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The Underappreciated Genius of Robert Eggers

So, who is Robert Eggers?

He is a relatively new face in Hollywood having written and directed only three films as of now. But, oh my lord, are those three films absolutely brilliant! His transportive, transformative and captivating filmography not only sports a unique voice but also an astonishing amount of attention to detail that just skyrockets your appreciation for what you’re watching on-screen even if you dislike the film itself.

I first watched Robert Eggers’ debut film ‘The VVitch’ (yes, it is spelt that way) in 2017. The unique spelling was chosen because when Robert Eggers was researching the time period for the film, he found a pamphlet from the 1640s that spelt witch with two ‘V’s. From the title to the poster featuring an evil-looking black goat and nothing else, you know you’re in for something different. At the time, I hadn’t watched any trailers or known what the film was about, it was 1:30 AM and I just wanted to watch a horror film.

Once I started watching, I immediately noticed that the film was shot in an aspect ratio that I personally had never experienced before – 1.66:1. It was a bit jarring at first but I got used to it and eventually fell in love with it. What else was jarring was the film itself.

It starts off with some striking imagery but the first act of the film felt a bit slow as you’re just focused on this family and their story but as you continue watching, you realize that contrary to the title, the film is really about this family but I hardly think anyone was going to watch a horror film titled ‘The Family.’ But yes, this film is about the family’s trials and tribulations as the Witch of the Wood continually tests their seemingly unwavering faith in God to the point where when their baby Samuel disappears. The father believes that Samuel was born a sinner and his fate was sealed. Without diving into spoilers and plot details, the film, throughout its runtime, made me feel that I’m watching something cursed and by the end of it made me feel that I somehow need to be ‘cleansed’ partly owing to the fact that this is a very dark film that never really provides you with a ray of hope- the colour palette perfectly shows this through its grey and black tones. The only light sources are natural light, three-wick candles and tea lights throughout the entirety of the film which really adds another layer to the sheer authenticity on display.

The VVitch’ continues to live rent-free in my head 24/7 and this masterpiece remains my favourite film from Robert Eggers. That doesn’t mean that his next two films are necessarily worse. It’s just that I am biased toward any horror film that tries to break away from the excessively tired genre tropes of today.

The Lighthouse’ is possibly Robert Eggers’ most renowned film due to its critically acclaimed status and its head-turning star cast including Batman himself, Robert Pattinson paired with Green Goblin star Willem Dafoe. Now, this film is literally just two men on an island with a lighthouse just talking and tending to their duties. But what makes ‘The Lighthouse’ special is its ambiguity.

First off, these characters are so intriguing that you always are interested in what they say and do and this is elevated immensely by the brilliant writing and some career-defining performances from the main leads. Throughout the film, they scream at each other, laugh with each other, cry together, fight each other, and drink and eat with other. All these threads weave a very real, intense and crooked bond between these characters primarily poisoned by the power struggle that exists throughout making things rather unpredictable than you would initially expect.

This film is a puzzle just begging to be analysed and cracked except there are several ways to crack it. You can allude to the themes present in Sigmund Freud’s psychoanalytic theory or Greek Mythology Surrealism or Existentialism or the idea of Masculinity or just a film that loves to screw with your mind.

It doesn’t even adhere to one genre, it sports elements of horror, psychological thriller, character study, dark comedy, fantasy and even more. There are some haunting moments that stay with you, there are some beautiful shots that stay with you owing to the gorgeous cinematography and the film’s 1.19:1 aspect ratio. It is yet another masterpiece that’s expertly crafted in what was only the second feature film from Robert Eggers. It sparks conversations in unique ways and makes you question what is real and what isn’t.

After two haunting films, Eggers decided to go a very different route for his third directorial venture – Norse Mythology. ‘The Northman’ is also different in the sense that it’s much more plot-driven than character-driven in stark contrast to Eggers’ earlier outings. It is also a much simpler affair in the sense that there isn’t much to dissect here. However, all of these things do not contribute to a necessarily worse film, if anything it showcases the sheer versatility that Eggers possesses. Not unlike his other two films, this also possesses remarkably painstaking attention to detail from the culture to the language and even to the mythology aspect that forms the makings of one the most historically accurate Viking movies ever made.

So, what is the movie about?

It’s a revenge thriller but one that is gripping and possesses that same Eggers’ signature brand of tension. It is a bold, bizarre, bloody and breathtakingly beautiful film to look at as we’ve come to expect at this point. While watching it, you realize that Eggers can pull off some incredible action sequences as well, again, showcasing his versatility as a filmmaker. Do not watch the trailers or anything for this one, just go in blind and you will soon realize that it is an edge-of-the-seat experience that effortlessly captivates you from start to finish by regularly subverting expectations.

Three films in and Robert Eggers can easily be named as one of the greatest filmmakers of this generation. His love for cinema, his dedication to his craft and his bold and unique voice have come to produce some of the most fascinating filmographies I have ever come across. With his own new take on the gothic tale of ‘Nosferatu’ on the horizon, I cannot wait to see where his journey as a filmmaker takes him as well as us, the audience.


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