The Two Props Robert Eggers Kept From The Northman And The Lighthouse

The films of Robert Eggers are set in intricately constructed universes brimming with fantasy and darkness. The worlds of "The Lighthouse" (2019) and "The Northman" (2022) are bound to unforgiving landscapes but include a few potently symbolic props. These objects are so powerful that they become almost like characters themselves, influencing the plot just as much as any person. The props are imbued with so much significance in each of Eggers' projects, it makes sense that the writer-director would grow attached to them.

"The Lighthouse" is set during the Victorian era in a very remote lighthouse, where two men played by Willem Dafoe and Robert Pattinson maintain the grounds. There is tension, though, because Dafoe's character will not let Pattinson man the lighthouse itself. The isolation drives both men steadily out of their minds, to the point where Pattinson begins to fixate on a small statue of a mermaid — the closest thing he has to a connection with a woman.

In "The Northman," Alexander Skarsgård stars as Prince Amleth. He was thrown from his kingdom as a child when his uncle murdered his father in cold blood and seized his mother and the throne for himself. The boy grows up to be a Viking and, in his pillaging, he stumbles across a blind prophetess (Björk) who reminds him of his origins and his fateful quest to avenge his father. The Seeress does warn him of one problem, though — a woman will usurp him and steal his throne in the end. In order to find his uncle, he lets himself be taken as a slave to a remote island. There, he finds a sword that he will use to exact his revenge. The sword comes with a catch, though — it can only be used at night.

The props were both heavily symbolic

Eggers doesn't hold onto "too many things" from his sets, the "Northman" director told /Film, but he has made a few exceptions. From "The Lighthouse," he kept the "mermaid, obviously," and from "The Northman," he kept Amleth's sword, the Nightblade. The sword and the mermaid statue bear a special significance to their respective films. The sword is bound by magic, while the mermaid becomes the object of the men's fantasies. Both are totems of mystical power, either explicitly or implicitly. It is understandable why Eggers chose these two objects in particular to keep.

The worlds of Eggers' films are ominous but strangely cozy. Eggers himself says that he "would happily live in the keeper's cottage from 'The Lighthouse' or a slightly modernized version of the farmhouse from 'The Witch.'" The production design in his films is always immaculate, since the director actually started his career designing sets for theatre (via Format). His background in costume and production design has given him a unique eye for building the physical world of his films. To do so, Eggers has worked closely with production designer Craig Lathrop on all three of his features.

The lush interior worlds of the characters in "The Northman" and "The Lighthouse" are embedded in their physical surroundings. Eggers hones heavy metaphors into singular objects, like the sword and the mermaid statue. These two items symbolize major themes within their respective films and have come to be emblematic of the films themselves. When Eggers looks at these two items, he is not only reminded of the films themselves, but everything that went into making them, and thus two items already rich with subtext are imbued with an even deeper history.