Robert Eggers

7.1 The Witch (2015)
7.2 Lighthouse (2019)
6.0 The Northman (2022)

Robert Eggers debuted with the horror movie The Witch (2015), which is also a period piece and a highly atmospheric film in general, thanks also to Jarin Blaschke's cinematography. There is also a allegory behind the scary story, which makes the film a sort of moral fable. The Devil succeeds from the beginning, as the family members become increasingly suspicious of each other: as family cohesion implodes, their religious faith becomes irrelevant and even ridiculous as they are better at believing in religious superstitions than at believing and supporting each other. That allegory is then dwarfed by the sarcastic and blasphemous ending, which seems to mock religion but is also the logical outcome: if the pious life only generates poverty and hatred, why not try the exact opposite? The film takes place in the 17th century in a Puritan colony of English America. The film begins with the closeup of a teenage girl, Thomasin. The governor sentences the English settler William, accused of heresy, and his family to be banished from the colony. William leaves proudly but Thomasin remains petrified, unable to accept the injustice. William and his wife Katherine build a farm in the countryside. Thomasin considers herself a sinner and prays God to forgive her. Thomasin has younger three siblings (Caleb and twins Mercy and Jonas) and soon a new one, Samuel. One day she is playing with little Samuel when the baby suddenly disappears. We see a woman running away in the forest. At night the naked old woman makes some kind of magic potion with the blood of the baby. She then flies away towards a giant Moon. Thomasin's mother cries day and night. Thomasin has nightmares. One morning William tells his oldest son Caleb that he has decided to abandon the search. Worried about a poor harvest, he takes Caleb hunting to the forest. Caleb is surprised because they children have always been forbidden to enter the forest. While they are walking, William interrogates Caleb about the original sin and other theological matters. Caleb is terrified of hell and fears that the little baby, who died without being baptized, ended up in hell. Their hunting adventure ends miserably, with a gun incident that almost leaves William blind. When they get back, William's wife is worried about them. William hides the fact that he has taken Caleb to the forest and Caleb lies to placate is mother's ire. One day little Mercy openly accuses Thomasin of having let a witch steal the baby. Caleb replies with William's official version, that it was a wolf. Thomasin, however, get angry at Mercy and claims to be the very witch who stole the baby and gave him to the devil. Mercy, terrified, runs home. William tells Caleb that he traded his wife's silver cup for the hunting gun, but asks him to keep it secret. One night his wife accuses Thomasin of having lost it just like she "lost" the baby. William and Caleb are there but don't tell her the truth. That night Katherine gets desperate about their condition: she knows that they have neither money nor food. Her cries wake up the children who listen pretending to be asleep. Katherine tells William that Thomasin is old enough to leave the farm and serve another family. Thomasin cries. Early in the morning Thomasin hears Caleb preparing the horse. In order to help the family, Caleb has decided to go hunting by himself and to check the trap that his father set in the forest. He also takes his father's gun. Thinking that Caleb is preparing to leave the family, she asks him to take her with him. They run into a rabbit, their dog starts running after the animal, Caleb chases the animal, Thomasin is left alone on the horse and the horse unseats Thomasin. Caleb can find neither dog nor horse nor sister, and gets lost in the forest. He runs into the dog, but the dog has been disemboweled. Thomasin is found by William who has been searching for them. Meanwhile, Caleb finds a shack. He approaches it cautiously and a sexy woman comes out and kisses him on the mouth. But she soon turns into an old woman. Back home William and Katherine are desperate. William wants to continue the search for Caleb but has no horse, no dog and no gun. To make matters worse, he confesses that he sold her silver cup and that he took Caleb to the forest, all behind her back. Katherine gets hysterical, accusing him of being a liar and a traitor. Before William can leave to continue the search by himself, Caleb walks home late at night in the middle of a rainstorm, naked and feverish. The following day Mercy accuses Thomasin of really being a witch and having bewitched Caleb in the forest. Thomasin is milking a goat when suddenly the milk turns into blood, and Mercy sees it, confirming her suspicion. However, it is the twins who speak with the black goat in a disturbing manner. Meanwhile, Katherine thinks that Caleb is indeed the victim of witchcraft. She confesses to William that she misses England and that her heart is turning to stone. William decides to move back to the village so that Thomasin can become a servant and a doctor can cure Caleb, but suddenly Caleb comes out of his coma, vomits an apple, and become delirious. Mercy and her twin brother claim to have been cursed by Thomasin echoeing the delirious Caleb. They reveal that Thomasin told them to be a witch and saw the goat bleed. William initially doesn't believe them but Caleb dies and the twins lie unconscious on the floor. Everything seems to point at Thomasin being a witch. William asks Thomasin to confess that she sold her soul to the Devil. Thomasin calls him a hypocrite: he is the one who lied about the silver cup and he is the one who took Caleb to the forest; and then let her be blamed for both. She also blames him for not being able to feed them. She not only claims to be innocent but accuses the twins of being the ones who sold their souls to the Devil. William is confused enough that he locks all three with the goats. Alone with the twins Thomasin asks them seriously if they speak with the Devil. At night William cries and confesses to God that it was out of stupid pride that he left the village with his family instead of simply asking for forgiveness. Katherine has a vision of Caleb holding the stolen baby in his arms. She tries to breastfeed the baby but the baby turns into a raven pecking wildly at her breast while she laughs deliriously. In the goathouse the twins have a vision of old naked woman milking one of the goats. They scream and wake up Thomasin. In the morning Katherine wakes up with a blood stain on her pajama. William walks outside to find the goathouse destroyed, the goats killed, the twins missing and Thomasin with bloody hands. The black goat attacks William and kills him against the heap of firewood that he prepared and that buries him. Katherine is now sure that Thomasin is the Devil and attacks her. Thomasin, to defend herself, grabs a knife and strikes at her face until she kills her. Thomasin is the only person left (alive) at the farm. She removes her bloodstained clothes and falls asleep. She wakes up when she hears a chiming sound. She confronts the demonic goat. Sure enough the goat transforms into a man who invites her to sign his book if she wants to escape her poverty and live a rich life. She accepts and then walks naked into the forest naked, in the company of the black goat. She finds a witches' sabbath around a bonfire. She is amazed to see them levitate above the forest and smiles when she realizes that she too can levitate.

The Lighthouse (2019), shot in black-and-white and set in the late 19th century, is a Shakespeare-ian tragedy and a psychological oneiric horror movie. We don't know if the story happens for real or is simply one long nightmare of a dying castaway. We don't even know which of the two men is mad, or if both are. It is also a semi-religious parable, a quest for the divinity, a fight between the priest who claims exclusive access to the god and the everyman deprived of the "light", a light which reveals itself in all its terrible beauty only to destroy the one who was hoping in redemption and salvation.

A young man arrives at a lighthouse managed by an old grumpy limping man (a spectacular Willem Dafoe in one of his greatest interpretations). The lad finds the statuette of a mermaid and keeps it. He works hard around the lighthouse but the old man, far from rewarding him, treats him like a slave. One night the lad dreams of a mermaid. The old man refuses to let the lad take care of the lantern: the lad can only perform the heavy-duty chores around the machinery. The old man tells him that the lad's predecessor went mad and died. A bird taps at the window while the lad is resting on his bed. The old tyrant causes an accident while the lad is washing the walls of the lighthouse. The old man warns him that it brings bad luck to kill a seagull. One day the lad has the vision of a tentacled monster. Another day he finds that the drinking water is black and realizes that a dead seagull has contaminated their well. Just then a seagull attacks him and he viciously kills it. Sure enough this brings them bad luck: the wind changes and the old man predicts a big storm. The boat that is supposed to come and pick up the lad doesn't come. They get drunk together and seem to become almost friends. The lad dreams of a naked woman with a fish tail, a mermaid washed ashore. The storm comes. They may not have enough food. They did up a chest that is supposed to contain rations but actually contains only bottles of alcohol. The lad hikes a knife that was in the chest. They get drunk again and have an argument about the lobster that the old man cooked. While the old man sleeps, the lad tries to steal the key to the lantern but the old man wakes up in time. The lad dreams of having sex with the mermaid. He is actually masturbating with the statuette in one hand. Before or after, he pulls up a lobster trap and finds a skeleton inside, and it's not clear if this is just imagined or real. They get drunk again while the storm rages outside. They dance, then they get into a fistfight. The lad confesses that he is not who he said he was. He assumed the identity of a man who died while he didn't do anything to save him. The lad tries to escape in the lifeboat but the old man destroys it with an axe and then chases the lad around the lighthouse. Then the old man accuses the young man of being mad, that weeks have gone by, and that he, the young man, was chasing him, the old man, brandishing an axe. The lad now thinks that the old man killed his second. A big wave breaks the window and floods the room. The storm ends but now their room is flooded. The lad finds the log where the old man has written that all sort of lies about him, the lad. While the lad was working hard around the lighthouse, the old man was writing that he was lazy and even suggested he be terminated with no pay. The lad loses control. First he breaks a wallclock with his fist, getting injured, and then he attacks the old man to be allowed inside the lantern room. They fight on the floor. The lad beats the old man viciously. He sees the mermaid and sees an octopus-like monster. The lad now makes the old man bark and crawl like a dog, drags him outside on a leash, and then pushes him into a pit, and buries him alive. The old man keeps reciting poetry while the dirt is covering his face. The lad takes the keys and walks towards the stairs to the lantern room but the old man reappears brandishing the axe. The lad avoids the hit and instead kills the old man with the same axe. The lad finally climbs to the lantern room and can admire the light, but he starts screaming as if he has seen something horrible. He falls back and rolls down the steps. He is lying naked on the cliff, barely breathing, while seagulls peck at his belly.

The Northman (2022) is a slow and rather predictable historical saga that could have been a 30-minute video. Its appeal is pretty much only the reconstruction of life in medieval Russia and Iceland; and, if you are a Shakespeare buff, comparing this version of the ancient Norse legend with Shakespeare's tragedy. As a novel, the story would probably be more interesting because the tragedy of the hero is actually the tragedy of everybody else: he goes on a mission of revenge, thinking that he embodies good, not knowing that in reality he is evil incarnate, programmed since childhood to kill the good people who killed his evil father as well as countless other innocents. This screenplay was written by Icelandic novelist Sigurjon "Sjon" Siguršsson (also a songwriter for Bjork), based on a local legend. The film, however, wastes this plot precisely because of the reconstruction of medieval life, and the visually striking scenes become a distraction. The mystical ceremonies with fires, witches and shamans are a bit comical, as is the happy ending.

The story begins in 895 AD in Iceland. Amleth is a child who worships his father the king, who enters the castle leading his men and a group of chained slaves. During a magical ceremony we also see images of dead men hanging from a giant tree. Clearly this is a violent king who has killed, raped and enslaved many. One day the king is murdered in front of Amleth by Amleth's uncle Fjolnir, the king's brother, and Amleth witnesses his mother Gudrun kidnapped by the uncle's men. Amleth manages to escape. The uncle's men, afraid of admitting failure, tell the king that little Amleth drowned in the sea. Amleth swears revenge. Years laters he has become a fearful bandit, head of a gang of brutal warriors who kill, rape and burn with no mercy. Amleth has become a cold soul-less killing machine. During one such expedition, Amleth learns that Fjolnir has lost his kingdom and has retired on a farm, tending his sheep. Amleth sneaks into a group of slaves that are being sold to Fjolnir. During the trip he meets a Russian slave girl, Olga. When they arrive at Fjolnir's farm, at the foot of an active volcano, Amleth manages to impress his uncle (who doesn't recognize him) and be kept as a farm slave, and Olga is kept as a servant for Gudrun (who also doesn't recognize Amleth). The other slaves are sold at the market. Gudrun is now Fjolnir's wife and has borne him a son, little Gunnar. Fjolnir has a previous son of Amleth' age, Thorir. After a (rather comical) seance during which Amleth is instructed by the skull of his father where to obtain a powerful sword, Amleth saves Gunnar's life during a bloody competition among slaves, organized to entertain Fjolnir's family. Amleth is rewarded with more freedom. Meanwhile he and Olga have become lovers and he tells her his terrible secret and his mission of revenge. Amleth begins terrorizing the farm by killing people. One night Amleth reveals himself to his mother Gudrun, but, instead of being overcome with joy that her son survived, Gudrun laughs at his stupidity, confessing that she was part of the plot to kill his father the king, an evil man who enslaved her and raped her, and that she personally asked Fjolnir to also kill him, Amleth, the fruit of that rape. Gudrun married Fjolnir out of love. Rather than realizing that he is on the wrong mission to avenge a man who was actually a monster, Amleth kills Thorir and steals his heart, and then flees. Gudrun warns Fjolnir that Amleth is the killer. In revenge, Fjolnir is about to kill Olga, but Amleth stops him by offering Thorir's heart for Olga's life. Amleth mocks Fjolnir (who really wants the heart of his dead son) telling him that he only gave him the heart of a dog. Fjolnir captures him and tortures him. Amleth is freed by a bunch of ravens sent by his father from the otherworld. Olga convinces Amleth to simply leave for another land, but on the boat she makes the mistake of telling Amleth that she is pregnant. Amleth decides that his future heir can live only if Fjolnir dies, otherwise Fjolnir will pursue them forever. And so Amleth swims back to shore All of this have been predicted by witches and shamans. Amleth attacks the farm and goes on a rampage. His own mother Gudrun tries to kill him and he kills her. Then his half-brother Gunnar tries to kill him and Amleth has to kill him too. Fjolnir calmly picks up the corpses and challenges him to a duel in the crater of the volcano. They manage to kill each other. The film ends with the vision of Olga and her newborn twins, while a valkyrie carries Amleth to Valhalla.
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