All credit to Robert Pattinson. Despite global success with the Twilight franchise, he has shown keen, and much promise, by choosing plenty of interesting indie projects to work on. Sure there have been some stinkers (and we most definitely mean High Life), as well as the odd gem, like Good Time.
With him soon to be donning the bat cowl in the upcoming The Batman, as well as starring in Christopher Nolan’s Tenet, his star power will be once again at maximum.
Until then however, here’s a chance to see Pattinson at his quirky indie best.
Arriving on the choppy shores of a small New England island are veteran lighthouse keeper Thomas Wake (Willem Defoe) and his new, young apprentice Ephraim Winslow (Pattinson).
They will be the only pair on the island, maintaining the lighthouse for a period of a month.
It’s not long into their stay before Winslow realises that Wake has no intentions of breaking him gently. Wake is a cantankerous character, proving not only difficult to work under, but due to their intimate surroundings, also to live with.
It takes them a good two weeks before Winslow gets an inkling that Wake may just be warming to him, but even then he knows it won’t be enough to do the job he wants to do; Winslow wants to get to the top of the lighthouse and operate the lamp, as that’s what a ‘wickie’ is supposed to do, but Wake makes it perfectly clear that only he is to be the keeper of the light.
When a big storm hits them hard, making it impossible for Winslow to leave when he should be, the pair are left alone in an increasingly difficult situation. For some, a bout of solitary confinement can bring clarity, but for others it can be the key to madness.
American Robert Eggers has been involved in film for a while, with a number of credits as production designer for shorts, but this is only his second full feature as director. However, he certainly doesn’t waste any time in making an impact.
Shooting entirely in black and white, in a rather unusual ratio (1.19:1, giving it a squared off look, rather than the now standard 16:9 widescreen view), Eggers immediately signals his feature as something different. Add a script that only has two principal actors involved, speaking a quirky kind of dialogue, as well as a truly menacing soundtrack, and you have the definition of an indie flick.
It is so removed from the standard film release, in every way imaginable, that there’s some validity in stating that it’s nothing short of being pretentious. That should take nothing away from it being quite remarkable however.
Eggers has produced a compelling and unsettling piece of film, which manages to be simultaneously theatrical and cinematic. Pattinson and Defoe are darkly beguiling; it’s difficult for an audience to side with either one of them, but their behaviour draws you to them both like proverbial moths to a curious flame.
It is a film about darkness, the kind that can exist in us all. Eggers places his protagonists in an isolated location, allowing this darkness in them both to fester and manifest further. The irony is of course, that the pair are in charge of a huge light source, that both are keen to get their hands on.
In producing such a startling vision, Eggers has already elevated his position as a director with a promising career most definitely worth keeping a spotlight on.
Throwing so much of the unconventional all at once at an audience makes it a challenging watch, as well as a tad overwhelming, but it’s certainly an experience you won’t forget in a hurry.
It must be reassuring to Pattinson – and to his loyal legion of fans around the world - that if it does go tits up in the bat cave (not that it's likely to), he can always return to being the darling of the indie world, where he can continue with impressive work like this.