The Lighthouse

I saw this movie in the theater. There were only two other people there and after the movie ended I heard one say to the other “what the hell did we just watch”. Ten minutes earlier I would have agreed with his sentiment; however, the last scene lit a lightbulb in my head and I suddenly realized everything. I was certain I knew exactly what I had just watched and I really wanted to scream at the two random people “wait! I’ll explain”. Fortunately, I recognized how awkward that would be for all of us. So I went home and, with my inflated confidence, I scrolled around movie sites and realized that everyone has a theory and it isn’t the same as mine! Seriously, that shocked me. I was so certain that I had the correct theory and that I would soon be validated by the writers (they’ve actually decided not to tell us what they intended and are allowing us to have our own opinions). I rewatched the movie last night and I’m still pretty on board with my original thoughts. Before you read on, please know I will be talking very specifically about the movie from beginning to end so if you haven’t seen it, I recommend experiencing this movie before allowing me to spoil it for you. I will say here, however, the black and white paired with the aspect ratio is beautifully daunting to watch. It is really filmed impeccably and the acting is fantastic. My review will be solely on my theory of what it is about and not at all on the technical aspects.


So I will just lay it out there that I believe this movie is about the character Thomas Howard, and the story he tells in the third act about the accident with his foreman, Ephraim Winslow in which Ephraim drowned. As I see it, Thomas attempts the journey back, faces many hardships including a Nor’Easter like storm and eventually starves to death. The film that we watch shows this downfall into madness and ultimately death through a fantasy that Thomas plays in his head as he is nearing death.

The Lighthouse starts out with Thomas Howard (whose name we don’t yet learn) as a quiet yet hard working young man staying with Thomas Wake, the light keeper. Wake represents many different people that Howard knows in his current or past life but initially he represents Ephraim Winslow. From the start Wake calls Howard “old dog” and uses condescending language and tone. Howard is calm and quiet and obeys the orders he is given. “Old dog” is a phrase that Ephraim used repeatedly as he was dying and Thomas was letting him drown. So I am convinced that we start here with Ephraim and Thomas eating crappy food while Ephraim drank the alcohol. We continue to watch Thomas work very hard manual labor– he is working alone for the most part. Right off the bat Thomas has a vision of a dead body in the sea and then we see him drowning right before he wakes up. The movie skips ahead and he’s been there 4 weeks with 1 night left and tells Wake that he wants to be called by his name, Ephraim Winslow. This is the point where Ephraim has died and Thomas has taken on his identity since Ephraim has a much better track record and Thomas says later on this reason. He and Wake both drink on this night with a toast to “relief”. The next day Thomas does not get picked up and a Nor’Easter comes in setting up the descent into madness. There are so many easter eggs in here that I can point out that support my theory, especially in the conversations that are held between the two. Thomas insists that help will come the next day and Wake calls him out on pretending that things are fine when they clearly aren’t. They begin rationing. There is a scene where he is climbing the side of the lighthouse using a pulley system that resembles climbing a mountain, the pulley breaks and Thomas falls to the ground. The next scene all is fine. Thomas gets to a point where the food isn’t enough and he just wants a steak. Things get all muddled up throughout like someone is going mad. By the very end, they’ve switched places and Thomas has Wake on a leash. That switch happens in the middle of a sentence and is really cool.

So with all that, there’s also the light. Thomas badly wants to get to it and Wake is firmly against him seeing it. I am not firm on where I stand at this point but it seems like Thomas Wake is a barrier to the coveted “light” and since I believe that Thomas Howard is the only person alive in this story and Thomas Wake is a manifestation of several people from Howard’s mind. Starting with Ephraim, sometimes he is his father, but mostly Wake represents himself (Thomas Howard). As himself, he is protecting the light because he is trying not to die; however, he gets to a point where he is obsessed with the light and finally gets there and is able to die.

I don’t think my theory disrupts any ideas of the Greek mythology that is so obviously present because the entire movie is mythical.

Convince me that I’m wrong.