Robert Pattinson, Willem Dafoe and director Robert Eggers break down the sensual undertones of their tense buddy movie.
By Matthew Jacobs | HuffPost
The movies love a bad-roommate saga. Sometimes they end in harmony, recognizing that opposites attract (“The Odd Couple,” “The Goodbye Girl”) and fate brings compatible buffoons together (“Step Brothers”). Other times, the characters’ discord results in homicide (“Single White Female”), eviction (“Bridesmaids”) and more casualties.
“The Lighthouse” teeters somewhere between those extremes. Robert Pattinson and Willem Dafoe play lightkeepers bunking on a remote island off the coast of Maine in the 1890s, where they spend four weeks doing tiresome physical labor and safeguarding the titular edifice. The weather soon turns nasty. So does the tension. Every issue that arises when sharing a confined space — bottled-up emotions, chores, boredom, meals, hormones, flatulence — turns into a power struggle.
Beneath that psychodrama lies an unspoken tenderness that is, in a word, homoerotic.
Ephraim Winslow (Pattinson) arrives as the apprentice to longtime lighthouse guardian Thomas Wake (Dafoe). Alone together in a mental tug of war, Ephraim becomes the submissive to Thomas’ dominant. As much as they externalize hypermasculine paradigms, the loneliness of their isolation reveals a need for affection that was there all along.
At first, indignant Ephraim seems to display an Oedipal fixation on gruff Thomas, jealous of his boss’s access to the lighthouse, which possesses a mystical allure, while he is relegated to menial tasks. But that envy gives way to something more erotic, fueled by phallic euphemisms and low-grade booze. The more these men suppress their cravings for companionship, the more intimacy and animosity meld. Ephraim and Thomas eventually find themselves dancing in the night and coming deliriously close to sharing a kiss.
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