The Lighthouse Explained: What’s Up With the Ending?

Late nineteenth century, small rocky island off the coast of New England. A young man named Ephraim Winslow (Robert Pattinson) arrives on the island: he has been hired to spend a month’s watch at the lighthouse in the company of an old lighthouse keeper, whose name is Thomas Wake (Willem Dafoe).

Wake is a grumpy and mischievous old man who claims to be a former sailor. From the very beginning, Wake treats Winslow like his slave: he does not allow him to go upstairs to the lantern, and Winslow has the hardest job: to carry coal in a wheelbarrow, to scrub everything in the building, to carry heavy cans of kerosene.

In the evenings, Thomas is used to drinking rum, which is strictly prohibited by the rules. Ephraim must drink with him, and he refuses, but Wake does not accept refusals, and over time, Winslow becomes an even more bitter drunkard than Wake.

The month of work at the lighthouse is not very pleasant: Thomas keeps digging up Ephraim, but he eventually grows bolder and begins to answer the old fart in the same spirit, and then a new attack – just at the moment when they were supposed to be replaced, the weather deteriorated sharply, a storm began, so they remained locked up on this island for a few more weeks, or months, and Winslow’s roof really began to go.


Director Robert Eggers made his mark with the art-house horror film The Witch, which raved the critics at the Sundance Film Festival. Eggers has been praised for his masterful creation of eerie atmosphere, not with special effects and make-up, but with old-school directorial techniques like Hitchcock. At the same time, it must be said that ordinary viewers also appreciated this film: Eggers’ directorial debut collected a very good box office, showing a TCC as much as 7.18 (a TCC equal to three – the picture at least paid off).

Eggers’ new film was initially, shall we say, quite ostentatious. Filmed on black and white film, and even in an extremely specific, almost square format, in which they filmed about ninety years ago, when sound was just appearing in films and it was required to chop off a large space from a 35 mm frame in 4: 3 format to record a sound track (she then it was optical), resulting in a format of 1.19. Plus, only one or two locations, two people in a small room for almost the entire film – and any critic, as soon as he heard that there were so many “goodies”, he immediately felt that this should be watched immediately, by all means! Of course, I would like the frame to be round or oval, but still you can’t demand everything at once, you need to be satisfied with less.

What the hell is this terribly annoying square format? Critics piss with happiness and explain that the square symbolizes the cramped walls of the lighthouse. Or the breadth of the sea. Or the boundless breasts of mermaids. The audience – in our face with the cat Bagel – swear and say that this show off only creates problems when viewing. Moreover, Eggers and cameraman Jarin Blaschke are faithful to the precepts of Lars Von Trier and shoot in natural light, and I will tell you a terrible secret: a smoky kerosene stove does not shine with high-quality lighting.

But this is really the author’s technique, it emphasizes the darkness and dullness of the space of the lighthouse, and besides, if nothing is visible on the screen, then viewers and critics can actively turn on their imagination, and this is also a noble task. Let them try to crunch their brains themselves, you know, it’s not superfluous. By the way, I completely agree here: the audience needs to be forced to think. At least occasionally.

What the crew did very well to achieve was to create an extremely depressing environment. An angry, constantly farting old man (his farting is such a means of expression: in this way he demonstrates that he is at home, he is in charge here and he doesn’t feel shy at all), telling terrible stories from his maritime past, and go and understand, was it real or is he just terrifying Winslow; a young guy who is gradually driving like a cuckoo from all this and can no longer understand whether he really fucked a mermaid or he imagined it; a nasty one-eyed gull getting a guy; sexual savagery, alcoholic get-togethers with a sharp change of mood from “yes, I’ll break you now” to “yes, I’ll put you in right now”, the physical feeling of dirtiness and mustiness of this place, where two smelly – literally – men are locked up with each other and where they already poorly distinguish between dream and reality.

From a cameraman’s point of view, if we throw aside that damn Lang-Murnau square (directors from the past who shot in this format), the picture is shot very effectively. If for some strange reason you do not feel longing and depression during this difficult time, then do not worry – this picture will do everything to make you feel it. Even the cat Bublik, who courageously faced the disgusting cat scene at the Grand Budapest Hotel (although he promised that Wes Anderson’s slippers are now always in danger), even he, after twenty minutes of viewing, demanded to leave the film and turn on something a little lighter and joyful, for example “Saw”.

The musical score is really impressive. This terrible howler, which every time – like emery on the nerves, the whistle of the wind, the sound of waves, the cries of seagulls, strange sounds – all this contributes to the picture of this claustrophobic hopelessness.

The director deliberately did not chew anything in this picture, on the contrary – he did everything in order to entangle the audience with a bunch of all sorts of both readable and unreadable references, but what does this and that mean there – think for yourself, you are given full scope for inferences.

Is the lighthouse a phallic symbol? And what about, children, of course, phallic! It’s a Freudian banana – sometimes just a banana. And Jung’s lighthouse is an erect dick, proudly sticking out in the middle of the ocean, attracting young mermaids with its life-giving light! Another thing is that in addition to mermaids, all evil spirits can climb into this world. But who in general, except for the old Lovecraft, knows what is found there in the depths?

What’s with the lighthouse lantern Wake doing naked on his night shifts? Why is he so crazy – just from the light? Or does he have a sauna with blackjack and mermaids? However, in terms of mermaids – it’s more like Winslow.

Are Winslow and Wake the only person who invented a boss for himself – a nasty old man or, on the contrary, a subordinate who can be pushed around? Yes, easily, any whim for the money of the audience! And who invented whom – Winslow Wake or vice versa? Yes, the protruding lighthouse knows them, I’ll tell you what! Yes, and what’s the difference? Let one invent the other. Or another one. Or they do not exist at all, but everything happens in the brain of a one-eyed gull, which, mark my words, will soon run into. (And it’s a really cool scene.)

Or maybe these are mythological heroes at all – Proteus and Prometheus? (Eggers, when he mocked journalists in an interview, spoke about this.) They even have similar names. Proteus, Prometheus and their blood brothers – Arthritis and Prostatitis!

Proteus is a sea deity. By the way, the old man of the sea – well, why not Wake? And why is he a farting deity here, well, you know, deities – they are different. Some of them have very peculiar habits.

Winslow is Prometheus, obviously. Everything strives for the light, but it is not allowed. But Prometheus wants to understand: what is Proteus jerking off upstairs about? After all, Prometheus has nothing for this except for a primitive figure of a mermaid with barely marked boobs: the times were harsh, no life-giving Internet for you! And if he comes across a living or not very living mermaid, well, so with mermaids – you know how difficult everything is! In addition, Prometheus really needs to somehow monitor the liver – with his horse doses of alcohol – because some seagull will still fly in to peck at this liver, because he has not yet earned an eagle!

This film is good, because it does not explain anything, so understand as you know.

Played, by the way, perfectly, and if you always expect this from Defoe, then everything was not very clear with a thousand-year-old vampire with an unwashed head, but Pattinson has long been boldly moving away from Twilight and starring in all sorts of interesting and complex projects, remember the same buzz times, and here it was just a real challenge, which Pattinson accepted – and showed himself in the picture more than worthy!

This is how the movie turned out. With the excellent work of the director, who really talented, accurately, carefully and prudently mocks the audience, with a bewitching camera work, with sound effects, from which Bagel the cat now shudders nervously in his sleep, and with excellent acting work. A normal viewer will turn off this film after ten or fifteen minutes of viewing, which I would have done if it were not for professional masochism, and critics will watch in complete delight, because now it will definitely be possible to burst into a detailed review about the depths of the subconscious, about the doomed gothic of Edgar Allan Poe, about the sentimental sophistication of Nathaniel Hawthorne and the nameless almighty creatures from the depths of the ocean by Howard Phillips Lovecraft, Cthulhu is on the spine of madness. And while they will be quite right, everything is so.


Lighthouse / The Lighthouse movie meaning

Director: Robert Eggers Cast: Robert Pattinson, Willem Dafoe, Valeria Karaman, Logan Hawkes, Kayla Nicolle, Sean Clarke, Pierre Richard, Preston Hudson, Jeffrey Krats

Worldwide gross: $17 million
Mystery drama, Canada-USA, 2019, 109 min.

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