The Lighthouse

When I was hosting my daily radio show in Cannes last May, my guests kept dashing in to tell me that, in concentrating on the Competition films, I’d missed the film of the festival, one playing in the Quinzaine sidebar.

It was The Lighthouse, starring Willem Dafoe and Robert Pattinson and they spoke of it in hushed tones and rumours of huge crowds trying to get in to later screenings permeated the Croisette. But it’s here now and time to see that the fuss is about, a fuss, I must add, that continued for many months as the film hit the other festivals, including the LFF.

It looks fabulous, in sparkling, moody monochrome cinematography that has earned Jarin Blaschke an Oscar nomination. And Dafoe is in full salty sea dog Popeye mode, chuntering on in Ahab-style prose as he order around his apprentice keeper Ephraim, played by the regularly over-praised Robert Pattinson who’s simply trying to keep up.

They fight, cook, dance, drink, defacate and try and keep the lighthouse going, against the elements and an angry seagull. There’s a supernatural element at play somewhere, but I couldn’t really figure what was going on. 

Of course, in any two-hander about descent into madness, there’s an existential allegory in the air, a tussle between good and evil on the frontier of civilisation, facing the elements, an id and ego clashing but it’s all so florid and stylised and shouted and intense that I checked out pretty quickly before it all foundered on the rocks of its own smug indie indulgence.