The Lighthouse

The Lighthouse

After I watched The Lighthouse, I had a long late-night discussion about it with one of my best friends. We saw the same film and had such radically different experiences. For her, there was the scratching of an itch; for me, only alienation from the images at hand.

Where did it lose me? Was it the aspect ratio, the unreal silent-movie judder, its insistence on slathering its humor with oozing portent? Was it that this story of two men began with one of them fervently glimpsing the other's nude ass through an ersatz peephole in a leaky ceiling, and then didn't bring the fuck? Certainly Pattinson and Dafoe are shedding enough magnetism to blow the doors off a bank vault, but it's an energy of attraction that is constantly flipping over to repulsion, because attraction is untenable. The closet, the sea, the straight-jacket of compulsory heterosexuality, whatever you want to call it, is the victor in this struggle. And I've been watching that shit destroy men for my entire life. Dressing it up all Old Timey and chucking in Prometheus and seagull battery and mermaid pussy and agonized fapping doesn't make that more enticing. I tire of joyless farting standing in for unconsummated gay sex; we already did that with Swiss Army Man. And at least there we got a flatulent catharsis.

But the texture of the thing stays with me, and I feel some tendril of the humane snaking through my memory of this odd little thing. It is, maybe, the tendril of what could have been, my imagination of a tender grotesquerie between two bodies, and not the circular power struggle that it actually was. Maybe that softness is a shadow in my mind, a rebuke to this acrid light. Or maybe I missed something.

Point is, a movie where Willem Dafoe briefly turns into an Octopus God should have shocked me into giddy and libidinous euphorics. It didn't, but The Lighthouse still lingers, a vivid and memorable dream. I just think it needs a coda, say, if I went to sleep right now and dreamed of two wizened lighthouse keepers, softly boning.

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