Tag Archives: robert eggers

TIFF19: The Lighthouse

Two men are dropped off on a rock in the middle of the ocean, left alone to tend the lighthouse.  The men, let’s call them Wick and Winslow, though they mostly go by “Sir” and “lad”, are strangers about to get extremely cozy during the four weeks of their isolation.

Winslow (Robert Pattinson) is a young guy, a bit of a drifter, here to make some serious money and go home.  Wick (Willem Dafoe) is gruff yet poetic, exacting yet frustrated by Winslow’s rule-abiding nature.  The two rub each other wrong right from the start, and the thing about having absolutely nothing but each other’s company is that you’ll either become best friends or the worst of enemies.lighthouse

The weeks pass slowly, marked by back-breaking work.  There’s wanking and drinking and farting, but eventually their time is up.  They’ve made it!  Except that’s really just where the story starts.

A storm blows in, which means no boat can come for them.  They’ve been stranded, but for how long?  Days?  Weeks?  Time becomes meaningless, reality blurred.  We’re witnessing a descent into madness, but the question is: whose?  Winslow’s? Wick’s? Our own?

Shot in stark black and white, with an aching cinematography and an arresting sound design, Robert Eggers (director of the Witch) returns with a dizzying, disorienting film about madness.

The candlelight serves perfectly to illuminate Dafoe’s lined face, his fevered eyes leaving us to wonder whether he’s a psychopath or just a drunk.  Dafoe and Pattinson spar thrillingly on screen, each pushed by the other to unravel even further.  It’s magnetic even if it’s not always easy to watch.

The Lighthouse is full of omens and mythic imagery awaiting decoding.  This film doesn’t have the same sense of unending, unbearable dread that the Witch did, but it will surprise and confound you in new and unique ways, daring you to look away.

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The Witch

Let’s get it out of the way right up front: The Witch will make your skin crawl. If you like horror movies then mark your calendars and track this down when it comes out next February!

We jumped at the chance to see the Witch at NHFF last weekend, where it won Best Feature (the festival’s top prize).  The Witch has also screened at Sundance and a few other festivals, but the NHFF screening was the last one prior to release, so if you haven’t been lucky enough to see it yet then you have to wait until February.  I got the sense this screening only happened because director Robert Eggers is a New Hampshirite, particularly because at the distributor’s request, the balcony of the Music Hall was blocked off in order to keep the screening as small as possible (only around 400 people ended up being let in).

The Witch has gathered significant acclaim everywhere it has screened, and all those accolades are well-deserved.  In addition to Best Feature at NHFF, Mr. Eggers has also been awarded the Directing Award (Dramatic) at Sundance and the Sutherland Award (for best first feature) at the London Film Festival.  I hope that acclaim helps secure a wide release for this movie.  It truly is worth watching even if horror movies are not your usual fare.  Because this is not your typical horror movie.  It is so much more.

What sets the Witch apart is the unique journey that we are taken on.  One of the most memorable aspects for me is how completely authentic the Witch feels in every aspect, from dialogue to sets to costumes to the woods themselves (even though, to Mr. Eggers’ stated regret, for financial reasons he had to film in Ontario rather than New Hampshire).  This level of authenticity and the care taken in crafting this movie clearly demonstrates Mr. Eggers’ deep love of New England’s lore, history and folk tales.  In applying that love to the horror genre, he has come up with something unique and captivating.  I was drawn in to this film’s world and that is an impressive feat when I am a polar opposite to the isolated 17th century pioneer family who are the Witch’s protagonists.  The loneliness and eeriness of the family farm and the surrounding woods are themes of the movie that we are made aware of instantly by Mr. Eggers, and in every shot the suspense and tension builds.  The music is particularly noteworthy, as again and again the score completes these scenes and tells us that worse things lie ahead (and oh my god, do they ever).

I don’t want to spoil anything about this movie so I’m not going to get into the plot at all.  It’s one of the creepiest movies I have ever seen, and I did not see the ending coming at all.   The climactic scenes in particular kept me on the edge of my seat and gave me even more of a payoff than I could have hoped for.  I hope all of you are able to see this because it’s a truly incredible movie.

The Witch gets a score of ten old-timey brooms out of ten.

Live from Beautiful Portsmouth – NHFF 2015

There’s actually a lot to see in Portsmouth besides all the stellar movies playing this weekend. It’s practically idyllic in its autumnal glory, just stupidly beautiful. One of the main venues is on Chestnut street, and I can’t believe that something so quaint actually exists outside of a TV set. How lucky are we? The Asshole in me is actually itching to find fault with this place!

Now for a few more of the New Hampshire Film Festival’s bountiful offerings:

A Light Beneath Their Feet: A high school senior must choose between enrolling at the college of her dreams (across the country, natch) and remaining at home to take care of hLightBeneathTheirFeet-W1-210x157er bipolar mother. This movie is proudly packed with strong women – the mother is played by Taryn Manning (Orange Is The New Black, Hustle & Flow); the fabulous SNL alum Nora Dunn appears as a good doctor; director Valerie Weiss started her film career while completing her PhD in Biophysics from Harvard Medical School, you know, in her spare time; and screenwriter Moira McMahon has shown herself a fan of working with strong females as production staff on Grey’s Anatomy, and as a writer and researcher on Private Practice. It’ll be nice to see these ladies hard at work, and kudos to NHFF for highlighting so many female directors this year!

The Witch: Robert Eggers, first time film writer and director brought home the prize for Best Director at Sundance this year, and this is why. The Witch is set in New England, circa 1630. William and Katherine lead a devout Christian life, isolated on the edge of an impassible wiluntitledderness, with five children. When their newborn son mysteriously vanishes and their crops fail, the family begins to turn on one another, unraveling within their own fears and anxieties, leaving them prey for an inescapable evil…or, you know, it’s just their overactive imaginations. You know the kind of shit that went down in New England back in the good old days (*cough*Salem*cough*). This one sounds super duper creepy!

Founded in 2001, NHFF began as a small, grassroots organization to support local, regional and student filmmakers. It now attracts over 10,000 festivalgoers to Portsmouth each year, and holds a place as a viable and recognized festival that showcases the brightest talent on the international film festival scene.