The time it was about The Lighthouse

Posted October 21, 2019 by Stacee in Movies | 0 Comments

I’ve been a subscriber to the Arclight Cinemas newsletter for a while.  A million years ago, we went to a Q&A with Kevin Smith and the cast of Mallrats and I’ve been hooked ever since, but I digress…

I got an email the other day about the upcoming Q&A sessions that were being held at the Arclight over the weekend.  I glanced through it, never having heard of the movie that was being promoted, but when I saw that Robert Pattinson and Willem Defoe were going to be in attendance, I bought tickets first and figured everything else out later.

We got up to Hollywood with loads of time to spare.  We found some JGoldcrown murals, got some coffee and lunch, and then headed over to the Arclight to look at the exhibits before heading into the famous Dome.


Right after the movie a woman from Rotten Tomatoes came out {I didn’t catch her name} and told us that she would be moderating a Q&A with director Robert Eggers, WIllem Defoe, and Robert Pattinson.  She introduced all of them and then settled into the conversation.

The entire thing lasted about 20 minutes, but I’m only going to share a bit from it.  The sound was great for me to hear in person, not so great for my phone to pick up and record.

Moderator: So, I have to say that everyone in this audience is probably having the same reaction I did the first time I saw this, which was “what the hell was that?”

Robert,  I want to talk with you first because you wrote this with your brother and the amount of flatulence and masturbation and two men in a room, I feel like you were working something out. Maybe some childhood memories?

RE: I am seven years older than Max, so we had a more distant relationship until recently. There was less of that kind of specific stuff and more of me just being a mean lighthouse keeper tormenting his assistant.  Max is a very nice guy. The flatulence does come from personal experience, but not with my brother.  Working in the dregs of the New York film world, there was a lot of low budget projects where I was sharing close quarters with flatulent colleagues.

Moderator: this film is so detailed, it just jumps off the screen. It almost feels like a documentary than a period piece. I know it’s not by accident because of the intense research you guys did. Let everyone know what your process was to research the movie.

RE: It’s fairly easy to research a lighthouse movie. People like lighthouses, a lot of people like lighthouses. Not that many people care about agricultural lifestyle in colonial New England.  You can actually get the lighthouse keeper’s manual that we use in the film on Google Books. Another thing that was wonderful was that photography had been invented, so you could see exactly what these lighthouse stations look like and what lighthouse keepers were wearing. Obviously there’s not a lot of talk of flatulence and masturbation, but I have to believe it was happening in the 19th century.

When it comes to the language, that was harder, but you look at the lighthouse keeper’s journals and interviews with lumberjacks and you’re going to open up Melville. Finally, Sarah Orne Jewett from the good ole state of Maine, she was writing this period and interviewing working men in coastal Maine and writing her main stories in dialect phonetically. With her work, my brother and I could really recreate these two men’s dialect with specificity.

Moderator: Willem, I want to talk to you about joining this because I know you said that you sought Robert out after seeing The Witch.  What was it about that particular film that made you say you had to work with him?

WD: The world was specific, the world was so complete. It felt like a period film where you could really enter that world in a clean way. You’re not pointing at anything, I think it comes from the period detail and imagination. I had the sense that this film was going to be realized in a beautiful way.

Moderator: Rob, you’ve been very vocal about the fact that after so much success early in your career, you’ve been particular about who you work with.  What was it about this script that really jumped out?

RP: I think it’s the very discordant tones.  I remember reading it for the first time and it takes such a hard left turn halfway through and I thought “how is this all going to gel together”

RE {to RP}: I remember meeting with you for potential other things and you were always cordial and nice. After getting this script, you were very animated.  You were trying to charge your laptop because you had notes and questions.

Moderator: Willem was there anything on the inside or maybe on your costume that people would be surprised to learn was vintage or authentic?

WD: The layers and just the practicality of it all. It’s just wonderful to enter a world that’s so complete.  It tells you how to behave and how to tell a story. And since we built it all, we controlled it and that was our world.

Moderator: How did you get your details onto the screen?

RE: The main trouble was that this all came together so quickly and we didn’t have a lot of time to build all of it. We were building this entire lighthouse station on a rock with this incredibly inhospitable weather.  We had three nor’easters blow over us while we were building.  It was winter and so cold that the salt water was freezing on the scaffolding. We had to halt the build a couple of times and we had to have everyone in Nova Scotia who could hold a hammer helping us just to make sure we had it done in time.

Craig Lathrop {the production designer} always delivers more than he says he can, that’s just the kind of guy he is.  He’ll say something is impossible and then the next week, he’ll sort it out. You need someone like that to make a 70 foot lighthouse that can sustain gale force winds and people being up there and the lens literally weighs a ton. Especially when people were telling us we were going to have to just build half and then use CG.  Where’s the fun in that?

Moderator: I was talking with Rob backstage and telling him how I saw the screening at Cannes and you guys, if you thought seeing it tonight was weird, just imagine seeing it at 8am when you’re really jet lagged. You all really delivered.

There were a couple of tangents and parts of the conversation that I couldn’t quite hear on the recording, but this is a good portion of the conversation.

As for the movie, it was gorgeously shot.  I loved the black and white and the weird aspect ratio.  We’re already planning on going to see it again and I’ll leave the trailer below.

What do you think? Will you be seeing the movie?

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