powerfully the film creates an origin story about identity itself — as older and younger look into the eyes of one another, each a wretched reflection of their failures. Sometimes looking in a mirror is the most unbearable of gazes. But “The Lighthouse,” like “The Witch” before it, offers its self-reflection in a new form, one that’s wild and masterful, suffused with beauty, humor, and surprise. To think that the kids are catching this work of art from a seat at their mall multiplex might make “The Lighthouse” one of this year’s most hopeful films.

Popular on Variety

Karyn Kusama’s films include “Girlfight,” “Jennifer’s Body” and “Destroyer.”

More Film

  • Legendary Entertainment Hires Matthew Erramouspe Chief

    Legendary Entertainment Hires Matthew Erramouspe as Chief Legal Officer

    Legendary Entertainment has appointed veteran sports-media attorney Matthew Erramouspe to the newly developed role of chief legal officer and executive VP. Erramouspe has been co-chair of O’Melveny & Myers’ Entertainment’s Sports and Media practice group. He will report to Legendary’s CEO Joshua Grode and work closely with the heads of Legendary’s business units. “Matthew has been [...]

  • The Roads Not Taken

    'The Roads Not Taken': Film Review

    In 2013, Sally Potter lost her younger brother, artist and musician Nic Potter, to early onset dementia, although the disease is so cruel, one could say that she began losing him a couple years earlier — that he started to disappear on her in 2010 — and that her film “The Roads Not Taken” is [...]

  • IFFR Premiere 2020 Photocall Diarios del

    Irene Gutierrez on ‘Between Dog and Wolf,’ Cuba, Revolution Legacy

    A Berlinale Forum player, “Between Dog And Wolf” portrays a real gang of former Cuban guerrillas who hide out and train in Cuba’s Sierra Maestra, as if the war and the Revolution aren’t over. The new docu-fiction feature of Irene Gutiérrez (“Hotel Nueva Isla,” “Diarios del exilio”) is produced by Spain’s El Viaje Films and [...]

  • Utopia Hires Danielle DiGiacomo as Head

    Utopia Hires Danielle DiGiacomo as Head of Content (EXCLUSIVE)

    Film executive Danielle DiGiacomo is joining the upstart distribution company Utopia as head of content, Variety has learned. In this new role, she’ll be acquiring movies and developing release strategies for the boutique label, which last year released titles such as the drama “Mickey and the Bear” and Errol Morris’ political documentary series “American Dharma.” [...]

  • Persian Lessons Russian Cinema

    Berlin: 'Persian Lessons' Sold to Cohen Media Group for North America

    Cohen Media Group has acquired North American rights to the Holocaust drama “Persian Lessons,” following its world premiere at the Berlin Film Festival, where it has become a buzz title. The film was produced after the lead producers met at a Variety “10 Producers to Watch” event in Cannes in 2018, and decided to work [...]

  • SZA, Justin Timberlake Drop ‘The Other

    SZA and Justin Timberlake Drop First Song From 'Trolls World Tour'

    SZA and Justin Timberlake released “The Other Side,” the first song from the upcoming “Trolls World Tour” soundtrack. Of course, Timberlake’s Grammy-winning 2016 hit “Can’t Stop the Feeling,” from the first “Trolls” film, was one of the most massive hits in a career filled with them, and like that song, this one involves co-writer Max [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content