Robert Eggers likes to provoke sensations in the viewer that transport him straight into the atmosphere of terror and mental maladjustment that is always present in his films. In the case of “O Farol” (2019), it is not only a question of weaving excellent metaphors on madness; the director wants audiences to push beyond their limits, relying on high-quality cinematic resources such as sound design and photography.
“The Lighthouse” is a nightmare, and even worse if not for those who watch the film, because it’s unclear when an ending can be seen for the cornucopia of haunting imagery that can be screen views. Knowing that he is causing real panic in the public, from which there is no escape, Eggers manages to match Alfred Hitchcock (1899-1980) of “The Birds” (1963) and “Psycho” (1960) , more like this one. from an aesthetic point of view, since they are both in black and white, while elevating their story to the height of the great works of FW Murnau (1888-1931), such as “Nosferatu” (1922) and the centenary “Caminhada Noite “Inside” (1921).
The psychotic personalities of Thomas and Ephraim, each with their very particular obsessions, are evident from the very first take of “The Lighthouse.” Everything is dominated by a thick fog of shadows, in order to convey the idea of the complete indefiniteness in which the characters of Willem Dafoe and Robert Pattinson live, as if, with the possibility of shooting in black and white, Eggers wanted to insinuate to the gray audience, which is neither, but an eternal night yearning for a dawn that never rises. You get to know the day-to-day lives of the two, Thomas, the older sailor played by Dafoe, the head of mission tasked with overseeing the activities of Ephraim, Pattinson – and it’s clear that already in this dramatic arc there are conflicts of a certain depth. . The veteran does not care to be nice to his subordinate, finding a way, when inspecting the heavy cleaning and permanent repairs of the machinery, to clarify that there is no relationship there other than strictly professional . Obviously, the forced proximity between the two, abandoned somewhere in the middle of the ocean, with only New England at the end of the 19th century as a civilization reference, generates episodes of intimacy, albeit artificial and dispensable. As when Thomas addresses Ephraim in falsely endearing terms, which denote his contempt for him, or tells him one of his endless stories, not hesitating to give free rein to the imperatives of his instinct when he feels like it – this which is yet even more outrageous behavior.
All in small subtleties, the plot of “O Farol” uses elements of the fantastic to evoke the presence of evil, of the diabolical element in human life, as in “A Bruxa” (2015): the round of a sweet satan, in the form of a one-eyed seagull, pursuing Ephraim. In the 2015 film, Anya Taylor-Joy’s protagonist Thomasin was also tormented by a toned down (but not so much) version of the devil, who manifested for her by possessing Black Phillip, the family’s black goat, if persuasive that he ends up losing the girl. Regarding the seabird, the bird reveals itself as the serpent to Eve in “Genesis”, challenging Ephraim (“the double”, in ancient Hebrew, that is- i.e. a shrewd and cunning man), to investigate the mysteries behind the habits of the partner, which, as with Thomasin, also does not end well for the underling, in a denouement that harkens back to the Greek myth of Prometheus.
Duel is also the best word to describe the work of Willem Dafoe and Robert Pattinson, one better than the other. The former protagonist of the “Twilight” saga has shown the discipline necessary to become a performer worthy of the opportunities entrusted to him. Pattinson skids, according to his approach to the dolphin of France, in “The King” (2019), by David Michôd, but he also leaves the viewer asking for more, as evidenced by his remarkable performances in the thriller “The Devil of Every Day” » (2020), directed by Antonio Campos, and “Water for Elephants” (2011), by Francis Lawrence, an inspired romantic drama. Thomas by Willem Dafoe, on the other hand, is one of the great roles of his career. a neurasthenic and repulsive type, but also captivating for its verisimilitude, Dafoe — deservedly consecrated in productions such as “Platoon” (1986), by Oliver Stone, and O Beijo da Mulher Aranha (1985), by Argentinian -Brazilian Hector Babenco (1946-2016) — competes with his colleague, as truly seduced by his characters, offering the public a spectacle worthy of great cinema.
Attack of the senses, nothing is defined in “O Farol”, and this is precisely its asset. Living on an island off the northeast coast of the United States, in a time even darker than ours, should be enough to try to unravel the madness of its protagonists. Going beyond can be a one-way trip.
Direction: Robert Egger