'The Lighthouse's insane ending, explained by director Robert Eggers
"I had to be a responsible filmmaker and not harm people."
The Lighthouse is a very weird movie. Pretty much from the moment Robert Pattinson steps onto that rocky island and Willem Dafoe lets loose a loud fart (technically the first bit of dialogue in the moviie) you know you’re in for something different, but by the end of Robert Eggers’ latest New England folk horror movie, even the most observant viewer will probably be extremely confused.
Deconstructing what actually happens at the end of The Lighthouse feels like an impossible task, and even the director doesn’t seem comfortable revealing exactly what we’re supposed to think or feel when the credits roll.
“Those kinds of questions I simply can’t supply,” Eggers tells Inverse when asked about the movie’s ending. But as the conversation continued, he opened up a bit more about what Robert Pattinson’s character sees in the lighthouse and what it all might mean.
Be warned, lad! Rocky shores Spoilers ahead for The Lighthouse.
Throughout The Lighthouse, Dafoe’s character spends a lot of time up in the lantern room at the top of the building where he may or may not be hiding a Cthulhu-esque tentacle monster. Pattinson is never allowed up there, but after he kills Dafoe, he finally makes it to the top of the lighthouse.
Once there, Pattinson pulls open the lantern door and gazes into the light. Then he screams and falls backgrounds, ultimately tumbling all the way down to the bottom of the lighthouse. In the movie’s final shot, we see Pattinson laying on the beach with his eyes burned out as seagulls peck at his rotting corpse and exposed guts. It’s gross as hell, and just as confusing.
So what did Pattinson see? We may never know.
“If I photographed what Robert Pattinson saw in those final moments, his fate would befall the audience,” Eggers says. “So I had to be a responsible filmmaker and not harm people.”
Ok, Bob, whatever you say.
Moving on, I couldn’t help but notice that the final shot of Pattinson bears a striking resemblance to the myth of Prometheus, the Titan in Greek mythology who teaches the humans about fire and is horrifically punished by having birds eat his organs forever as a result.
“Classical authors reinterpret these myths in slightly different ways to serve slightly different purposes. You know, does Prometheus ever encounter Proteus in any classical mythology? Not that I’m aware of, but maybe that’s happening in this movie. And so, therefore, Prometheus is taking on some of the heroes that wrestle with Proteus’s characteristics as well as his own. But I mean, Apollo was a Chthonic underworld god before he was the God of the sun. So things evolve and they’re evolving here too.”
Gotcha. So Pattinson is Prometheus and Dafoe is Proteus (a prophetic old man who served Poseidon and basically acted as a shepherd for seals). As for what Pattinson/Prometheus sees at the end of The Lighthouse, let’s take this metaphor one step further.
If Pattinson is Prometheus, then maybe the light is that original fire brought down to humanity. In Egger’s mythology, that fire is stolen not from the heavens, but from the sea, where it’s guarded by Proteus/Dafoe. But either way, the end result is the same for Prometheus: A fate worse than death.
*The Lighthouse is in theaters now.