Robert Eggers‘ The Lighthouse is about two drunken, sexually frustrated seafaring men — played by Willem Dafoe and Robert Pattinson — who are isolated together in an illuminated tower on a rock by the sea. The movie features masturbation and mermaid genitalia, and there is a homoerotic undercurrent throughout that bolsters the feeling of the central characters’ primal desires and sexual repression.
That said, watching The Lighthouse, as wonderful as it is, you can’t help but feel there’s a much hornier film in there somewhere, croaking like a sex-deprived seagull, just begging to be let out of its cage. Well, it turns out that there is a hornier film in there.
During a recent conversation with Film Independent, Eggers stated that A24 was more than happy to let him bring his vision to the screen. However, one idea was just too HARD for the studio executives to comprehend, and they were forced to make an authoritative decision that might anger some of the film’s thirstier viewers to learn about.
“There was convincing to do it on 35mm black-and-white negative, and there was also some full-frontal male nudity, an erection, and they were kind of like, look, it can be black and white and weird and all this stuff, but it can’t be rated NC-17.”
It was a small sacrifice to make, and Eggers was more than happy to leave the erection out of the motion picture. He wasn’t too fussed about it either, as what did end up in The Lighthouse is still pretty extraordinary. It’s probably going to be a while before audiences see something that’s as bold, original, and weird in a theater. Movies like this don’t need nudity to make an impact.
At the same time, some full-frontal phallic imagery would have complemented the film’s ideas and themes rather well. As Esquire‘s Justin Kirkland notes, The Lighthouse is a cautionary tale that highlights how channeling anger and frustration into sex isn’t healthy. But perhaps a boner shot would have solidified this thought-provoking element and then some.
Of course, the big question is: which actor would have been forced to rise to the occasion in the name of art? The answer is Pattinson. For a start, his character is responsible for the film’s big masturbatory moment, aggressively rubbing one out in the lighthouse while fetishizing over a mermaid. Dafoe does get naked in the film, but his character is looking for a fight, and he seems more angry than aroused.
Furthermore, Eggers’ recent revelation about being forced to hold back matches up with another story that he told about this very subject. In an interview with The Daily Beast, the director said the film was supposed to include “a very juvenile shot of a lighthouse moving like an erect penis and a match-cut to an actual erect penis” belonging to Pattinson’s character. Unfortunately, the financiers demanded that the scene be cut for a rating.
The Lighthouse’s masturbation scene does oscillate between shots of Pattinson’s character pleasuring himself and shots of the actual tower. To be honest, a money shot of Pattinson’s aroused pecker would have made sense in the context of the scene. It is rife with phallic connotations, after all.
This will go down in history as a case of wondering what could have been. However, if you want to know more about a scene that did make it into the movie, check out this piece about the seagulls feasting on Pattinson’s flesh.