Robert Eggers – the movie storyteller takes no prisoners

Until a few years ago, Robert Eggers was referred to as a young and promising artist working within the framework of horror movies. Now the world of film is open to him, and the author has a chance to join the pantheon of the greatest cinematographic artists.

“We’re going for a new one Tarantino“. “You saw the last one Lynch? ” “The newest Allens it’s not the same anymore ”. Certainly, many of you have noticed the complete correctness: you go to the cinema either for a movie or for a specific director. If the title is of secondary importance before the screening, and the author’s name is the key, it becomes clear that we are dealing with the author in the full sense of the word. Some screen artists are like painters who, from the first to the last brush stroke, create their own, unique work, undisturbed by any external interference. Audiovisual stylistics, poetics of narration, a keynote often delving into humanistic and existential issues – these are the hallmarks of authorial cinema that does not bow to the mainstream. These artists write scripts, direct themselves, and in many cases are responsible for virtually every aspect of a given production. This is the essence of art, which is quite obvious in other areas, but in cinema you have to fight for it. When big money is at stake, there is a risk of interfering with what the creator wants to convey. Hollywood has converted many up-and-coming authors into cinema for mass audiences. Only some of them had the strength to gain fame and recognition while still making their films.

Whether Robert Eggers will be such an artist, it remains to be seen. There is no doubt, however, that at the present stage of his career, he is some kind of phenomenon. The artist has made two films created as part of genre cinema. Horror films are not, and never have been, the favorites of critics, but neither are they Witchwhat Lighthouse gained great recognition among film experts and Eggers became a favorite of fans of unconventional, avant-garde and brave cinema almost immediately. This happened because his horror films actually extend far beyond the genre. Both stories are parables that use metaphysics as a symbol that allows us to speak in a poetic way about demons throwing humanity. The fact that the convention of horror was used for such a story turned out to be greatly refreshing. Horror has devalued over the years and only individual cases have shown the enormous potential of this genre. Eggers used fairy-tale darkness to show the darkness hidden in people’s hearts. Ultimately, he was successful in both fields, because Witch and Lighthouse they act as both artistic films and images intended to disturb the viewer.

photo: promotional materials

That’s why Witch with a budget of about four million dollars, she earned forty of them. Horror is a genre that will always attract crowds of viewers to the cinema. No wonder that Witchbeing in fact an artistic metaphor, the audience liked it so much. The film is simply scary – we don’t have to explore existential and religious threads to feel uncomfortable during the screening. Recall – Witch is a painting from 2015 in which they appear Anya Taylor-Joy and known, among others, from Games of Thrones Ralph Ineson and Kate Dickie. The action of the film takes place in the 17th century and focuses on the family, which is excluded from the community for too much religious conservatism. The husband, his wife and five children settle down on the edge of the forest, where disturbing events very quickly begin to occur. The newborn boy disappears, and the darkness comes out of the wilderness, which covers the rest of the family. All indications are that the God-fearing family was targeted by Satan himself.

Robert Eggers realized A witch according to the species rules. Tension grows at the right moments, and although the director avoids cheap jump scares, he skillfully weaves into the narrative themes characteristic of horror movies. The problem is that both this painting and the later one Lighthouse, can be read on several levels. Under the guise of horror cinema, we have a razor-sharp critique of religious radicalism and praise of women’s liberation from destructive patriarchalism. Satan, who destroys successive family members, is nourished by their parochialism, dogmatism, blindness and fanaticism. Religious fundamentalists interpret any external factor as the work of the Devil, ignoring the fact that the greatest rot is rolling them from within. Eggers nothing Alejandro Jodorowsky he cleverly uses symbols to convey his message in a poetic way. The dark forest as the outside world, a daughter who must “kill” her family to liberate femininity – the author skillfully combines legendary themes (related to the cult of witches) with the present reality, all in order to show the fatalism of the human Dionysian nature and framework that bind her. Witch for it is not only a critique of religion, but a very defeatist commentary on human existence. We are doomed to a permanent conflict between the forces that govern our lives. Often the aftermath of this struggle is self-destruction leading to death.

Eggers continued this thread in Lighthouse. While w Sorcerers he took up the topic of femininity, and in the next painting he throws on the grate strictly male issues. The very place of the action – the lighthouse – symbolizes the erect phallus (which the director himself admitted) and points directly to the topics to which the film is devoted. Lighthouse tells the story of two men who act as lighthouse keepers on a God-forsaken island. Condemned only to themselves, they confront their ego, trying to take over the dominant role. One is older and experienced, the other is younger and aspiring. The former has access to a dazzling secret hidden in the lantern. The other one does everything to find out about this secret. The rhythm of the story is given by the struggle of two alpha males, connected by a toxic father-son relationship. Once again, human nature takes precedence over rationality and pushes heroes to destructive acts.

Lighthouse is a visually tasteful picture, beautifully shot and phenomenally played. Once again, we are dealing with a horror film that presents us with an existential message with the help of a metaphor. The film was nominated for an Oscar for Best Cinematography, although fans’ expectations were much higher. Starring Robert Pattinson and Willem Dafoe they undoubtedly deserved a nomination, and Eggers’s directorial artistry could also be emphasized in the appropriate category. Lighthouse however, it is an image even more uncompromising than Witchso mainstream cinema didn’t necessarily feel comfortable in the presence of such a peculiar work. You can also add half a joke, half seriously, that someone might have a grudge against the Academy that Robert Eggers, after just two independent productions, ascends the skies of film. On the other hand, the director is a representative of the A24 studio, which already has several Oscar-winning paintings (Moonlight, Rough diamonds, Room), so i Lighthouse it would not be completely anonymous at the gala. But with Eggers, it’s not about rewards. At least for now, because there is no doubt that the artist is only at the beginning of his creative path.

Horror movies like no other

Witch and Lighthouse they are representatives of the sub-genre of horror that we could call parabolic. The creators operating in this field use horror stories to present the truth about the world around us. As you can imagine, in many cases the message is pessimistic, decadent and even nihilistic. You can bet next to Robert Eggers Ari Astera if Jordan Peeleand films that convey a universal truth under the cover of nightmares, for example: Babadook, Censor, Something is following meand even Le locataire Roman Polański. It is impossible to underestimate the good that this approach brings to the horror genre. First, it refreshes it, showing that fossilized schemas are perfect for postmodern games with form and content. Second, it tears the genre out of the hands of the commercial mainstream, which has usurped the horror movie and treats it as a money lure for the ever-hungry chills on the backs of young audiences. Third, it shows that there is depth in the dread and that the dark desolation and musty cellars can symbolize the darkness that is rooted in human souls.

When information appeared in the media that Eggers’ third film would not be a horror film, many of the director’s fans were dismayed. Why is the author so quickly giving up on horror movies? After all, he felt like a fish in water in this genre, and now a sudden jump to the side and flirting with historical cinema? First promotional photos and teasers Viking however, they dispelled doubts. The film, which has just entered theaters, is filled with an aesthetic characteristic of Eggers’ work. The author did not lose his style, besides, it is significant that he once again bases the story on a folk legend (the prototype of the Viking and Hamlet was the Scandinavian prince Almeth). Eggers’s latest film has a much larger budget (around $ 90 million) and a star-studded cast (Nicole Kidman, Alexander Skarsgård, Ethan Hawke). The film is widely distributed, has advanced marketing, and the impressive figure of Alexander Skarsgård, portraying the main character, is eagerly used in the promotional campaign. Everything indicates that Eggers’ peculiar artistic vision will emerge victorious from the confrontation with the ruthless mainstream and after Viking Eggers will be able to, just like Fincher if Villeneuvework on the biggest titles without compromising your own.

What’s next for the career of Robert Eggers? A new version of Nosferatu is already planned – a project that perfectly matches the director’s style. The author is also working on a miniseries based on the story of Rasputin, so the creator will not abandon the historical convention. The cinema poet, whose motherly genre is horror, enters the salons and, like Amleth, does not intend to take prisoners. Time will tell if he can maintain his independence and join the pantheon of great alternative cinema artists.

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