The meaning, symbolism and theories of the film
Robert eggers Lighthouse is a 2019 film that has amazed and amazed viewers around the world. From the creator of The witch, it followed suit as a type of horror film but made a name for itself as a powerful concept film. Starring Willem Dafoe and Robert Pattinson, the film follows the story of two lighthouse keepers as they tend to an isolated lighthouse for four weeks.
But its plot is dense with thematic elements and it raises more questions than it answers. With a unique format and style, the film combines stylistic elements with a dark plot to make a thrilling, unexpected and confusing film. With that in mind, let’s dive into what exactly Lighthouse is about and what that potentially means.
What is the history of the lighthouse?
Lighthouse follows two lighthouse keepers, Thomas Wake and Ephraim Winslow, as they take on a four-week watch shift at an isolated lighthouse. Ephraim works under the direction of longtime caretaker Thomas and has to do most of the heavy manual labor around the small island. Meanwhile, Thomas is really only concerned with the light and will not let Ephraim go up there under any circumstances. But when their four-week shift is over, a devastating storm prevents their tender boat from picking them up, leaving them stranded. After the disappearance of their rations, they consume only alcohol and, possibly, turpentine.
They both seem to be descending into insanity, as Ephraim, who also turned out to be called Thomas Winslow, becomes increasingly obsessed with a mermaid story he overheard from his superior. Sometimes it seems like Thomas Wake turns Winslow on, driving him crazy from the start. But as their time together on the island grows longer, it becomes difficult to tell if a single one of them is crazy and not both. Their isolation on the island ruins them both, and when Ephraim finally gets to see what’s in the lighthouse, it immediately results in his death.
What are the themes and symbolism of the lighthouse?
Lighthouse is more than just a horror / thriller movie – it contains many layers of symbolism and thematic elements that deepen the story. The most notable thematic element is the style. Eggers decided to shoot in black and white and with a unique aspect ratio of 1.19: 1. The whole tone of the movie is influenced by this stylistic choice and that makes the genre unique, and sometimes it’s hard to tell if it’s a supernatural thriller or a psychological horror movie.
Another major theme of Lighthouse is psychoanalysis, Eggers having been strongly influenced by the work of Carl Jung. Eggers plays with Odipe’s complex in the relationship between his protagonists, as Winslow sees Thomas as some kind of father figure he is bound to impress. There is also glaring phallic symbolism, with the actual lighthouse being the largest. Since the film is about two lonely men on an island, the themes of sexuality and masculinity are definitely included.
It all ties into the overall theme of the film, mythology. Lighthouse is inspired by the myths of sailors and classical mythology, as it deals prominently with mermaids. But there are some major references to other Greek myths. During what appears to be a hallucination on Winslow’s part, he sees Thomas adorned with tentacles and sea creatures, referring to Proteus, a prophesying god who serves Poseidon. Additionally, when Winslow finally sees what’s in the lighthouse, he collapses on the stairs and has his innards eaten by seagulls – a clear reference to the myth of Prometheus, who set humans on fire. and suffered the consequences of having his liver eaten by an eagle every day.
What does Thomas see in the light?
A seemingly impossible question, but one that the film definitely leaves open – what does Thomas Winslow actually see in the light? Because the film is so based on classic mythology, the idea of light is more of a red herring than an actual tangible object. While people may speculate that a mermaid secretly lives in the light, given the film’s constant allusions to mermaids, Eggers suggests that this is more of the Prometheus myth than anything else.
If Thomas Winslow is based on Prometheus, then he certainly challenges a god (if Thomas Wake is meant to be Proteus) by entering the sacred lighthouse. For this, he is quickly and severely punished by falling to death. Throughout the movie, Winslow searches for answers about what really happened with Wake’s former partner and what Wake is hiding in the lighthouse. And when he looks at the light he sees thematically all – the truth, hidden from him all the time. Like any human, Winslow cannot handle this eternal knowledge and is surrendered to his death so that the truth can remain hidden.
While this is certainly only speculation, Eggers must be aware. In an interview with Vox, he said “Last night at a screening someone asked me, ‘Why didn’t you take a picture of what Rob [Pattinson] see at the end of the film? ‘ And I said, “Because if you saw it, that same fate would happen to you.” He leaves the end to the spectator’s interpretation, like any good myth before him.
What is the significance of the lighthouse?
With all this information, there is still no concrete answer to what Lighthouse really means. Ultimately, Eggers probably wants viewers to interpret the film for themselves. While there are concrete themes about isolation, insanity, and the nature of humanity, the film’s ending leaves more questions than answers, leaving the viewer to draw their own conclusions. Maybe Thomas Wake is a god, given that he can gaze into the light repeatedly and survive, or maybe he was slowly driven mad by sight, which made him mad as well. his partners. All in all, this is a fantastic film in that it raises larger questions that are open to debate, leaving viewers hungry for answers.
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