CANNES – Robert Eggers blasts away the competition with his second feature, the magnificent The Lighthouse, starring Robert Pattinson and Willem Dafoe. We were at the post-screening Q&A to hear the director and his two leads talk about their experiences of making this darkly funny film.
THE REHARSAL PROCESS Robert Pattinson: «I’ve never been in such long rehearsals. 3 weeks»
Robert Eggers: «It was one week, but it felt like 3 weeks to you!»
Robert Pattinson: «One week! Seriously? We were contained in this hotel room in Halifax and it built up a sense of containment».
Willem Dafoe: «I love rehearsal. I saw The Witch and loved it, so said ‘let’s do something together’. Richard did a lot of research into lighthouses, the history, the songs, the dialects. But when you start filming, you throw it all out. The principle thing you are dealing with are the elements. The weather, basically».
THE SHOOTING R.E.: «We built every building you see in the film, so we shot on the north tip of Nuova Scotia on this volcanic rock island. We built a 70ft working lighthouse whose light could be seen 16 miles away. It was a very unforgiving place and the wind was relentless. We wouldn’t have had the believability without the elements. We did have wind machines, but mainly it was real».
R.P.: «As you can imagine, the more physical the part is, the more realism there is. You can get into the character’s head. Pushing a wheelbarrow in those conditions was impossible, but it was a joy to do it».
THE CHALLENGES R.P.: «The scene in which I am running to see the mermaid. I know it doesn’t look death-defying, but running instead of walking very carefully on those rocks like blades in period shoes was one of the more terrifying things I have ever done».
W.D.: «Spoiler alert: being buried alive isn’t great. It’s not pleasant being buried alive and spouting beautiful poetic dialogue with earth thrown into your face».
THE AESTHETICS R.E.: «I shot in black and white 35mm negative. It’s very tactile; you can see every pore of the actors’ faces. It’s not supposed to be like an old film but it does reference them. The square format was great for filming lighthouses and we had a special lens made to create early chromatic film. For the language, my brother and I read a lot of period texts to absorb the vibe of how people spoke. Obviously Moby Dick is great literature and Melville’s language was an influence. Willem’s dialect was that of a Maine farmer and Robert’s was a sailor’s dialect. We had a book by Sarah Orne Jewett of stories that were transcribed using dialects and that was an important source for us».