A24 continues to make clever, intriguing, thought-provoking films, and today the studio released the first trailer for its latest offering in the horror genre, The lighthouse† What sets this apart at first glance is the choice to shoot entirely on 35mm black-and-white film – better to evoke a bygone era.
Set in 1890, director Robert Eggers’ vision was inspired by a true tragedy from 1801 that involved two lighthouse keepers from Wales who were trapped in a storm. It was also inspired by classic stories by Herman Melville, HP Lovecraft and Algernon Blackwood. It’s kind of a ghost story, with two lighthouse keepers (Willem Dafoe and Robert Pattinson) on a remote and mysterious New England island, and both of them gradually go mad at the isolation.
The lighthouse made its debut at the Cannes Film Festival earlier this year to critical acclaim, earning a Best Picture award from the International Federation of Film Critics – a first for A24. Eggers described the film to Deadline Hollywood as “something a little weirder” than his 2015 breakout film. The witch, called it “more terrible than horror.”
The film was shot entirely on black-and-white 35mm film, using the same square frame and aspect ratio (1.19:1) favored by early pioneering filmmakers such as Fritz Lang and GW Pabst. Per IMDB, “To enhance the image so that it resembles early photography, a custom cyan filter made by Schneider Filters was used that mimicked the look and feel of late 1800s orthochromatic film.” Eggers has said he did this because “the spaces in this film are meant to feel limited… The idea of widescreen didn’t really come into existence until the 1950s. We wanted to take people back further than that.”
The trailer wisely keeps most of the plot details very vague, allowing us to enjoy the technical feat of the haunting black-and-white cinematography instead. It’s period horror that looks like an old Hollywood movie from the Golden Age. In fact, it’s the kind of movie that Alfred Hitchcock would have made, along the lines of… Rope or rear window, both of which have equally limited settings. And audiences that have had a chance to see the film thus far have responded positively. The lighthouse has a favorable rating of 98% on Rotten Tomatoes. The consensus? It’s “a gripping story, brilliantly filmed and led by some powerhouses.”
‘How long have we been sitting on this rock? Five weeks? Two days?” Dafoe’s Thomas Wake wonders aloud. We see the two men going about their daily chores and in the evenings over a drink. But the isolation begins to take its toll on the men’s psychological states. , and they struggle to distinguish between reality and hallucination There is a huge storm, which resembles a flood and an attack by some kind of sea monster (or maybe just an octopus), plus a picture of Winslow lovingly holding a little mermaid statue And everywhere we hear Wake’s incessant question: “Why did you spill your beans?” What does it all mean? Who knows? Like The witchit’s probably best to know as little as possible about the plot that goes into it.
The lighthouse will be screened at the upcoming Toronto Film Festival in September. It is scheduled for a theatrical release on October 18, 2019.
List image by YouTube/A24