Wednesday, 5 February 2020

Alternate Best Actor 2019: Robert Pattinson & Willem Dafoe in The Lighthouse

Robert Pattinson and Willem Dafoe did not receive Oscar nominations, despite being nominated for Independent Spirit Awards, for portraying Winslow and Wake in The Lighthouse.

The Lighthouse tells thee one lighthearted fable of two lighthouse keepers who slowly discover more about each other.

Tis with this review a grand constriction has now been lifted as I may broach the performances of this here film. This found in the work of veteran Willem Dafoe who must be welcomed with open arms to any role which shall bear his credit, and Robert Pattinson, who after Good Time, proved many wrong, by proclamin' to be a great actor that immediately tore away any concerns relating to his early work as one of those glittering vampires. These two then be off to portraying the pair of lighthouse keepers, for a 4 week stay, during some inexact age but certainly long weathered away period of time. Tis within this idea where we have the initial brilliance of the performances of Dafoe and Pattinson in craftin' these wickies. These are just not any men, but rather must become themselves part of the film's profuse atmosphere. Tis within the script by Robert and Max Eggers, that is brimming in archaic phrase and slang, and might by most unwieldy within itself.  It is that which requires the most immediate challenge in crafting a Shakespearean grace to thee language, though for words that are neither modern or Shakespearean. Dafoe and Pattinson can allow one to forgot this  is perhaps even what one may say be a risk by Eggers, as the two not only speak the language but speak it as though they have been so their entire lives. They simply be native speakers of this semi-ancient style English, and there be no more than that which needs to be said on that account. Allowing the language to not only be easy to decipher for we modern land lovers, I mean viewers, but grants such a profound sense of time within the semi-sea dogs of Winslow and Wake. Dafoe and Pattinson deliver performances what ooze this strange period beyond just that minor hint, this be as each transform themselves towards the role of the light-keepers, the veteran Wake and the newcomer Winslow. Tis at the moment in which they wander off their ship and onto the island to begin their, seemingly brief, tenure of maintaining the grounds and the lighthouse. Pattinson's eyes filled with an eeriness of man discoverin' something quite new, though perhaps not something he'd care to discover as he walks upon the solemn earth of the lighthouse, while Dafoe carries a contentment within the return, of a man who has many a time come upon these shores. It be this that one sees them, establishing, without a word, each man at the beginning of their stay, and a certain schism within them from the outset.

This old land lover would be wrong not to overstate the importance of the vivid creation of the men that we witness from both Dafoe and Pattinson, tis sheer brilliance from each actor, in fashioning something what be akin to perhaps a silent or early talkie horror show, however with a distinct bend towards this idea, in craftin' something wholly their own to each man. Pattinson, who was perhaps once derided for what be known as vacant expressions, carries a world of them here within his realization of Winslow. This as his face, before we enter anything regarding the Lighthouse itself, speaks volumes within a storied history. The man with eyes worn by seemingly a harsher age, but perhaps there be a bit more. Dafoe's eyes carry the same, character simply be it by nature, though with a bit more wily quality within them I'd say, denoting his own storied history as well, though with perhaps with a stranger clarity from it. Each man feels as though they walked out of a picture or perhaps more accurately portrait of this period, this in so seeming of the past, yet still so tangible in that these men be alive for certain as we see them. Well what is as we come across their voices, which are so wonderful in themselves in again creatin' this overwhelming sense of place along with what must be cried as an overwhelming sense of character. In Pattinson there be something he does brilliantly with his accent work, however his basic one of this light, however passive yet still strained voice what sounds as though he stumbled out of a Jack London novel. Dafoe is immediately broader, yet so richly so, in his voice what put the salt truly in the salty sea dog. Dafoe so fiercely embraces it that tis just serve to craft the sense of who Wake be, tis also just quite honestly so enjoyable to hear him speak within his unique cadence. Tis be a voice so thick as the film's atmosphere and so equally delicious, for a lack of a better word, in makin' the language be all the more digestible.

As impressive as this crafting of the character's exterior existence be alone, that is not all there is to either performance, and one of the great joys of this film is seeing these so vivid individuals come to exist within the enclosed space. Tis one of the elements that this land lover adores within the film as though it has a symbolic/allegorical basis the film properly succeeds in stokin' the symbolism in a way that compliment the characters, just as the characters compliment the symbolism, tis the way it should be. Tis here we have Robert Pattinson's portrayal of Winslow work as just a young man attempting to make his way in this new life, starting new as thee may say. What in exuding a frustration in this space and weariness of it that is so profound. This in his captivating portrayal of the man who be building up his anxieties in the walk of each individual duty. Tis in turn that Dafoe be tremendous in presenting the authoritarian and punitive boss. This in barkin' his orders out with a slightly trollin' manner towards a man as each order has a slight accentuation of what be a put down towards Winslow. Dafoe creating an innate viciousness about it that be with the sheer ease of Wake's way of prodding Winslow a bit with each minor remark about that proposed fact of being a dullard as he sees it. This be with Dafoe pressing an ego into every word of a man who be so firm in his belief of the system of Winslow being below him, but tis also with this sense of superiority as though the work be not only below him, however it also be as though Winslow is somehow still not capable of it. Dafoe capturing a beautifully intolerable boss, where Pattinson be the haggard employee. Tis a highlight of this being when Wake compels Winslow to paint the very high lighthouse, to which Pattinson coneys the very real fear and frustration of the task, while Dafoe be nothing more than that of a pestering imp, all while toying the lighthouse company line in the sheer pride of his statements as he suggests the men make the lighthouse look as beautiful as it can be.

The nature of these performance craft a duality and dynamic, as each is reflective of the other, but they differ in crafting the realization of each man's state of being on this here island. A major element that defines each man be seemingly a striking repression, though not even of a single kind. Pattinson in those frustrations creating a festering intensity that perhaps alludes to a bit more than a man simply angry of his mistreatment. There be an intensity there that alludes to something else, worn now within the attempt at appearing as a young lad, hat in hand, calm former timberman ready to become a wickie. Dafoe be equally captivating in suggesting a different, if as dangerous, repression in his portrayal of the man Wake, as he barrages Winslow with his initial duties, but there is a mania that springs forth when he speaks of the more spiritual nature of the sea. When first he commands Winslow avoid killin' a seagull given that they host a lost sailors soul according to Wake, Dafoe launches sharply into a more violent anger of a man whose faith be questioned, when Winslow offers any disregard for this claim. Tis my favorite moment though in the shift Dafoe brings in that there eyes of his in the glance of a man whose perhaps revealed himself a little too openly for the moment, pulling it back into towards a calmer, more meek reminder not to touch the seagull. Tis even as the chaos of what will come, there be the importance of grantin' at least a bit of humanity of each man, that's not the worst of humanity mind yeh. When ole' Winslow describes his hopes upon his job as a wickie there is wistful hope of something for the man that Pattinson inscribes a purity within it, even if it be perhaps not wholly truthful. The same be granted to Dafoe, who seems to memorialize his own love of a woman, that he lost in his greater love for the sea. Dafoe though reckons this with what be a greater tenderness in the man, an honest love to be true, even if spoken as an accepted love to be nearly forgotten.

Well then what have yeh then two pronounced performances that are indeed mean to clash, and clash they do. Tis such color as each men seem to each open within the oddity of their whole affair. Mind yeh, Pattinson for example, he be captivating in his depiction of the man exploring the island as he performs his duties with that there frustration. There be more than hopes of land in this though, as we bear witness to his eyes that tell of a man filled with what be a primal lust of the flesh. This barely held within his frame, and often coming out in masturbatory moments that he portrays with more rage than pleasure, as a man that be as imprisoned within this release, as he would be without it. This be more than a bit different from the sea dog as we see what be the older man's release as we bare witness to Wake within the head of the light beam. We pay witness to a man releasing of a different form of Dafoe's expression that evokes a entrancement of what be a sexual nature, however that be equally within the mythical. Madness perhaps, yet there be such a profound sense of calm in Dafoe's portrayal fitting of a man whose come to accept some other female grace than what one should expect from a far more earthly female. Tis with that though that Dafoe's eyes that are of a possessive keeper, this as he speaks with a secretive glance and a protective eye that extends beyond what be a simple light. Dafoe and Pattinson show what be two men defined by this existence. There be a repression of a different form in each, that be telling to each man, realized with brilliance from each performer. Pattinson in the repression as it relates to earthly desire in turn a earthly distress, and with Dafoe a repression through spiritual acceptance, tis a comfort in worship however still a distress that be lay bear outside of what be in his state of worship.

What cannot be overstated is the greatness of each turn here though fascinating they be in each unique role that each man partake in to craft this grisly tale. Pattinson be the one with whom the perspective be shared, to whom it is that we cannot know what the man sees be reality or a fiction of the mind. The performance of Pattinson though crafts a strange grey state as he is neither sure himself of what be real and what be false. His eyes gripped in a fear, however not a simple fear of one's life but a greater one of an emotional attachment to what it is that he sees in front of him. This be those sexual repressions leadin' him to the embrace of a demonic mermaid, a frightened anguish of sexually induced horror, or the perhaps even more insidious stare Pattinson delivers as the man looks upon with a pervasive guilt of the past marked by visions of logs. Dafoe be the performance that words cannot be made to say more than just in the way this old sea dog speaks them. Tis Dafoe's accent that one can receive boundless joy just from hearin' him speak the words of Wake, markin' what be a grand impact from a single utterance. This portrayal of Dafoe's broachin' of Wake be endlessly fascinating in purposefully being the enigma, against the more knowable Winslow. Each man is what compliments the other however, in a pairing made in Davy Jones's locker for the men, though for we viewers one crafted in paradise. This as their game is a compelling one realized within each interaction between the performers. Dafoe and Pattinson have a chemistry what be one of a great distress but also be one of great connection. The connection be in the state of tenderness in their interaction that near sexual connection at times. That which is not portrayed as homosexuality per se however more within the eyes of each man a fantasy of some woman that be out of reach. Each man speak though nearing a tenderness, a comfort for each between a state of isolation. Tis not pure, but tis palatable in each actor. There be a brilliant display of physical performance by Dafoe and Pattinson, in a moment where the two go from a literal slow dance to marquis of queens bury rule of boxing in a quick shift from romance, to what be a most "manly" display. The shift be natural if still insane reflective of each man's madness through only finding solace within an often hostile companion.

The nature of each be an outstanding realization by each actor in portraying the dissection of man by Pattinson and the purposeful mystery within what defines Dafoe's performance. Pattinson's revelation of the man include his accent, to return to that thar point, where he be fashioning a thicker North American accent, one more fitting of a man with his own pride, not nearly as meek, and more readily capable of what must be some great violence, that his eyes appears to allude. This in fashioning a man with this edge, whose frustrations run deeper than a simple annoyance. Dafoe's work brilliantly elusive in crafting what be a different state, as his work is seen within the eyes of Winslow. Dafoe craftin' the sense within his work of a man who could be gas-lighting Winslow, completely bonkers himself or perhaps an innocent man of sorts himself. The first be in Dafoe's expertly venomous ways as Wake, not only in his orders that he barks with such dominant disdain, but more so the switching states of the man. This never seeming inconsistent within the man, but would be disorienting within the gaze of Winslow. This man who can project a seething rage as he destroys their only boat, but can engage in the strictest innocent eyes when remarking what he claims is the madness of Winslow. Dafoe makin what be a true anxiety in the viewer, as it is for Winslow, in being so unnerving in how truthful the man appears. Tis of course what perhaps alludes to purely being what is bonkers himself as Dafoe's work portrays that strictest devotion to the sea, and to the light. The eyes of a man who be stricken blind to the world other than that which he claims to see. Then again this may be just the delusions of Winslow that craft such a man, as again Dafoe be as convincing in portraying the man who stare in what be a severe disbelief at the confessions of Winslow.

Speakin of the confessions of the timberman, Pattinson's performance of Winslow's confession, of having murdered his previous employer, is one of the most captivating moments of performance I've been witness to in some time. Tis as he speaks with sorrow for the extreme of the deed however not quite a full regret. There be this startling intensity in his eyes still as though he be rationalizing the act just as he still revisits with a sense of guilt. Pattinson finding within that the aggressiveness of a killer, and perhaps the degree of detachment that can be one again. Tis as his work neither offers a pure apology nor be it bereft of honest regret. It be instead human, deeply human, of a man unable to cope with his own flaws. Dafoe not to be undone by a monologue that be infused with a deep pathos, even seems to be as impactful in just the utterance of "Why'd you spill your beans" words he delivers with an eerie power of both a manipulation of the spirit and an accusation of an uncaring soul. Before, I be wrong to get ahead of meself, it would be worthy of treason if I ignore the tonal genius of both performances. This be as each actor carries scenes of great emotion, horror and comedy, however with an astonishing ease and grace. Take the moment where Winslow unleashes every word of hate against Wake, this be a natural explosion of the festering rage in the man, and what is a speech both of hilarity and truth. This be in the man hiding no accent nor disdain in his listing of every flaw and fault of his companion, within just a mess of repression unleashed forth. Pattinson's portrayal be honest, yet wholly humorous, both without compromising the other, while still telling of the man's mental state of decay. Take perhaps the even greater moments of the two within a drunken stupor, a drunken stupor of delight that each actor embrace in what be a grand dance of fools worthy of the highest praise, however falls apart when Winslow casually remarks on Wake's cooking ability. First we are granted one of the funniest reactions that one can pay witness to in 2019, in the sheer disbelief in Dafoe's eyes and only the utmost genuine fear in his expression of Wake's horror that Winslow don't like his cookin. Tis the most mesmerizing moment of acting that I have bared witness in some time that springs forth as Dafoe calls into the air a triton's curse upon Winslow. Dafoe be as terrifying as he was amusing, in his eyes staring directly into your soul, as he speaks with haunting, guttural incantation. In this moment Dafoe himself makes you a believer in the spirits of the deep, as his eyes behold a terrifying mysticism and make thee believe a sea curse be tangible. Tis capped off with yet again a moment of comic gold, in Pattinson's low key and blunt delivery of "all right have it your way, I like your cooking". These be performances of great wonder that weave together a tapestry that does realize themselves as symbols of repressed sexuality, a deranged masculinity, obsessions, regrets of life, representations of a the guard of the godly fire and Prometheus, the duplicity of a man's mind, but also most importantly as men in this odd yet also not wholly alien situation. The final scene fitting of each mind you, as the men reverse power after an altercation, and both performers make the most of this changed state. Pattinson brimming with the cruelty of a hateful master, with Dafoe as a whimpering dog, now chanting his curse as a plea for mercy. This reversal natural to each man broken down towards nothing. This leaving only a cruel end for each, violence again for a former boss of Winslow, and Winslow finding his pride, in again a moment of masterful reaction worthy of any of the great silent thespians of old. His expression evocative of being overwhelmed by a sight he is neither worthy of nor capable of comprehending. Each performer is enthralling as stylistic work of wonder together, and separately. Each man though be set on being both amazing in their broad crafting of these denizens of the lighthouse, but also stunning as their peculiar yet vibrant reflections of humanity...So, yeah I enjoyed their performances.


Matt Mustin said...

I mean, this review is great as written but it's even better if you read it how I did, in the voice of the Sea Captain from The Simpsons.

Calvin Law said...

Y’have a way with words, Louis.


Finally! My bet for Louis's Overall Rank will be like this:

1º Willem Dafoe
2º Robert Pattinson
3º Adam Sandler
4º Robert De Niro
5º Adam Driver
6º George MacKay
7º Leonardo DiCaprio
8º Aaron Paul
9º Shia LaBeouf
10º August Diehl

Calvin Law said...

Louis: thoughts and rating for the gull? Thought that was a particularly committed performance. Short screentime but the impact lingers long after.

Mitchell Murray said...

Don't ye get blasphemous on me, lads, but I've yet to gaze upon this here film on account of me time being spent on different endevours...there be no permanence to that I promise, as me spirits have been greatly awaiting the chance to do so at last..

Edit: Please forgive my poor attempt to replicate the film's dialogue, and I assure you "The Lighthouse" is on my short list of movies to catch up on.

Luke Higham said...

Matt: I did the exact same. :)

Absolutely adored this review, Louis. :)

Calvin Law said...

Mitchell: Don’t read the review. Best go in cold.

Mitchell Murray said...

Calvin: That's exactly what I did, though I'm sure it was well written as per usual.

Aidan Pittman said...

Incredible performances and film. Dying to watch this again once I get my hands on a Blu-Ray copy of this, and thrilled that it's nominated for Cinematography (enough though it won't win).

Louis: Your thoughts on the Makeup/Hairstyling in this film? I think it's seriously underrated work and would easily be my win.

Emi Grant said...

Louis: What remain yer thoughts on that final scene with Winslow and the light?

Emi Grant said...

Also, reading this review I really hope a tie happens. Loved every part of it.

Luke Higham said...

Emi: I think a tie would be really fitting. Also, I do think he should only ever do 1 tie per decade and there's be none from the 2010s.

Mitchell Murray said...

Just so everyone knows, allow me to make a tally of the 2019 films I'm wanting to watch:

"The Lighthouse", "Jojo Rabbit", "A Beautiful Day in the Neighbourhood", "1917", "Harriet", "Bombshell", "Richard Jewell", "Parasite", "Uncut Gems", and to a lesser degree "Waves", "Fighting with my Family" and "Ford V Ferrari".

"..Neighbourhood" I'm still waiting to watch with my mom so that won't be for a little bit. "Uncut Gems" and "Harriet" I could watch fairly soon, and the rest will more or less be in due time.

Psifonian said...


Bryan L. said...

That shot of Pattinson "absorbing" the power of the light at the end was so awesome, I'm just glad it exists.

Charles H said...

Two of the greatest performances from the 2010's and my personal favorite work from Dafoe. Went mad the academy did.

Robert MacFarlane said...

I really wish I loved these performances as much as you guys. Dafoe is fun, and Pattinson has some great silent movie bug-eyes, but I just can’t see these as anything more than formally impressive.

Matt Mustin said...

Rewatched Uncut Gems. I think I'd give Fox probably a 2.5. A lot of her performance is just using her natural sex appeal, which isn't a bad thing, but I feel there was a lot of potential for more complexity that she didn't really deliver on.

Bryan L. said...

This post was originally going to be just ten, but I decided to expand it and it still pained me to leave a couple off. Anyways...

Luke Higham said...

I really hope Pattinson has a substantial role in Tenet this year and silence any doubters with Batman.

Luke Higham said...

And I'm very happy to see The Lighthouse up to #4 in your top ten of the year.

Luke Higham said...

Louis: Your thoughts on Sam Raimi directing Doctor Strange 2.

Calvin Law said...

Is this your top 5 for Dafoe Louis?

1. The Lighthouse
2. At Eternity’s Gate
3. Shadow of the Vampire
4. The Last Temptation of Christ
5. The Florida Project

RatedRStar said...

The Hong Kong Film awards will go as planned despite the coronavirus outbreak, but it will be in a smaller venue, I will post my nomination predictions in the next few days. It will be the final time that I will do this since HK cinema has declined in the last decade or so, and with it being the final year of the 2010s, It may as well end here with the new decade starting.

Tahmeed Chowdhury said...

Phenomenal performances, to say the least. A tied would be deserving.

Louis: Your thoughts on the ending of this film? Has it grown on you, or do you still think it should have ended after Winslow fell?

Calvin Law said...

RatedRStar: I couldn’t name you a single HK film from last year besides Ip Man 4 lol. Any recommendations?

Louis Morgan said...


I mean never have a seen a more impressive birdly performance.


The work is fantastic in terms of fashioning the idiosyncratic looks of the principals, however also some stunning purely visual moments in the other parties we see. Add onto that the moments of viscera are unforgettable in each instance particularly the lobster trap stowaway and merman Dafoe.


I love the scene, part of the reason why I wish the film did end squarely on the shot of him being engulfed by the light, beautiful in its cinematographic effect, love the eerie quality as well of the light opening for him, but the performance of Pattinson sells it as the man being unworthy of the light and struck down by it. The ambiguity of the moment maintained in a way that adds to the scene rather taking from it.


I mean, strange they'd go for him after creative differences with Derrickson, honestly don't know what to make of it, as prime Raimi could be ideal for it, I just not sure how Marvel would allow that, as his work is typically so visually based, and that is where Marvel seems so often to be the most controlling.




I mean I don't have any problems with the ending in a major way, the shot itself is fantastic and fitting to the "seagulls" revenge on Winslow for his earlier actions. It is rather how much I love the engulfed by the light moment where I would've loved it just to end with Pattinson's reaction actually, not that it is a major flaw, or even a flaw.

Bryan L. said...

Louis: Thoughts on the direction for this film? It just gets more and more masterful the more I think about it.

Anonymous said...

Thoughts on the Screenplay.

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