Top 100 American Movie Quotes of the 21st Century: #96

The actor:Willem Dafoe
The character:Thomas Wake
The film:The Lighthouse
The quote:“Hark! Hark, Triton! Hark!”

My primary critique of The Lighthouse after seeing it was that it was nowhere near weird enough. For all of its beautiful photography and its isolated setting and arch performances, the second half of the film dissolves into the usual plot mechanics in which man fights man, the mental battle between the two turns to confused physicality, et cetera. I liked it, but the path of the film is as predictable and visible as the path from the bottom of the lighthouse to the top. In other words, it’s affected but not truly strange. The closest it gets is not in the adoration of the Fresnel lens nor in the Dick Whitman origin story that Robert Pattinson tells nor in the seagulls or mermaids. It is in the huge performance of Willem Dafoe, the true engine of a movie that needs him gusting steam in order to move forward. Goodness knows the man has fuel within him, cue jokes about his farts and “natural gas,” and at one point Wake’s cooking becomes a point of contention between himself and his wickie. It begins with “yer fond of me lobster” and turns into this gigantic, and slightly surprising, monologue that I know yer fond of too.

The monologue that Dafoe spits after this quote was wonderful in the moment because I honestly had no idea when it would end. It just goes, a maelstrom of maledictions which come in, wave after wave on an uncaring shore which has already been beaten flat by seeming ages of erosion. That feeling of just going, of not giving any hints as to when it will end but only signifies its beginning with a catchy little pull: that’s Too Many Cooks, baby. The Lighthouse is more funny than weird, whereas Too Many Cooks uses those two qualities to pull at one another, spinning groundward like a gyre. All the same, this monologue which begins somewhere around “yer fond of me lobster” and ends with a begrudgingly impressed “I like your cookin” has that late night on Comedy Central vibe to it. It’s not clear when it will end, or how, or at what cost. Somewhere around “a bulging bladder no more” (a point which is basically analogous to the falcon turning its head in Too Many Cooks), you start to notice that this monologue has already been going on a little while! The spark of the monologue here, the supplication of Neptune to listen to Wake’s imagistic orison, is instantly recognizable and utterly spectacular.

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