Eggers. Robert Eggers has made two films: The Witch, a strong debut, in 2015 and his 2019 follow-up, The Lighthouse. He’s two for two in the archives—and both landed very close to the top 10 of their respective years (a murders’ row of films in 2019 kept The Lighthouse out) and the top 100 of their respective decade. He’s a style-plus auteur as well with a very distinct voice. His films are bathed in production design authenticity and painstaking detail. They also, absolutely, have a strong audio component as the dialogue used is utterly specific and distinct as well. Both are about isolation, folklore, and a decent into madness. This is clearly a talented auteur.
Best film: The Lighthouse
- A confirmation of Eggers’ prodigious gifts and his auteur standing after the 2015 debut- The Witch
- Hypnotically beautiful to look at (and listen to) but more than that really: distinctive, meticulous – I called The Witch curated and said that you could almost smell and feel the film—characterized it as method acting but from the director’s chair—and that praise and description certainly fits here for Eggers sophomore effort.
- Eggers has a background in production design—rum, flatulence, the cutlery, the beards—every object in the frame, the choice of aspect ratio, the colloquial Herman Melville-like specific time/place vernacular—the jargon– these are all specific choices– all wet, dirty, dire, foul and authentic
- The titular set piece (which of course they built for the film and it actually works) is symbolic of course, solitude and phallic—the spiral staircase and the light itself emblematic and striking
- 1.19 : 1 box-like aspect ratio and shot on 35mm. It’s a not to the silent film expressionism and the vice-like frame size is perfect for the confining nature of the world. Cabin fever and a descent into madness (feels like The Shining in that ways)
- At its best some of the mise-en-scene and production design reminded me of the damp specifics of Tarkovky’s cabin in The Mirror or the black and white section prior to the “The Zone” in Stalker. Bela Tarr’s The Turin Horse is another.
- It’s a major feather in the cap for Robert Pattinson and Willem Dafoe—both capture the look, are as dedicated to the language and setting as Eggers is—and both are given flashy monologues- magnificent.
- Like The Witch this is about a strained relationship (just two characters in this film along with some hallucinations and delusions and of course the domain Eggers creates) in isolation. Nuanced characters and complex relationship
- Specificity and New England folklore (mermaids, seagulls and dead bodies) for Eggers—production design mastery
total archiveable films: 2
top 100 films: 0
top 500 films: 0
top 100 films of the decade: 0
most overrated: Eggers does not have an overrated film. His two films do land on the TSPDT consensus 21st century top 1000- but both are slightly underrated.
most underrated : They’re both underrated– but not egregiously so. The Witch lands at #16 of 2015 on the TSPDT consensus list for the 21st century. Lighthouse lands at #19 for 2019– both should be at least five slots higher.
gem I want to spotlight : The Witch
- A debut brimming with self-assurance and specificity
- The specificity is two-fold– the detail in the production design (Eggers background) and the vernacular. The corn stalks are real. The dialect is clearly authentic- the “thee’s” and “thou’s”. You can almost smell and taste the film – it’s curated—it is as studied as a method actor not breaking character but in the form of an entire film.
- Ominous vocalizing in the score- like the opening of Kubrick’s 2001.
- Powerful (and horrifying) imagery in the witch montage with the hand on the child, blade on the child
- The themes are large— cursed or damned, rotten apples and pride and small lies (sins) turning into bigger lists
- Like Ari Aster’s Hereditary from 2018 and all of the best horror films of all-time (not quite putting this in that class) it absolutely works as a drama without the scares. This is a family drama and the characters are harsh—the family unraveling– ripping each other apart.
- These characters are devout—they never blink or nod to us the viewer or the world outside of the film. Constant praying from all of them.
- Honestly I wish Eggers would spend more time basking in the details of the set design
- A New England folk story
- Really good review from the WSJ- Joe Morgenstern “This phenomenal debut feature by Robert Eggers has a singular style and tone, and its horror flows from the deepest wellsprings of human nature.”
- Recommend/Highly Recommend border- right on the fringe of the top 10 of 2015 and I’ve appreciated it more every time I’ve seen it
- A former production designer— he’s a born curator. Meticulous. it can be beautiful in Eggers world, but only if it is authentic—authenticity is the priority clearly—each prop, piece of clothing, lighting looks like it was transplanted from the period he’s adapting
- I mention some other auteurs here from Aster to Tarr and Tarkovsky – but I do not see a ton of cinematic influences on Eggers—speaks to his singular style
- natural lighting– certainly a trait of Eggers
- Both films set in New England to date
- Both films about a strained relationship in isolation. Nuanced characters and complex relationships
- Colloquial, region/time and jargon specific authentic dialogue—get those subtitles ready!
- The Lighthouse
- The Witch
By year and grades
|2015- The Witch||R/HR|
|2019- The Lighthouse||HR|
*MP is Masterpiece- top 1-3 quality of the year film
MS is Must-see- top 5-6 quality of the year film
HR is Highly Recommend- top 10 quality of the year film
R is Recommend- outside the top 10 of the year quality film but still in the archives
There’s a mistake at the end of the article. At the “by year and grades” section it says Lady Bird and Little Women.
@Cinephile- thank you for the help- should be fixed now
Where is Gillo Pontercovo?A guy who actually have a top 10 film.
@Janith— The Battle of Algiers is impressive— but one film doesn’t generally do it.
@Janith- Burn is in the archives- but not in the top 30 or so of 1969. I have not had the chance to catch Kapo
Do you think Andrew Stanton might creep into the top 250. He is still alive so he can still make movies.
He has one MS and another HR (Finding Nemo, I’m much higher on it).
He has also been a driving force in Pixars movies over the years and written other quality movies like Rataouille.
If the list is based off of resume, then surely Stanton’s I’d better than Eggers right? He also has a nice visual style in Walle and Finding Nemo.
What do you think?
@Azman- Resume is a factor- but certainly not the only factor. I think the resume is close to Eggers- maybe a tad stronger, but Eggers is the stronger director. Years from now I have plans to expand this to 500 directors (I’m going to be done at 250 and update a few other things first)– and Stanton will obviously be there. I think it would be close- somewhere between 250-300
I’m excited for the top 500 so I learn about new directors. This top 250 list was really good and I think I prefer it to TSPDT’s list.
In your opinion, what makes Stanton a “not so good’ director? Walle and Finding Nemo have some really good visual storytelling with some homages to previous classics. I’m just curious about your opinion.
@Azman- Thanks for the kind words. well it is all relative right? Compared to who? I was comparing him to Eggers. And “not so good” is your term for Stanton- right? If i described him as such it was a mistake. There are a lot of good directors that will be left off the top 250 here. Pixar films are great- no doubt about that and Wall-E and Nemo are two of the finest. I think they’re close to The Witch and The Lighthouse. But do you think Wall-E and Nemo happen without Stanton and are pretty much the same? I do. There’s no way The Witch and The Lighthouse exist without Eggers
Yes not so good was my term. You didnt describe him as that. I meant to say that you described Stanton as not-good-enough (for the top 250.). My question was what makes Stanton not good enough for the top 250 in your opinion.
You answered the question very well.
Maybe Stanton can make a MP or 2 (I’m not saying it’s very likely, but anything is possible) in the future. He receives a lot of money from Pixar to do his projects and he is a good writer.
Anyways, I’m excited to see who the last 5 names on the directors top 250 are.
Lastly, in your top 500, will there be a few directors who have only one good and a few average movies like Darabont or Pontecorvo?
Which ‘upcoming’director are you most excited for in the near future?
@Azman- Yes- I think when you expand it to 500 you’ll definitely have room for Darabont, Pontecorvo and others who made one truly tremendous film but– largely– that was it.
As for as the “upcoming” director- I mean I’m still very excited to see this crew- http://thecinemaarchives.com/2020/01/21/the-10-best-directors-of-the-2010s/ — but the recent names on this 250 director list like Shults, Gerwig, and Eggers are up there. But I’m also very excited to see what the director of 2017’s Columbus does next- Kogonada
Hey, Drake! I recently watched a few Leo McCarey films. Is he going to be in the top 250?
@George- Nope. I recently did a little McCarey study- nine films- and no- he’s not going to make the cut for the top 250.
Where is Alex Garland?the director of Ex Machina and Annhilation?
@Janith– Alex Garland is not on the list