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The Lighthouse (2019 film) My Analysis: II. Perspective

12 Oct

I wanted to give my readers a chance to digest my best guesses at what’s going on in The Lighthouse film. The master post is long, so I have also published each section (exact same) on it’s own.

All the Disclaimers:

*Spoilers ahead

*To lesson confusion, I will be referring to the older lighthouse keeper as “Older” and the younger as “Younger” bc the names change throughout the film.

*The clues are offered in a non-linear way

The clues are more disjointed in the film, not presented in a linear way. Which is both why it’s difficult for the audience to grasp the true timeline, to tell who is who, and also for me to write a post without skipping around. I apologize, blame the author/director.

*The movie NEVER indicates the timeline is off. It is intentionally disjointed to confuse the viewer and have us question what is real.

The Audience is seeing things from Younger’s (altered) perspective

Here is a big key to the movie that I talked about, but didn’t explain in my part I post. You are watching this movie from Younger’s perspective. And Younger’s perspective differs from reality quite a bit. Part of his perspective is that there are 2 people in the lighthouse while we are watching. In reality, Younger is in the lighthouse alone the entire time the viewer is present (because remember, the viewer gets to watch after events have already started to unfold).

Younger worked as a logger, but thought his foreman picked on his work ethic, unfairly. He allowed the logging foreman to be swallowed up by a log jam. After that Younger stole the logging foreman’s identify and applied to be a wiki at the lighthouse because you could make $1000 the further out you were. Through most of the movie Younger uses the logging foreman’s name. But toward the end of the movie Younger admits his name is actually Tom. Tommy. WHICH IS A BIG CLUE, because Older’s name is Thomas. THEY HAVE THE SAME NAME. And that’s because they’re the same person.

In order to protect himself from the reality of what he had done, Younger split off the part of himself he blamed for the killings. His base instincts, bodily functions, anger, sexuality–his Id. Older is the physical manifestation of his Id, but not actually a real, breathing person (except in Younger’s delusional mind).

Since this movie is sort of a visual representation of Freud’s personality theory, let’s look at what the Id and super-ego are and see how ego mediates between the two:


Runs on pure instinct, desire, and need. It is entirely unconscious and encompasses the most primitive part of the personality, including basic biological drives and reflexes.

The id is motivated by the pleasure principle, which wants to gratify all impulses immediately. If the id’s needs aren’t met, it creates tension. However, because all desires can’t be fulfilled right away, those needs may be satisfied, at least temporarily, through primary process thinking in which the individual fantasizes about what they desire.   


The superego is the  the phallic stage in Freud’s stages of psychosexual development. The superego is the moral compass of the personality, upholding a sense of right and wrong.

The superego consists of two components: the conscious and the ego ideal. The conscious is the part of the superego that forbids unacceptable behaviors and punishes with feelings of guilt when a person does something they shouldn’t. The ego ideal, or ideal self, includes the rules and standards of good behavior one should adhere to. If one is successful in doing so, it leads to feelings of pride.

The superego not only controls the id and its impulses towards societal taboos, like sex and aggression, it also attempts to get the ego to go beyond realistic standards and aspire to moralistic ones.

The Mediating Ego

The id, ego, and superego interact constantly. Ultimately, though, it’s the ego that serves as the mediator between the id, the superego, and reality. The ego must determine how to meet the needs of the id, while upholding social reality and the moral standards of the superego.

A healthy personality is the result of a balance between the id, ego, and superego. A lack of balance leads to difficulties. If a person’s id dominates their personality, they may act on their impulses without considering the rules of society. This can cause them to spin out of control and even lead to legal troubles. If the superego dominates, the person can become rigidly moralistic, negatively judging anyone who doesn’t meet their standards. Finally if the ego becomes dominant, it can lead to an individual who is so tied to the rules and norms of society that they become inflexible, unable to deal with change, and incapable of coming to a personal concept of right and wrong.

You see examples of super-ego in Younger’s refusal to drink alcohol at dinner. And there are characteristics of the Id when Older farts. The “two” men are the embodiment of Freud’s theory. More is at play in the movie, but this theory is a big part of it. The timeline we spoke about is secretly a big part of the movie also.

Hints of the timeline are also given away by flashes of Older’s dialogue. He tells events that we as the audience just saw for ourselves, differently. The very first time that the viewer understands the food got wet and supplies are short (when Younger “found out”), Older says, “I told you to ration 3 weeks ago, but you wouldn’t.” At the time, the audience thinks Older is gaslighting, but it’s actually the true timeline. The movie is reminding us that we are only seeing things as Younger is seeing them, and also we were dropped in to watch after events had already started. It’s also reminding us that Younger sees himself as a hard worker doing what is required. But reality (seen through Older’s commentary) says that Younger is lazy and insubordinate.

The work is also this way. We see Younger toiling, doing hard physical labor every second of every day. Yet, Older sees the floor is dirty and tells Younger to clean it. Yet again, the audience is led to believe that Older is picking on Younger, taking pleasure in making him do menial tasks. And Younger says, “I already swept and mopped it twice!” But Older sees the floor is dirty, and says (this is important), “You never take accountability.” This tells the viewer why we’re seeing this alternate reality. In youngers mind he’s a hard worker who everyone picks on. The beginning of the movie shows us how younger sees the world. The log book is physical evidence to the contrary. It tells us how things ACTUALLY went down. And gives motive for why Younger killed the other wiki that had been there with him before the audience came in.

This split from reality is shown again when Younger “finds” the one-eyed head in the crab (lobster) trap/pot [whatever it was, I don’t remember exactly]. Remember the one-eyed sea gull pecking Younger’s window? ONE-EYED bird and man?! The gulls are the souls of sailors. And the lighthouse is an actual lighthouse where Younger is trapped (alone) but it’s also a representation of his mind. When the bird taps on the window, it symbolizes the murder tapping at Younger’s psyche, making him remember his deed. This is further emphasized when he opened the water tank to find a dead bird, Younger acts shocked. He has divorced his actions from his thoughts/perspective because he does not take accountability for his actions. But we know already that Younger has killed someone (the birds told us) and put their body in the water tank.