'The Lighthouse' Director Robert Eggers on Isolation, Dafoe and Pattison, and Staying Serious
Published Oct 21, 2019Robert Eggers is part of a new class of horror directors drawing from history to find chills and scares that resonate with the modern world. But where his full-length directorial debut, 2016's The Witch, focused on supernatural terrors, The Lighthouse is a horror of a different kind. Chronicling two lighthouse keepers (Willem Dafoe and Robert Pattinson) as they succumb to isolation, Eggers' film mines the bleak terrain for a disturbing atmosphere that offers the protagonists little comfort from severe winds, rainstorms and waves.
At a roundtable interview at the Toronto International Film Festival, Eggers discusses the ways he set the tone. "It was about finding the things that are scary about this setting and indulging in them," he offers. "Certainly, every little kid knows the first time they get sucked under a wave that Mother Nature wins every time."
Mother Nature certainly had her share of victories during filming. The film was shot on location in Cape Forchu, Nova Scotia under harsh conditions. "The wind was always howling in Cape Forchu. The exterior sound we virtually almost never could use because it was so bad," says the director.
But it's not all depraved conditions and psychological terrors — the film has an undercurrent of humour. "It was a mea culpa after The Witch, which takes itself so damn seriously," says Eggers of the film's humorous tone. "Being miserable is hilarious! My brother and I, writing the script, really wanted to embrace that."
The film's stars helped bring levity to both the film and the shooting itself. "Rob and Willem are incredible comedians. In fact, when we were shooting it, I kept saying to the editor, 'I think this is too funny.' And Rob, in some of the physical actions that we don't have in the movie, he's doing, like, Buster Keaton splits. It's really hilarious, but it was too far."