Illuminating The Lighthouse

So, when Robert Eggers' The Lighthouse first came out, I saw it right away and liked it well enough, but I definitely wasn't its biggest fan.  I certainly appreciated the incredible performances of Willem Da Foe and Robert Pattinson, but I don't know... I was always more of a VVitch guy.  In fact, the only reason I have Arrow's brand new 4k Ultra HD release for review today is that it was a birthday gift for my mom.  But having now revisited it in 2160p, and diving deep into its supplementary materials, I've definitely come around even more to this picture, to the point where I feel now that it's my favorite Eggers film.
The story is pretty simple.  Two lighthouse keepers arrive on a remote island and slowly drive each other mad, especially when storms stave off the ship meant to collect them at the end of their stay.  Da Foe is the senior man, credited simply as Old, and Pattinson is his junior (Young).  I won't get into spoilers, but at least one of them harbors a dark secret and both their lives wind up at stake.  This is inspired by, rather than based on, a true story, and also a loose interpretation of an unfinished story by Edgar Allen Poe.  The imagery gets pretty weird (mermaids, severed heads, gulls possessed by the ghosts of lost sailors), and we're left to interpret what's a hallucination and what's "really" happening.  I daresay it's almost all the former, but there are plenty of interesting supernatural readings of The Lighthouse floating around out there by and for those who choose to follow their imaginations.
The Lighthouse was initially released on DVD and BD (separate releases) by Lions Gate in 2020.  But this year, A24 released it a special Collector's Edition mediabook on BD and UHD (separate releases) exclusively on their site.  Sweet!  But at the same time, Arrow released it on BD and UHD (separate releases) over in the UK, and they seem to have the most new extras (though that's debatable, as we'll detail later on), pragmatically sized packaging and the more reasonable price. And what with UHDs being inherently region free and all, and since the 4k "master data files were sourced from NBC Universal" in both cases, the smart money seemed to be on Arrow.  So let's take a look!
2020 Lions Gate DVD top; 2023 Arrow UHD bottom.
Yeah, so all these discs (present and not present here) are using Universal's masters.  This isn't another case like The VVitch, where Eggers and his DP were initially unhappy with the HDR on one release and got Second Sight to create a new transfer.  Here it's the same across the board.  Though, of course, the 2020 Lions Gate releases don't have HDR because they're in lower formats.  So the big differences you'll see here are the obvious: the leap from 720x480 resolution to 3940x2160, and the addition of HDR10 and Dolby Vision.  Both discs are presented with identical 1.20:1 framing, but the DVD is naturally a lot fuzzier, and appears brighter when comparing screenshots on an SD monitor.  Arrow's transfer delicately captures all the fine grain (yes this was shot on film) and brings all the tiny antique details spring to life.

Every release of this film presents the film in its original 5.1 mix, but of course it's lossy on the DVD and in DTS-HD on the UHD.  Both discs include optional English subtitles, with Lions Gate throwing in additional Spanish subs as well.
Things get a little stickier in the extras department, though.  So let's start with Lions Gate, who provide the staples right off the bat.  Eggers provides an insightful and forthcoming commentary that shouldn't be missed even if you're the type who frequently gives them a miss.  And there's a great, half hour+ documentary that interviews most of the key players in an intelligent, more-than-just-promotional discussion on the making of the film.  There are also four brief deleted scenes, the trailer and several bonus trailers that play on start-up.

Arrow keeps almost all of that, aside from the bonus trailers.  Eggers' commentary, the doc, the trailer... They add a couple key new features, too, including an expert audio commentary and documentary by married couple Guy Adams and Alexandra Benedict, and believe me, you will know that they're married by the end of their commentary.  They are giggle, flirt and talk about each other enough to drive you crazier than the characters on screen.  I don't think I've ever heard someone coo on a commentary track, but Benedict can't stop.  They're like two kids who should've been separated in class.  But it's not all bad - they do provide some great insight and background info in there, too.  For instance, the Promethean reading of Pattinson's character had never occurred to be, but now I can't not see it, and Benedict reads from Poe's original story.  On the other hand, Adams spends a lot of time quoting Eggers from the other extras also included on this disc, which is a little annoying.

But the good news is that everything they come up with in their new commentary they also say in the documentary.  Everything, often verbatim.  And it doesn't have all the nonsense.  So I highly recommend the documentary and avoiding the new commentary.
"Old Crying"
Also new is a visual essay by Kat Ellinger, who wastes a lot of time just listing other movies that could be considered folk horror, and then films with mermaids in them.  These titles will either mean nothing to you if you're not familiar with them, or if you are, you'll just be like, "yeah, I know."  It's just like those audio commentaries where they'd read out all the IMDB credits of each actor.  But it gets more insightful in the second half, so stick with it.  There's also a couple deleted scenes, a second trailer and an image gallery.  Plus, Arrow's release also comes with some impressive swag, including a double-sided poster, a bound 60-page book and six art cards.  It comes in a solid slip box, and the amary case features reversible artwork.

Did I say "a couple deleted scenes" just then?  Yeah, this is interesting.  It includes a literal couple: two.  Lions Gate had four, so curiously, we've lost two.  Now, none of these scenes are what I would be consider huge deals.  They're basically alternate scenes, with exclusive shots or extremely brief moments that weren't in the movie.  Casual viewers might watch them and think, "wasn't all that in the movie?"  But still, fans will want to see them.  And, I mean, the lost moment of Old crying (on the DVD but not the BD) is pretty intriguing.  But that's not all.  Were you curious what A24's website exclusive release has on their disc?  They have three deleted scenes, including one that's not on the Lions Gate or Arrow discs.  So, maddeningly, you'd have to collect all three releases just to collect the five deleted scenes.  Somebody behind the scenes is a sadist.
I don't have the A24 release, but I will point out that while it doesn't have the new Arrow extras, it has all the Lions Gate stuff (except for the two deleted scenes) and three new featurette interviews.  Everybody in those are also interviewed in the existing documentaries, so in that regard, I'd say it's a bit of an even wash.  Fans who choose one of the 4k releases will probably be just as happy as those who chose the other.  Either way, it's a great film with some great features that will really draw you in.  I'm super happy with mine.  ...I mean, my mother's.

1 comment:

  1. I don't own A24's Lighthouse release either but if it's anything like their Midsommar Director's Cut package it's DeLuXe!