SHUTTER ISLAND – 2010 movie – directed by Martin Scorsese - based on a book by Dennis Lehane.– screenplay (Laeta Kalogridis) - the players are Edward Teddy Daniels (Leonard DiCaprio), Marshal Chuck Aule/Dr. Lester Sheehan (Mark Ruffalo), Rachel 1 (Emily Mortimer), Dr. Cawley (Ben Kingsley), Dr. Naehring (Max von Sydow), Rachel 2 (Patricia Clarkson), Deloris Chanal-Daniels (Michelle Williams), Laeddis (Elias Koteas), George Noyce (Jackie Earle Haley) – camerawork (Robert Richardson), editor (Thelma Schoonmaker). This was the last Scorsese movie shot entirely on film.
There are two previous movies of note that featured the conditions at mental health facilities in the fifties and before drugs and other options became available; they are “Titicut Follies”- Frederick Wiseman and “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” directed by Milos Forman, which won all 5 Academy Awards in 1975. DiCaprio was nominated for several awards for his role in this 2010 movie – in my opinion the moods and levels of awareness that he was asked to portray here were staggering. His performance was outstanding.
Aside from the riveting tale that unfolds there’s another point of interest; Scorsese used 650 special effects sequences and shots to set the mood and to dramatize the story. In the opening scene with the boat appearing out of the fog bank they used three boats armed with powerful fog generators called Battle Foggers. The hard part was balancing the wind speed and boat speed.
One of the most intricate special effects was integrating the miniature light house into a real ocean scene.
The most complex and purely fake, CGI sequence in the whole movie was the “ash woman” scene. When they started to build the CGI scene there was no plan for a fire.
Her body was going to turn to ash and crumble in his arms. But because they spent all this money and the fire was any easy effect to add, they said…”why not?”
The rocks used in the medium and long shots were built in Canada and shipped to the location where the special effects shooting took place.
Spoiler alert!!!!!!!!!! OK… listen up….. if you want to simply enjoy a terrific, spine-tingling, psychological thriller and not have to worry about all the hidden subplots and confusing innuendos, do not read any further. Save the following brilliant explanation until after you watch the movie.
Our story opens with two US Marshals (Teddy Daniels & his new partner, Chuck Aule) aboard a boat and on their way to a Government run mental hospital, on Shutter Island in Boston Harbor, to investigate the disappearance of the patient, Rachel Solando, who had drowned her three children. This is the first time the two men (as marshals) have met face to face.
In reality, “Teddy” is Andrew Laeddis an alcoholic US Marshal. He was married to an unstable woman, Delores, and they had three children.
He is suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder, stemming from his experiences upon opening the Dachau death camp at the end of WWII.
After the war he gained employment as a US Marshal but suffered from alcoholism and the influence of his PTSD. He used work to avoid his family and his bipolar wife because he didn’t know how to deal with her unpredictable behavior.
When he returned from an assignment he discovered that she had drowned their three children. In an act of remorse and retaliation he shot her.
He blamed himself for not recognizing her problems and for leaving her alone for long periods. He is plagued with guilt because he has been aware of his wife’s insanity for a long time – but due to his own problems with drinking and post-traumatic stress he never acknowledged the extent of her decline.
Under the strain of what he has done he invents the WWII war veteran US Marshal Teddy Daniels, and retreats into this imaginary persona. At his trial he was found guilty, but insane, and is sent to the Ashecliffe Hospital for the Criminally Insane on Shutter Island.
In 1954 the field of psychology was starting to free
itself from the brutal psychosurgical interventions
that were used in the past.
New, non-surgical treatments – psychopharmacology and the use of Freudian verbal psychology were breaking new ground. Today, the development of fMRI (functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging) allows us to actually see our thoughts as they migrate from one part of the brain to another. We now know that 90% of our perceptions and the control over our behavior resides in our subconscious.
The chief clinical psychiatrist at Ashecliffe, Dr. Cawley, theorizes that by using role playing, he can break Laeddis free from his “Teddy Daniels” retreat from reality. He disapproves of brutal lobotomies and electric shocks, preferring a radical new approach of letting patients cathartically work through and act out. He wants Andrew to accept that his wife Dolores was mentally ill when she murdered their children, and that he murdered her in remorseful retaliation.
In this role-playing scenario, Chuck is really Dr. Sheehan who has been Laeddis’ primary doctor for the last two years. All the other staffers and patients are aware of Dr. Cawley’s experiment.
When he sees Laeddis (asTeddy) for the first time Dr. Cawley – in an attempt to shock his memory - tells him that the escaped prisoner, Rachel Solando had drowned her three children in a lake.
Throughout the movie Scorsese has sprinkled many clues that reveal what is really going on here. If you closely watch the display of body language and attitudes of the staff you’ll notice that they are
communicating with each other about the reality of the situation.
Scorsese takes “Teddy” through a series of subplots, including searching for vast government
conspiratorial attempts to impose “mind control”. During and after the dramatic hurricane Teddy is free to explore Ward C where the most dangerous patients are kept. It is here that he finds Noyce who tells Teddy that he’s part of a game they’re playing with him … “You’re not investigating anything…. you’re a rat in a maze”.
Cawley will never know, but he actually succeeded in curing Andrew of his psychological escape into the Teddy persona. However, the twist is that Andrew, who is now self-aware, realizes that he will never leave Shutter Island. The only escape possible is to pretend that he is back to being “Teddy”. This identity reset will force them to perform the lobotomy, which will give him lasting peace that he seeks.
He and Chuck sit on the steps overlooking the broad green lawn and the working patients in the flower beds. They share a pack of Luckies….
Andrew…. “Gotta get off this rock Chuck. Get back to the mainland. Whatever the hell’s
going on here, it’s bad.” At this point…. Chuck concludes that Cawley has not been able to recover Andrew’s memories and rid him of his fantasy “Teddy” persona… he signals this to the Warden, Dr. Cawley and Dr. Naehring.
Andrew…. “which would be worse, to live as a monster or to die a good man?” As Andrew rises to join those who will take him away, Chuck looks up with a momentary expression of understanding… saying “Teddy!” The Warden and Dr. Naehring lead him away.
Cut to the lighthouse.