[Spoilers] A thought about Shutter Island [Spoilers]

I just saw Shutter Island on DVD (yes, we still rent those) with my wife, and it was a good movie; the 8.0 grade on IMDB is agreeable to me.

I haven’t read the book, but my brothers have, so while they didn’t give away the whole plot, I could immediately identify it: The protagonist is a mental patient and what he is investigating is not for real, but his own psychology. It was very entertaining nonetheless, and Scorsese obviously chose to give it a away half way trough or so anyhow; not only did I think so, but my wife figured it out quite fast too, and she didn’t know anything about the plot beforehand.

One thing I found disappointing, though, is that the whole gig was an elaborate role-playing game. I thought it was all in his head. That the scenes were for real in the sense that he did talk to the guys he was talking to, were in the rooms he in fact was in, and so forth, but the dialogue etc was all in his head, and not like it was “in real life”. As such, it was pretty well made, especially in the details were the doctor insists that he takes the pills (aspirin in his fantasy, but psychopharmacological drugs in real life, I figured), and so forth; or the little cracks in the illusion, as when you as a viewer saw that the woman had nothing in her hand when she drank a glass of water.

Scorsese also established that view, in the way the doctor in the beginning explains how a woman totally lives in her fantasy world, where the room is her house, the guardian is her postman, and so forth. She has no idea about reality. Well done, I thought, because they are actually explaining the protagonist’s mental state.

But then it turns out that his buddy Chuck is not a fantasy figure and so forth, but was in fact there all the time, but it was his psychiatrist playing a role, etc. Reminds one of the movie The Game, which of course is not very trustworthy.

But this elaborate role-playing game in Shutter Island, which reveals itself in the end, takes away the trustworthiness of this movie too. It would have been a much better story, to me, if it turned out to be pretty much all in his head instead. It would be a story I could believe in, but as it turned out, I really can’t, so it was quite a disappointment.

What do you think?

The thing is, “it’s all in his head” is something we’ve seen too many times before.

Well, I just saw it on DVD as well(yes, we too rent those).

I said to my wife up front that I hope it isn’t “all in his head” because the commercials on TV made it look like that.

I guess, in a way, I was glad that at least everything we saw was happening. I was disappointed that he was, indeed, mentally ill.

I was half expecting that after they revealed that it was all a role play, they were going to reveal that it was not a role play and this place is, indeed, trying to drive him mad with drugs and so forth.

I liked it. Thought it went on a bit too long at the end. We didn’t need to see him go out, find his dead kids, come back, and then cry over them. I mean, it got a bit over the top.

Anyway, pretty good. Wouldn’t have guessed a great director made it, though.

We had a long thread about this movie a short time back. I saw Shutter Island in the theater and thought that while it was interesting and mildly entertaining, it was definitely lesser Scorsese.

However, one thing I did wonder about is if “Teddy’s” government-backed mind control/brainwashing conspiracy is his delusion, what was his source for the fantasy? The story is set in 1954 and “Teddy” has already been there for two years. Were there any allegations or stories in the media about such experiments being conducted with the CIA’s or FBI’s involvement during the early 50s? I could be wrong but it was my understanding that this information wasn’t found out by the public until years later.

I was able to guess that aspect of the movie long in advance from the trailer. I’m not entirely sure whether it was supposed to be a give away or not. I might just be conditioned from having seen twisty stories to automatically suspect that the protagonist is dreaming, dead, or a mental patient if anything at all strange is occurring, and to default to the latter if the settings or characters involve or mention anything to do with a mental ward, a mental health professional, mental issues, or prescription pill taking.

However, like you, this did not ruin the movie for me. Even having guessed that this would be a strong likelihood, there were enough other mysteries that I could not guess at, and even past the mysteries, that atmosphere alone was entertaining.

I, on the other hand thought this was brilliant and much much much more interesting than it just being a fantasy of some kind.

Was the dialogue all in his head? I don’t think so. He may have interpreted it a different way based on his conception of the nature of his mission, but I think all the dialogue was real.

But that’s the point! They are still all real people, the only aspect that is fantasy is his/her concept of their identity/role. And to a large extent, they are not actively trying to fool him as one would in a game or deception. Rather, they are playing along with his self-delusion, and taking direction from him.

I can’t agree. I think it makes the movie much much stronger to have as much as possible not be a delusion. It makes the ending much more effective. If everything was just a fantasy, well that’s kind of boring, has been done before, and hey what’s the point? Whereas in this case, everything really happened, which makes everything meaningful. He just interpreted things based on his own misconceptions to mean something different.

The one thing I wasn’t entirely sure about was - was the storm real? Because that had a major effect on his ability to explore the island freely, and was not something the doctor, obviously, could have engineered unless it was a fantasy.

Yeah, too easy. I prefer it this way.

My kid’s out late tonight because of Shutter Island. He’s watching it AGAIN at a friend’s house-- I just now got a text: “I’ll be late, but it’s worth it for Scorsese.

When did high school kids come to know directors?

Ghod knows we haven’t seen enough government-backed mind control/brainwashing conspiracy movies.

I liked the movie a ton, but whoever did the score should be, well, taken out and chastised severely. Overblown, overwrought, and way too overly dramatic, IMO. Took me right out of the movie, it did.

It’s not like a Potemkin Village is particularly unique to Shutter Island either, and “all in the head” has the benefit of not being absolutely insanely stupid. Admittedly, “the hallucinations of a crazy person” would be boring so either way isn’t good.

Now, I haven’t seen the movie so maybe it plays better on screen or Scorcese gives it something extra but I truly despised the book.

Fortunately I was convinced to give Dennis Lehane another try because I have found his other books much more enjoyable.

Which is, in essence, what all of Scorsese’s films are about. How the lead character conceives of himself and his role in the world and how the people around him respond/react and play their parts in that delusion–Taxi Driver, King of Comedy, The Last Temptation of Christ, Bringing Out the Dead, The Age of Innocence, The Departed…I could go on but I won’t. I can’t think of a single Scorsese film that doesn’t grapple with that question on some level. He explores identity and delusion again and again and again and again. It’s really baffling to me the number of people who go see a Scorsese movie and apparently have no concept of what type of film Scorsese makes. The difference with Shutter Island is that the other characters are purposefully participating in the delusion as opposed to being dragged into it against their will.

Also, on rewatch it becomes increasingly clear how much is delusion and how much is “real.” Scorsese leaves enough clues if you know what you’re looking for, which you won’t the first time through.

It’s disappointing to me the number of people who criticize Shutter Island because they didn’t get a cheap, by-the-numbers thriller with the same “twist” that everybody would have seen coming. The movie wasn’t even about the “twist ending.” This isn’t M. Night bullshit.

I bought the blu-ray this weekend. I intend to watch it again tonight. I only got to see it twice in the theaters, and there’s still about a dozen layers I want to really sink my teeth into.

I saw a movie yesterday with a really unique story line - there was… get this… a love triangle. I hope Hollywood doesn’t ruin that too.

I loved Shutter Island. But then I enjoy actors practicing their craft, I don’t watch movies for trick endings or no trick endings.

Thanks for your opinions. I had a inkling that I was fairly alone in my critique, which gave me the impuls to air it, I guess.

The thing is to me, that such an elaborate and quite massive role-playing game would never occur in real life–at least not in my book, so to speak, so it was an illusion breaker. However, the dillusion might’ve. – Of course, it’s a matter of taste, not debate.

But the glass scene is really weird: The woman drinks a glass of water, at the same time she is not. - Why do you think Scorsese put that in? To me it quite obviously hints that that there are two realities: One where the psychotic protagonist believes he is interrogating a person who takes a sip of water, and the other, which the viewer gets a hint at, where she is not. If it is a role-playing game, the physical reality is not altered; it is either this way or that way (with some adjustments on behalf of the protagonist).

Do you have any thoughts on this particular scene, which, if I my (false) interpretation was correct, would be quite genious, but if I’m wrong, seems pointless?

I mean, Scorsese work with details–so what’s up with this detail do you think?

It’s a clue to the audience - don’t believe everthing you see. There are other scences like that as well.

Yeah, there are little moments that look like editing mistakes, but the editing mistakes in Scorsese films are few and far between. That was the biggest hint to me that we were dealing with a very unreliable narrator. It’s as though his world is cracking, and the audience is either getting a brief glance at the way the world is, or we’re seeing hints of his delusion. It turns out at the end of the film that those strange little moments were hints of the world as it truly exists superimposing themselves over the world Teddy lives in. In Teddy’s world, everything is subject to his delusions, which includes little things like the water in the glass and big things like the storm. The massive role-playing was the rest of the characters trying to fit themselves into Teddy’s world, which they could do because Teddy’s delusions are, if nothing else, consistent.

That’s what makes things so interesting. Teddy did what any good writer can do–he created a reality that is internally and logically consistent. In fact, it’s so logically consistent with how human beings react and the world we already know that we can’t help but want to believe it. That’s why it’s so jarring when there’s no twist at the end and Teddy really is crazy. Of course, that’s why it’s so jarring for Teddy as well. His delusions make so much sense that they really are capable of fooling Teddy and fooling us as well.

But isn’t the ending supposed to show that the role-playing experiment worked, and the truth is so hard for him to live with he pretends to be crazy again so that he will be lobotomized.

“Would you rather live as a monster, or die as a good man?”

Yes, and I suppose that is a twist, but it’s logically consistent with the rest of the film, and it’s not the twist some people apparently wanted.

Yes, it is suppose to reveal that.

Ok, catching up with this movie late. I’m also of the “Urgh this has been done before” opinion. Like, in 1920. When I started to catch on I thought “Wait, this is the plot to the Cabinet of Dr Caligari!” Good movie and all, but not an 8.0 on IMDB good.

Finally saw this. Upon first viewing it felt very chaotic. We had basically figured out that he was insane and that he had probably killed his wife, but it wasn’t clear at all what events were real and what events were imagined. The ending didn’t fit with the rest of the movie, but I admit it was definitely an intriguing film.

On second viewing however… everything makes much more sense. There are a lot of little details pointing to how it’s all going to pan out at the end. These clues are incredibly subtle unless you actually know what’s going on. You feel the resentment of the staff, the fear of the other patients, those uncomfortable moments where it’s clear everyone is in on it but Teddy himself. When Teddy talks to George Noyse, for example, George basically tells the truth about what is happening… but on first viewing it sounds like crazy ranting. Then you remember Teddy’s comment about how the insane are the best people to get the truth from because nobody listens to them. Nothing in that film happens on accident.

My second viewing of this film elevated my opinion of it substantially. This was not something thrown together haphazardly, it was well-crafted and carefully constructed. It’s a movie about a lot of things, and I think to boil it down to the predictability of ‘‘the twist’’ is missing the point entirely.

I didn’t get the sense that he was pretending, but instead that he literally couldn’t handle the truth and retreated back into his delusions. After all, they said he’d come to accept the truth once before already before regressing.