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The Film Room presents: The Lighthouse

Arkansas Fight goes to the movies.

Hey everybody! Let me introduce myself really quick before we get started. My name is Saul Malone. You may know me as co-host of Arkansas Fight’s Podcast: Woo Pod Sooie and occasional jackass on our Twitter page. As you’re aware, Arkansas Fight is primarily a SPORTS BLOG™ and we do our best to bring you the latest news, stats and highlights from across every corner of the Razorback Athletic program.

However, we have interests (just barely) outside of Razorback athletics. One of my favorite things besides yelling about The Hogs is going to the movies, and I usually see 1-2 a week —sometimes more if I’m not all that busy. In an effort to bring you our thoughts on something besides sports, I’m introducing this weekly blog post called The Film Room. In each post I’ll break down a movie I’ve seen and discuss it’s merits and issues. It’s half review, half open discussion — talking about films in a way the average movie goer would want to join in on.

Here’s a couple of things you can expect from these posts.

  1. They will usually be about movie that has come out recently. If it’s an older movie that we are revisiting, I’ll be sure to note it in the title of the blog.
  2. I will try to remain as spoiler-free as I possibly can and will denote if a spoiler is present.
  3. I see a huge variety of different movies because I’m lucky to live in a place where that is an option for me. These posts will reflect that in the sense that I may talk about a movie you’ve never heard of, but every movie I write about will be one I think is worth discussing.
  4. I also promise not to turn into a FILM TWITTER guy and talk about arthouse films exclusively. We’ll definitely hit some big budget, blockbuster releases. If this blog was a thing 3 months ago, I would have written 5000 words on Fast and Furious Presents: Hobbs and Shaw.

Sound good? Let’s get into it.

In 2019, movies take on two forms when they are released. There’s the movie that you actually see in the theater and there’s the movie that you interact with online via trailers, tweets, and memes. One of the films that best encompasses this is A24’s The Lighthouse.

The Lighthouse is director Robert Eggers’ followup to his 2015 horror film The Witch (The VVitch if you wanna get technical). The psychological horror film began generating buzz on the film festival circuit, garnering excitement at both The Cannes Film Festival and The Toronto International Film Festival. The film also found firm footing on Twitter, due largely in part to an insane trailer where Robert Pattinson fights an octopus and images like this:

This is what I look like watching the Chipotle guy make my burrito.

A24 is a savvy film company and has capitalized on the meme-ification of movies before, especially their horror films. They leaned into The Lighthouse with a similar energy, embracing the fact that their fans are Extremely Online. They even released a special emoji pack that you bet your ass I downloaded. I tried it out with my roommate, who was not amused.

Reader, it was not free

That’s the Twitter version of The Lighthouse, but what about the version that was released in theaters?

I’ll be the first to admit, I’m not a huge scary movie guy. I am, in fact, a big baby and often times can’t handle the jump scares of modern horror. However, I love The Discourse around films and more often than not, that will override any trepidation I may feel about seeing a certain movie. This film was no different. If I’m going to download an emoji pack, I should probably watch the movie said pack is based on.

And oh boy, what a film it is. Starring Willem Dafoe and Robert Pattinson almost exclusively (more on that in a second), this is less a horror movie and more watching two people go insane before your very eyes. Dafoe plays Thomas Wake, an old sea-dog and veteran lighthouse keeper whose last partner went insane during their time together. Pattinson plays Ephraim Winslow, his new partner who’s working as a keeper for the first time. Winslow is only supposed to stay for 2 weeks. A storm comes. He has to stay longer. The pair starts to drink — first rum, and then kerosene when that runs out. Madness unfolds. The insult “you smell like curdled foreskin” is used to devastating effect.

When I go see a movie, one thing I look for is for it to show me something I’ve never seen before and The Lighthouse delivers there in a very special way. Light spoilers and some adult(?) discussion ahead.

I said that the film stars Willam Dafoe and Robert Pattinson almost exclusively. For certain segments of the film, Winslow interacts with a mermaid (played by Valeriia Karaman) that may or may not be real. It’s never really made clear. In one such instance, he is drawn to her and they begin to have sex. Before they do, however, the camera pans over her body and, for what I assume is the first time in film history, a mermaid vagina is shown.

Now, I would like to state for the record that I know mermaids aren’t real and, therefore, mermaid vaginas aren’t real. I know they are mythical creatures of sea lore and that should be the end of my thoughts on that scene. Nonetheless, I can say with absolute certainty that The Lighthouse is the only movie that I’ve ever seen that has shown me a mermaid vagina and I still went “no, I don’t think that’s right.” It just didn’t make sense, proportionally speaking. It was half her body and would seriously interfere with the swimming she would have to do, you know, AS A MERMAID. I would include an image for your reference but G̶o̶o̶g̶l̶e̶ ̶d̶o̶e̶s̶n̶’̶t̶ ̶h̶a̶v̶e̶ ̶p̶i̶c̶t̶u̶r̶e̶s̶ ̶u̶p̶ ̶y̶e̶t̶ we are a family friendly website.

The movie plays like a fever dream throughout its duration, with both Dafoe and Pattinson giving amazing performances. Armed with thick facial hair and thicker accents the pair exchange blows, both physical and verbal, with deft ability. I know it’s easy to snicker at Pattinson after his infamous turn as Edward Cullen, but he’s been putting together a solid highlight reel of indie film roles over the last 7 years and is impeccable in this role. Dafoe works his usual magic cursing (literally) like a sailor and beseeching the sea god Neptune to curse Winslow in a tirade that is worth the price of admission alone.

The film is also a visual treat. Filmed primarily in Nova Scotia in 2018, the film is shot in black and white on 35mm film and presented in a 1.19:1 ratio, similar to the silent films of the early 20th century. It took a second to adjust but the effect is remarkable. The titular lighthouse was built from scratch just for the film.

It’s sometimes hard to know whether a movie like this is taking itself seriously or not. Eggers has suggested that he wanted to go big on this movie, and if that’s the case he certainly accomplished that goal. Surrender yourself to the madness. See The Lighthouse if you can find it.

Thanks for reading the first ever Arkansas Fight Film Room! We’re looking forward to talking movies with Razorback nation. If there’s an older movie you want us to revisit hit us up in the comments. Don’t forget to subscribe to the podcast. For dumb jokes and bad sports takes you can follow Saul Malone on Twitter at @SaulMalone. For mini movie reviews, you can follow Saul on Letterboxd.