What's a timber man like you want with being a wicky?

"What's a timber man like you want with being a wicky?"

I have theories about what happens in The Lighthouse.  No certainty; only theory. Before I get into the grotty details,  first is the obligatory warning that what lies ahead is riddled with spoilers. You have been warned.

Robert Eggers burst onto everyone's radar with his first film, The VVitch (or, more normally,  The Witch). It was a deliberately paced, incredibly creepy tale of a young girl's descent into eventual witchcraft.  The film was a feminist empowerment story that built to and ending that was happy if somewhat askew. Eggers built tension through mood and kept the audience guessing until the final frame.  We all assumed that his sophomore film would be a similar type of horror.

We were wrong.

The lighthouse is shot is stark black and white and presented in a nearly square aspect ratio.   It is all light and shadow and glorious to look at. The plot, on its surface,  is sparse.

Ephraim (Robert Pattinson) arrives at the lighthouse to work under the old lighthouse keeper, Thomas (Willem Dafoe). The two men bristle and annoy each other.  Thomas insists that Ephraim is lazy and shirking his duties. He tells the younger man the tale of an earlier apprentice who went mad; convinced that he was haunted by mer-people and that there was some strange power in the light.

The light,  by the way, is the domain of Thomas.  Ephraim is not allowed up the spiral stair. A word on that staircase.  Several times we see it perfectly centered in frame from below. It looks for all the world like the tentacle of some eldritch creature out of the fevered mind of Lovecraft.  Later we will see an actual giant tentacle.  It will be unclear if it is real, or if it exists in Ephraim's tortured mind.

Ephraim has issues with seagulls.  The birds constantly harrass him. Eventually he snaps and kills one. He had been warned that to do so would bring very bad luck,  but he does it anyway.

The two men finally come to an accord of sorts. On what is meant to be their last night on the island they stay up late talking and drinking.  As a result they oversleep and miss the boat that is to take them to the mainland.

Here things get a bit confusing.

A terrible storm came during the night. Either hours or weeks passed and the supplies ran short. Perhaps Ephraim went mad. Thomas came at him with an ax and chopped up the lifeboat.  Or did Ephraim do that? It seems to depend on who you ask.

Ephraim kills Thomas.

Or did he?

Here is my theory.

There is no Ephraim.  Thomas, when he came to the lighthouse as a young man went mad. There was something in the light, you see. Something powerful.  He killed the old lighthouse keeper and disposed of the body. He covered his tracks and made up a story to explain what happened to the older man. Perhaps he fell into the sea and was washed away.

Now, years later the weight of guilt has finally gotten to him. His mind brings a younger version of himself to confront him and force him to see the gravity of his actions.  He is alone on the island contending with himself.

Or maybe there's a strange power in the light.

The Lighthouse is a marvelous film. Both actors deliver powerful performances. It's weird and dark and will live in your thoughts ling after the credits roll.