Last weekend, the might-as-well-be-a-Nicholas-Sparks-adaptation The Light Between Oceans was released into theaters. Audiences were treated to the weepy fallout that follows the decision made by a lighthouse keeper and his wife (played by Michael Fassbender and Alicia Vikander, who became a couple on the set of the film) to raise an anonymous baby they find washed up on the beach as their own. But for those few who made the trek to theaters, the real moral revelation of The Light Between Oceans is not the news that it’s bad to steal lost babies, but instead the obscene privilege of 1920s lighthouse keepers, a now obsolete profession in a post-GPS world. Of course, in real life, lighthouse keepers were responsible for aiding ships lost at sea, as well as the constant upkeep of the lighthouse grounds and the nightly care of the light from dusk till dawn. But you’d never know about the dungaree-adorned, backbreaking labor of lighthouse upkeep from watching the farm-to-table, dazzling-knitwear paradise of Michael Fassbender and Alicia Vikander as they laugh and lounge and feed chickens and play piano on their single-serve island in the middle of the sea. The real tragedy of The Light Between Oceans is not that the humble lightkeeper and his wife selfishly choose to separate a child from her birth mother, but that two people being paid to revel in the glory of what appears to be labor-free isolation on their own gorgeous private island could manage to fuck it up.
The Light Between Oceans opens with a mustachioed Michael Fassbender humbly requesting a job as a lighthouse keeper on an unpopulated island in the middle of the Pacific. Like a true baby-stealing fool, Fassbender lacks the self-awareness to realize he is literally asking to be paid to live a life of luxury — instead he is only hoping for isolation after his time at the front. Maybe thanks to this guileless stupidity, Fassbender is granted his wish despite his complete lack of experience or credentials. Amazingly, for the rest of the movie, every character who is not Michael Fassbender laments the misery that awaits him ... on his own private island ... that he is paid to inhabit ... in the glorious sea between Australia and New Zealand ... while wearing a collection of knitwear so beautiful that the sheep probably saw the end product and sheared themselves in sacrifice.
For those in the audience who lamented watching a paid position in nature’s bounty slip out of the hands of a nincompoop who can’t stop inviting strangers to live on his private island, here is an itemized list of the 2016 purchases it would take for you to recreate the life that Michael Fassbender finds handed to him in faux-1920.
Travel expenses: According to Skyscanner, the cheapest one-way ticket from New York City to Queenstown, New Zealand, is $997. Presumably from Queenstown, you would need to charter a boat to take you to your new island home. Michael Fassbender’s fellow public servants and dear monosyllabic friends of the lighthouse took care of this service for him, presumably at no additional cost to him — but using the ferry fare from Queenstown to Stewart Island as a metric, you will need to pay about $75 every time you want a boat to reach you on your island, whether for supplies or travel.
Subtotal: $1,072, plus $75 for every additional trip to or from the island.
Private island: It is rare for private islands off the coast of Australia or New Zealand to go up for sale. Currently there are two resort-friendly islands available that are expected to sell for upward of $16 million or $40 million respectively, but Michael Fassbender’s humble private island — which he has no obligation to share with any other human — doesn’t have a resort built on its rolling hills, and so its hypothetical price point is probably closer to the humble $3.8 million that would set you back if you wanted to buy Turtle Island, a pocket-size island near Fiji that supports a single property.
Subtotal: $3.8 million.
House: Michael Fassbender lives in a furnished cottage that overlooks the ocean under the twinkle of the unpolluted starlight. The going rate for a comparable property in 2016 is about 130,000 Australian dollars, or $100,000 in America. (Technically I’m cutting corners a bit here, since the interior of this barebones cottage isn’t filled with freshly stained hardwood and attractive seaside decor, but since you’re already buying the island, the cottage should be a bargain.)
Subtotal: $100,000 for your own shabby chic bungalow in the middle of nowhere.
Lighthouse: The good news is that if you want to try to buy your own lighthouse in America, we have no funding for the infrastructure that we actually use, let alone for the infrastructure that has become obsolete. The General Services Administration is currently selling lighthouses across the country for reasonable prices — as low as $5,000 in some places. But the bad news is that you’re not trying to build a private island getaway off the coast of the American Northeast, you’re trying to recreate Michael Fassbender’s Pacific paradise, and countries like New Zealand actually take care of their lighthouses. There are currently no lighthouses for sale in New Zealand, and the lighthouse that was used as a set for The Light Between Oceans isn’t even open to the public, but the cost of living in this lighthouse hotel in New Zealand is about $200 per night. Assuming you could talk the proprietors into a 10 percent discount on a three-year contract to pay to live like Michael Fassbender did in his 100 percent paid position, you’d be looking at a $197,100 price tag for three years of lighthouse luxury.
Subtotal: $197,100 — but cheer up, the lighthouse hotel provides breakfast!
Knitwear and linens: You could bite the bullet here and go with synthetic fibers or poor tailoring, but that isn’t living up to the life of casual luxury embraced by Michael Fassbender with the simple salary of a part-time lighthouse keeper. Behold the fine natural fibers of 1920 Australia, and prepare to pay for it.
Subtotal: $885 for 10 sweaters made from wool so fine it comes with a certificate.
Mustache trimmers: Thanks, ASOS.
No human beings for 100 miles in every direction: PRICELESS. Literally billions of people have families, Michael Fassbender, but how many people have been given the gift of total natural isolation???
Final total: In the perpetual magic hour of Derek Cianfrance’s 1920, the Australian authorities would pay you for this lifetime in paradise. In 2016, you’re looking at a bill from $4,099,079.50 to infinity, depending on how you price the unmatchable gift of solitude.