Shutter Island | Eastern North Carolina Now

Martin Scorsese Keeps the Impregnable Island Central to His Story

    The great director also turned my mind inside out, as I struggled to conceive the point nd purpose of his lavish film, which examined the inner recesses of a damaged mind. By the end of the film, with my mind struggling to reconcile this story’s many twists that suggest the realty within Scorsese’s surreal depiction of the upside down existence of his protagonist, Detective Teddy Daniels, played by Leonardo DiCaprio, I took stock of the story and rationalized: I‘ll definitely have to purchase the DVD or my curiosity will never know true peace.

    If only it could be that easy for the probing detective. Actor DiCaprio has come a long way from the cute pugnacious young teen actor of the television sitcom “Growing Pains,” where he got his start. At 35 years life old when this film was produced, Leonardo DiCaprio manifested every etched line of a troubled life that his character had known deeply to his troubled core. We, the audience, are led to believe that Detective Daniels is dispatched to Shutter Island, a remote prison for the criminally insane off the coast of Massachusetts, to investigate the disappearance of an inmate Rachel played both Emily Mortimer and Patricia Clarkson. Confused? Well, this is just the tip of this pyramid of weird.

    The story set in 1954; in the initial years of the multi-decade Cold War, an era that questioned the motives of men’s souls, we are herded into Detective Daniels’ nightmare that is his adult life; from serving as an infantryman in World War II, discovering the horrors of Dachau, to the criminal activity of one person that shatters his world, and his family.

    The alleged individual, who the uneasy Detective is keenly searching for is a pyromaniac psychopath oddly named Laeddis, who was reportedly a hidden inmate in the inner chambers of the macabre island, who the Detective alleges to have ignited the fire, back on the mainland, that murdered his beloved wife, Deloris, portrayed by Michelle Williams, who, remarkably, plays a significant role in this multi-layered yarn.

    Still, at the center of this story are the island, its inhabitants, and their keeper, Dr. Crawley, portrayed by the always outstanding Ben Kingsley. As the Detective becomes increasingly apprehensive as to the intentions of Dr. Crawley and his associate, Dr. Naehring, played by an ancient Max von Sydow (I thought the Swedish actor was pretty old when he played The Exorcist in 1973), Dr. Crawley protests that he is attempting to treat the humanity within these criminals, who have committed these inhuman acts. Little does the Detective know that he too is just another “lab rat” in the Doctors’ experiments of the human psyche.

    This picture is beautifully filmed by Cinematographer Robert Richardson, who keeps the rugged island and its stoic prison in the forefront, making it the central character of this macabre tale. The inseparable island / prison is a indestructible fort against the will of weather and time: Not so sturdy is the impressionable human psyche and battered ego. These fragile spirits of these poor individuals that people this tale are symbolically juxtaposed against this Shutter Island and its unsettling purpose.

    Director Scorsese, who revels in telling unique stories that unravel into bizarre consequences for their protagonists, pays homage to the great master of suspense, Alfred Hitchcock, in this eerie thriller. The great Director employs a Laeta Kalogridis screenplay of a Dennis Lehane novel to ably tell the story of a man in search of an unsettled past by dealing with the adversity of an ominous present. The famous British Director Alfred Hitchcock employed a variation of this theme in his classics “Vertigo” and “north by Northwest.” These films also used inanimate symbols, like the island, standing juxtaposed against the protagonists’ struggle to seek resolution: In “North by Northwest,” Mt. Rushmore serves as the immovable foil, in “Vertigo” the old Spanish Mission, and its infamous bell tower, symbolically serves the same purpose.

    To punctuate this point of Scorsese’s distinct devotion the Hitchcock genre, he serially juxtaposes his protagonist against the backdrop of the film’s inanimate symbols in a strange lighting technique that lends a flat appearance to the symbolic scenery, reminiscent when directors, like Hitchcock, would pose their actors against a moving picture screen that provided the backdrop, which seemed eerily unreal by today‘s special effects standards.

    Another impression made upon me, as I searched within myself for a common, and easily accessible, thread that did not unravel as I struggled to put this story in some reasonable compartmentalized place, is the acting. From DiCaprio as the troubled Detective to Ben Kingsley as the enigmatic Psychiatrist, to the heretofore unmentioned Mark Ruffalo as Detective Daniels' partner, Chuck Aule, all these actors, and others too numerous to mention, must act on multiple levels of artistic expression to tell the essence of this twisting tale that left me as unsettled as Leonardo DiCaprio’s character. Nobody said understanding art would be easy. Interesting definitely, but certainly not easy in this film's 138 minutes of runtime.

    Rated R. Released in theaters February 19, 2010.

    This article is provided courtesy of our sister site: Better Angels Now.

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( March 15th, 2010 @ 12:16 pm )
I can't wait to see this movie, got great reviews and looks good too! DiCaprio is a great actor!! Thanks for the review Wyatt.

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