After an indeterminate period of time spent together in the same lighthouse, Robert Pattinson’s Ephraim’s tolerance with Willem Dafoe’s Thomas begins to wane. Before seeing Thomas’ diary outlining concerns about Ephraim’s effectiveness as his assistant, he confronts his coworker about annoyances (including his frequent farting). The two get into a fight, and Pattinson’s character sees a series of confused pictures instead of Thomas as he beats him (a mermaid, an unknown mustachioed man – who may be the man he killed before coming to the lighthouse). Ephraim instructs Thomas to “bark” like a dog once he is down. He then ties him up and leads him out of the home like a dog before burying him alive.
Thomas pursues him, but Ephraim axes his head with a shovel, thus murdering him. Ephraim then climbs to the top of the lighthouse, which Thomas never permitted him to view. We don’t see what Ephraim sees as he reaches the top, but we watch Pattinson’s focus intensify as he looks at the lighthouse’s light source, reaches out and touches something, and screams loudly before sliding down the stairs. A bloodied Pattinson gets picked at the flesh by a flock of seagulls or an apparently uninhabited island in the closing shot.
The Lighthouse | Official Trailer HD
Theories Regarding the Lighthouse’s Demise
What we see on the screen at the conclusion of The Lighthouse is plain and practical: the pair of lighthouse-keepers both went nuts as a result of their time together and die as a result of pushing each other over their breaking limits. However, the film also leaves moviegoers with a deep quality that feels based on a far more sophisticated concept. If you want to go deeper into The Lighthouse’s themes, here are a few hypotheses based on what the filmmaker and performers have said about the film:
Theory #1 – The Lighthouse Is A Modern Retelling Of A Greek Myth
The first thing that comes to mind after viewing the lighthouse is the subtle usage of maritime mythology that is entrenched in the film’s DNA. Co-writer/director Robert Eggers is known for thoroughly studying his projects, and The Lighthouse is no exception. According to Vox, “the concept of fable and myth” is at the “forefront” of the filmmaker’s approach alongside his partner/brother Max Eggers. The couple researched life in the marine community in the nineteenth century and came up with the following story:
“As we complete all of this work, we begin to see a tale unfold. And then we ask, ‘Okay, what fairy tales, folktales, or mythologies is this beginning to resemble?’ Then we thought, ‘Well, Prometheus and Proteus never hung out in any Greek mythology before, but it appears to be what is kind of occurring here,’ and Prometheus could be taking on some characteristics he hasn’t before. But guess what? That was something that classical authors did all the time.”
With Prometheus and Proteus in mind, we might conclude that The Lighthouse may be attempting to portray a tale through a fresh lens by utilizing these mythological Greek characters. Titan Prometheus is described as a trickster who stole fire from the gods and gave it to humans. Zeus bound him to a rock and sent an eagle to devour his liver, which grew back overnight for the same agony to occur the next day. And the sea deity is Proteus. In the case of The Lighthouse, Willem Dafoe’s character is the deity, and Pattinson is Prometheus. When he steals the fire (the lighthouse’s energy source), he suffers the same fate as Prometheus. The image is undeniable:
Theory #2: Thomas and Ephraim are the same people.
Delving deeper into the principles of The Lighthouse, another opinion is that the two major characters in the film symbolize two opposing parts of the same psyche. The film was inspired by a true story about two lighthouse keepers with the same name. They are both called Thomas, as revealed in the film. According to Robert Eggers, the thought of the duo sharing the same name struck a chord with the authors, prompting them to create a film about “identity.”
In a more metaphorical sense, the two protagonists in The Lighthouse might reflect the push and pull between Freud’s Ego and Id in the brain. Because of his primal and natural mentality, Thomas might fit into the “id.” That might explain why, at the conclusion of the movie, he’s barking like a dog. Pattinson’s persona would symbolize the “ego,” which is defined as the component of the id that is directly influenced by the outside environment. Ephraim is the sole character in The Lighthouse who has come from the outside world and wishes to return. As the tale develops, his id is murdered by his ego, who cannot exist without the other.
Theory #3: It’s a satire on man’s complex desires.
This last thought, which concludes the investigation of The Lighthouse theories, is related to the previous concepts since they both deal with desire. Even without mythology or psychoanalysis, the A24 film is an intriguing depiction of man’s complex desires and how giving in to them out of rage or boredom does not end happily. The lighthouse itself may be seen as a sign of desire. Ephraim tries to access it throughout the film, but when he looks into it, it does not provide him with what he seeks. The lighthouse itself is a desirable object for mariners seeking security. However, a lighthouse cannot defend you from the merciless water in the long term. So it’s this hollow want.
So there are a lot of ways to look at The Lighthouse depicted here, and one isn’t necessarily more correct than the other. It all depends on how you choose to look at it.
The Lighthouse Is ‘More Concerned With Questions Than Answers’
If you’re still dissatisfied with the hypotheses offered at this point, you’ve missed the point. The Lighthouse is intended to be difficult. You should finish it and wish to go over each frame. The movie’s discontent and ambiguity provide satisfaction. This film’s capacity to possibly line up with a Greek story, investigate psychology, or evaluate masculinity is quite outstanding. “I’m more about questions than solutions in this movie,” Robert Eggers told HuffPost.
Which theory about The Lighthouse’s finale do you prefer? Vote in our poll below and stay tuned to CinemaBlend for more in-depth looks at movies. Check out CinemaBlend’s ReelBlend podcast conversation with Robert Eggers here.