*Beware: Spoilers ahead for The Lighthouse!*
After 2015’s The Witch, it’s no surprise that Robert Eggers’ second film, The Lighthouse, is a major conversation starter and, to a degree, open to interpretation. Since catching the movie at the 2019 Toronto International Film Festival, I’ve had countless conversations about the varying analysis of the film’s curiosities like the use of the seabird, the mermaid and so much more. If you haven’t already checked it out, Vinnie Mancuso just posted a great piece exploring how myth and symbolism come into play – be sure to check that out right here – but now we’re putting the focus on some “answers” Robert Eggers himself gave.
Back in September, Eggers visited our interview studio in Toronto for TIFF 2019. We already shared the non-spoiler part of that conversation, but Eggers was kind enough to indulge us and talk some spoilers after that segment wrapped up. As hard as we pressed for specifics on Eggers’ intentions with certain plot points, he refused to cave but he did offer up some interesting details about how he developed select parts of the story, like the seabird element.
First, why not put a name to a face? Eggers told us, “In the script the seagull is called ‘one eye,’ but the seagull’s played by three seagulls – Lady, Tramp and Johnny.” And apparently they were all very good at their job. Eggers continued, “The goat who played Black Phillips, Charlie, was not trained, frankly. But these seagulls were amazing. Johnny was good at cawing, and Lady was good at pecking. You know, they all had their specific roles.”
As for how he settled on this particular use of the seabird, here’s how that portion of the story came together:
“Black Phillip was such a nightmare that I didn’t want to do another leading character animal but I did want the chaos to really begin and the winds to change with Rob’s character killing a seabird. But my brother sort of convinced me that having this prominent one-eyed seagull character was a good idea and so I took the plunge.”
Here’s where things get a little messier. This is what Eggers said when asked why his seabird has one eye:
“Watch the movie again and there’s some one-eyed stuff woven through. But I must say that the one-eyed stuff in the movie was planned to be at the level where if you go with a group of friends, maybe one of your friends when you’re having drinks after is like, ‘Oh no, but this!'”
Well, please excuse me while I go back to the theater for another viewing. Good thing The Lighthouse is due to expand to more locations this weekend. Check out the video at the top of this article to watch Eggers discuss the seabird and why he turned to clinical psychologists for advice on the mermaid material.