"Shutter Island", The Perfect Film for the Easily Distracted
I’m sure you’ve heard this film title before. The film that never gets old. The film that confuses you every time you watch it! The film that never fails to spark the question, “Was he actually a patient or a detective?!” No one knows. And no one will ever know. And although I myself can't give you the answer to that eternal question my blog and I are here to tell you some things we do know, like how the score gets the best of even those with an attention span as small as a nail, the incredible backstory and embedded backstory on the chaos of wars fought both in the flesh and within the mind, and lastly how the mind games played throughout and especially at the end, is a game you the viewer will never win. Here to seriously shake and spook the senses during this last week of October, FLIX brings you… Shutter Island.
Delving first into the most important part of this film (considering the technological age we live in), let us draw our attention to the fact that Shutter Island keeps your attention. Beginning to end. I know it is incredibly difficult for the average Millennial or Gen Z human being to keep their attention on one thing for a prolonged period of time (even when that one thing is watching a film and not studying for an exam), so the fact that people with almost zero attention span have said they love this film every time they watch it, and that they actually pay attention the whole time, tells us something! Shutter Island is an amazing film for a magnitude of reasons, but it’s the score that is next level. How so? Because it’s the score that keeps your attention in this film, grabbing your skull with both its hands and ensuring your eyes are constantly fixated on the screen. The amount of suspense that is built just from the score alone, is probably the first attribute that keeps your eyeballs glued to the screen. With an orchestrated score on blast from beginning to end, you feel as though something uncommonly intense or terrible is about to occur – even if what happens next is neither of those things! But you won't know it until the moment has passed, and once that moment has passed you’re already greeted with something new to draw your attention to. Furthermore when terrible things are underway, you are met once more with that crazy loud, seemingly terrifying score yet again, which aids in the amplification of whichever emotion you’re left feeling at that exact moment (and the reoccurrence of said emotions countless times throughout the film). Perhaps you’re scared, perhaps you’re anxious, or perhaps you're totally confused and have no idea what to think or feel, so you just sit there and let this film and its score consume you wholly for the next two hours. Either way, the fact that I can pretty much guarantee your face will never leave the direction of the screen except to potentially shield your eyes from what you believe you are about to see, is a solid reason to believe that Shutter Island knows how to capture the attention of its viewers – much like how Ashecliffe knows how to capture its… patients.
Now I’ve seen Shutter Island a few times, but surprisingly I never caught on to the war backstories embedded in the plot until a few days ago! And when asking my friends whom I know love this film and have seen it more than once as well, they were also taken aback by this hidden gem! But now you might be wondering, “What is this elusive back story?”. First, considering the fact the story takes place in the 1950’s, during the Korean Civil War, and considering the fact the protagonist Edward “Teddy” Daniels – portrayed by everyone’s favourite, Leonardo DiCaprio – is a War Veteran from WWII, its understandable that there is a war backstory. But what if there was more than this all along? Realizing this time around that its almost always the patients that are speaking of the war, of bombs, of how its safer to stay in Ashecliffe and on Shutter Island because “we hear things here, about the outside world”, that “they say they have bombs that can reduce whole cities to ash”, and that the creation “H-Bombs” is a new invention feared by so many because of its capacity to inflict damage far greater than any other explosive known to man, I finally understood why all this talk completely fell under the radar. “Once you're declared insane, then anything you do is called part of that insanity. Reasonable protest becomes denial. Valid fears, paranoia.” Sadly, that sounds about right doesn’t it… and because of that we fall right down the stereotype rabbit hole of never actually “listening” to what anyone from a mental asylum ever says. At 1:24:40 we’re confronted with this harsh and sad reality, so pay attention, and see if your perspective changes afterward! Furthermore, we learn that what takes place in the Lighthouse are lobotomies to lessen the emotional and physical reactions of aggressive patients who, apparently did not take to any other forms of treatment. But as it turns out, there are more layers to that story too! If you’ve seen this film, did you ever discover what that was? Did you ever realize what they were actually trying to “create” versus “fix” in the Lighhouse? If not, be sure to pay real close attention at 1:25:47. Do you believe what you hear to be true? However, considering this entire film is a mind trip if there ever was one… is anything that takes place true?
Last by certainly not least, we have to delve into the reality that Shutter Island is as mind meddling as the distorted minds of the patients in Ashecliffe. Not only is the ending more of a cliff hanger and far more confusing than the end of Christopher Nolan’s Inception, but now we have this entire multi-layered war backstory embedded in the plot that makes us think about so much more and ultimately, forces us to try and decipher yet again if what we’ve witnessed is real, or a delusion. Quite frankly, even I don’t know what to believe! Upon writing this piece I thought I had it figured out, that I understood what was really taking place underneath and in between it all, but as the words continued to be written and as more time passed, I too started wondering, “but wait… is that even real or is it a delusion? And how can I ever know unless I know the true answer to the ending of this film? But no one knows the truth about the ending! So what is real and what isn't?!”. As you can see, I can't give you any answers on that front, and to be honest I’m sure after watching this film for the first time or again after taking this piece into consideration, you still probably won't know what’s really happening either. But as frustrating as that may sound, doesn’t it also intrigue you?! Wracking your brain to try and decipher what's really going on on Shutter Island and in Shutter Island is all part of the “fun” of this film, and what draws people to it a full decade later (even if you have the attention span of a puppy). The only clarity I can give you all is that the confusion persists, the questions increase, and you will be left dumbfounded or even more confused. So… welcome to Shutter Island!
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