Day 2 saw one of the festival’s big draws match high expectations and completely surprise, a sedate internal drama nearly lull me to sleep, and a Netflix horror fully live up to its reputation.
Like a vintage episode of Round the Twist, The Lighthouse follows bizarre events in a remote lighthouse. After creeping the world out with his debut The VVitch Robert Eggers returns with another distinct cinematic vision and an experience like no other.
That’s how The Lighthouse feels; more experience than film. An art-house roller coaster that is exhilarating to watch but lacks the emotional depth that made its predecessor so compelling.
From the beginning the audience is met with the jarring combination of a form that suggests an austere auteur and content that feels closer to a fever dream. Shot on black and white film with an almost square frame and a long opening act with almost no dialogue; The Lighthouse presents itself as the sort of film the casual cinema-goer would assume film snobs watch at film festivals. Beyond this however one of the first utterances we hear is a fart, some of the most beautiful shots involve piss and shit (no other words will do), and by the end the images veer towards the deranged.
Robert Pattinson and Willem Dafoe take ownership of their roles as assistant and lighthouse keeper respectively. Through admirable facial hair they chew on their dialogue and both bring an intense physicality. As storms lash the tiny island they inhabit, waves of distrust, madness, and seagulls flare up between the two men. What unfolds has to be seen to be believed, and even then it is up to you what you take from it.
At the end of almost two hours of constant escalation I was left with numerous indelible images and the aftershocks of a score that literally vibrated my whole body. There’s a reason this film is being raved about; it is an experience I won’t forget any time soon.
Not since Annihilation have a music and a lighthouse combined to such exhilarating ends.
Hong Khaou’s debut Lilting was a deeply personal story told in a beautifully restrained film. He returns with another deeply personal story told in such a restrained tone that after The Lighthouse it felt almost static.
The recently ubiquitous Henry Golding stars as Kit; an Englishman returning to his birthplace of Vietnam to scatter his parents ashes and try to find himself in a land he can barely remember. With his parents now both deceased Kit is looking for a connection to some kind of heritage but finds Vietnam a remote and changed place. What few memories he has no longer relate to the county he finds himself in.
Despite forging new relationships (romantic, platonic, and familial) the film is mostly about Kit as an individual. We are forced to read his face to access an internal monologue we cannot hear as no narration is offered for easy understanding. Kit is often seen contemplating his surroundings and the film does not dispense much in the way of exposition; all dialogue is minimal and naturalistic. The film as a result is almost meditative; something to be gently absorbed rather than assaulted by.
At times Monsoon felt impenetrable and verged on lulling me to sleep. Somehow is skirts just past inertia to be a beautiful poetic experience about one man’s open ended quest to find a place in the world.
Well now… what to say about Wounds? Armie Hammer stars as Will; a bartender who seemingly stumbles into someone else’s horror film. After picking up a stranger’s phone in a bar he finds himself, and the 2-dimensional characters around, pulled into some kind of demonic summoning that leads to a smattering of body horror, bugs crawling all over, and a Ring inspired video.
The majority of characters in Wounds are so disposable they aren’t even disposed of properly. Instead they reach the edge of the narrative and simply fall off. The only character with any form of arc is Will who doesn’t so much slowly descend into madness as suddenly trip over into insanity. Armie Hammer does his best with what little he has to work with while Dakota Johnson and Zazie Beetz both suffer severe character neglect.
Relying mostly on jump scares and the occasional gross-out moment Wounds approaches horror tropes from a different angle but doesn’t know where to take them. The dialogue is bizarre and the plot meandering. The audience had a few good laughs however.
Best line of dialogue? “He looked murdered.”