In this section of our Colossus Movie Guide for The Lighthouse, we will explain the film’s ending.
- Robert Pattinson – Ephraim Winslow/Thomas Howard
- Willem Dafoe – Thomas Wake
- Valeriia Karamän – the Mermaid
- Logan Hawkes – the real Ephraim Winslow
The end of The Lighthouse explained
In the final act of The Lighthouse, tensions reach a boiling point between the two main characters, Thomas Wake, an older, experienced lighthouse keeper, and Ephraim Winslow, a young man assigned to work with Thomas on a remote New England island. The plot unravels as the two men’s already strained relationship continues to deteriorate due to isolation, alcohol consumption, and the relentless, stormy weather. Ephraim becomes increasingly obsessed with the mysterious light at the top of the lighthouse, which Thomas has forbidden him to access. As Ephraim’s curiosity grows, so does his desire to take control of the situation, especially when he starts to doubt Thomas’s motives and sanity.
The relationship between the two men becomes even more tumultuous when they find out that their relief crew, which was supposed to bring them back to the mainland, has been delayed indefinitely due to the storm. Faced with the prospect of being stranded on the island with Thomas for an unknown period, Ephraim’s mental state continues to deteriorate. As the storm worsens, the line between reality and hallucination blurs for both men. Ephraim becomes haunted by visions of a mermaid and a one-eyed seagull, which he believes is an omen of doom. His desire to uncover the secret of the lighthouse’s light becomes an obsession, driving him to confront Thomas and accuse him of hiding something.
In a pivotal scene, Ephraim finally makes his way to the top of the lighthouse to see the light for himself. He is mesmerized by the powerful, hypnotic light and reaches out to touch it, only to be thrown back and injured in the process. This act of defiance against Thomas’s authority leads to a violent confrontation between the two men, culminating in Ephraim overpowering Thomas and tying him up. Ephraim forces Thomas to bark like a dog and crawl on all fours, effectively reversing their roles and placing Ephraim in a position of power. He then drags Thomas outside, digging a grave for him in the pouring rain. After burying Thomas alive, Ephraim returns to the lighthouse, intent on finally accessing the mysterious light. However, Thomas manages to free himself from the grave and attacks Ephraim with an axe, seriously injuring him.
Ephraim, despite being gravely injured, manages to kill Thomas with the axe. Now alone and consumed by his desire to possess the light, he climbs the lighthouse one last time. When he reaches the top, he opens the lantern room, and the light engulfs him in a blinding, radiant glow. Ephraim, now completely overwhelmed by the experience, falls from the top of the lighthouse, crashing onto the rocky shore below. In the final scene of The Lighthouse, Ephraim is shown lying on the rocks, barely alive and severely injured from the fall. Gulls, which Thomas had earlier warned him were the reincarnated souls of dead sailors, begin to peck at Ephraim’s exposed innards..
In the climactic ending of The Lighthouse, viewers are left with a potent sense of ambiguity and unease, as the film resolves its most prominent themes while simultaneously leaving room for interpretation. This powerful denouement not only deepens the experience of the film but also invites the audience to ponder the deeper meaning of the characters’ actions, relationships, and the symbolic elements that permeate the narrative.
At the heart of The Lighthouse lies the theme of isolation and its psychological toll. The two characters, Thomas Wake and Ephraim Winslow, are confined to a remote lighthouse, cut off from the rest of the world. As the film progresses, their descent into madness becomes increasingly evident. The final scenes serve as a culmination of their psychological unravelling, forcing the audience to question the nature of reality, identity, and the fragility of the human psyche.
The climactic scene in which Winslow finally enters the lighthouse’s lantern room symbolizes his desperate pursuit of enlightenment and truth. Throughout the film, Wake jealously guards the lantern room, denying Winslow access and fostering an air of mystery and allure. When Winslow finally gazes upon the light, it is an emotionally charged moment that represents his attainment of forbidden knowledge. However, instead of satisfaction or closure, he is met with agony and despair. His scream as the light envelops him signifies the unbearable weight of truth, which ultimately proves to be his undoing.
This pivotal moment reinforces the theme of man’s futile struggle against the forces of nature and the unknown. In their isolated environment, Wake and Winslow are pitted against a vast, indifferent sea that threatens to engulf them. Throughout the film, they are shown battling the elements, but it is clear that they are fighting a losing battle. The chaotic tempest that rages around them in the final act further underscores the idea that mankind is ultimately powerless in the face of nature’s might.
In addition, the ending of The Lighthouse serves as a resolution to the power struggle between Wake and Winslow, which is another prominent theme in the film. The characters’ relationship is marked by a constant battle for control, with Wake dominating Winslow through both physical and psychological means. When Winslow kills Wake in the final act, it symbolizes his ultimate rebellion against this authority. However, this act of defiance comes at a great cost, as Winslow’s actions lead to his own destruction. The film thus questions the price of freedom and autonomy, suggesting that they may come at the expense of one’s sanity and humanity.
The final image of Winslow, lying on the rocks and being devoured by seagulls, represents the bleak culmination of his journey. This gruesome scene is a striking visual metaphor for the corrosive effects of isolation and obsession. Winslow’s transgression in seeking the light has led to his utter degradation, as he is consumed both literally and figuratively by the darkness he sought to escape. This haunting image leaves the audience with a sense of profound unease, inviting them to contemplate the implications of Winslow’s tragic fate.
In conclusion, the ending of The Lighthouse effectively resolves the movie’s most prominent themes, leaving the audience with a potent sense of ambiguity and disquiet. By exploring the consequences of isolation, the struggle for power, and mankind’s futile battle against the forces of nature, the film encourages viewers to reflect on the deeper meaning of these themes and their implications for the human condition. The ultimate fates of Wake and Winslow serve as stark reminders of the destructive potential of obsession and the fragile nature of the human psyche when pushed to its limits.
The visually striking and emotionally charged final scenes, coupled with the characters’ haunting lines of dialogue, underscore the importance of the film’s themes and the power of cinema to provoke thought and elicit emotion. The Lighthouse is a compelling exploration of the darker aspects of human nature, and its enigmatic conclusion invites the audience to grapple with the weighty questions it raises long after the credits have rolled. By refusing to provide easy answers, the film challenges viewers to confront the uncomfortable truths it exposes and to consider the broader implications of its characters’ tragic fates. In doing so, The Lighthouse continues to provoke discussion and debate.
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