Thursday, November 9, 2023

Robert Eggers (Ongoing Filmmaker Archive)

Eggers combines period-accurate historicity with an otherworldly tendency in each of his three features. His debut The Witch (2015), shot in austere natural light and claustrophobic spaces, and using stripped-down production values, took place in a New England forest and drew much of its dialogue from actual journals written around 1630. However, the haunting elevation in the finale is a pure folk horror movie flourish. His follow-up, The Lighthouse (2019), a film that I have come to love since my original lukewarm review, employed vintage cameras to capture stark black-and-white images, lending the appearance of an old photograph to match the nineteenth-century locale. Yet, Robert Pattinson’s wickie finds himself overcome by nautical folklore, including a mermaid, tentacles, and an old story about the dangers of killing seabirds. Finally, The Northman features an equal helping of mythos embedded into the screenplay by Eggers and his Icelandic co-writer Sjón. Although they sourced Viking historians to ensure the accuracy of their research, including scant archeological evidence compared to other ancient cultures, the writers also infuse rituals, magic, and prophecy into the mix. - Brian Eggert


The Witch (2015) (click on title for resources for after you watch the film)
"As thought-provoking as it is visually compelling, The Witch delivers a deeply unsettling exercise in slow-building horror that suggests great things for debuting writer-director Robert Eggers." - Rotten Tomatoes critics consensus

The Lighthouse (2019)
Film Description: "Two lighthouse keepers try to maintain their sanity while living on a remote and mysterious New England island in the 1890s."

Resources for after you watch the film:
Eggers, Robert. "The Lighthouse." The Film Comment Podcast (October 23, 2019) ["The Lighthouse is the mind-bending new movie out from Robert Eggers, a director who’s making a career out of revisiting America’s primal past in vividly imagined period films. In 2015, Eggers won the Best Directing Award at Sundance for The Witch, a chilling piece of horror set in a colonial New England settlement. In The Lighthouse, Willem Dafoe and Robert Pattinson star as two lighthouse keepers, a grizzled old-timer and his new apprentice, in 19th century Maine. For our latest Film Comment Talk at Film at Lincoln Center, FC Editor-in-Chief Nicolas Rapold spoke with Eggers about the art, craft, and angst of making the movie, fleshing out the details of its setting, and what he’d do with an unlimited budget."]

Hudson, David. "Robert Egger's The Lighthouse." The Current (May 21, 2019)

Macauley, Scott. "Sonic Menace: Composer Mark Korven on Scoring Robert Eggers’s The Lighthouse." Filmmaker (December 10, 2019)

The Northman (2022) [Click on title for resources after you have watched the film]
"A bloody revenge epic and breathtaking visual marvel, The Northman finds filmmaker Robert Eggers expanding his scope without sacrificing any of his signature style." - Rotten Tomatoes critics consensus
"Even if “The Northman” had been a dreadful bore — and not a primal, sinewy, gnarly-as-fuck 10th century action epic that starts with a hallucinogenic Viking bar mitzvah, features Björk’s first narrative film performance since “Dancer in the Dark,” and ends with two mostly naked men fighting to the death atop an erupting volcano — the simple fact that financiers had the chutzpah to bankroll such a big swing in the face of our blockbuster-or-bust theatrical climate would have felt like a (pyrrhic) victory against the forces of corporate homogenization, no matter who was behind the camera." - David Ehrlich
"Early in The Northman, a Viking epic from arthouse favorite Robert Eggers, a wise man asks a king and prince to prove they are men. The nobles, crawling on their hands and knees, growling and howling like dogs, respond with a respective belch and fart. In doing so, both prove they’re “wise enough to be the fool.” The scene demonstrates a guiding philosophy in Eggers’ work that values historical reality over audience expectation. The sprawling, panoramic production conveys Viking life with authentic details, telling a vast and gory tale of revenge centered on Alexander Skarsgård, who helped develop the film. Eggers doesn’t shrink from realities that might seem silly, cruel, or divisive today. Much like the singular ambition of its central warrior, The Northman reaches for historical and mythological accuracy, refusing to bend to modern sensibilities to soften the blow of anthropological interest. That artistic choice results in refreshing and brave filmmaking, but it’s also distancing. In a sense, Eggers does not care if the moviegoing public comes away having learned about themselves or achieved some measure of catharsis. The film serves the internal needs of its protagonist, nothing more. The conceit is admirably single-minded." - Brian Eggert

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