WHAT WE THINK:
– A film that engages a challenge with the spectator, twist after twist.
JUST A FEW WORDS (IN THE HEAT OF THE MOMENT):
Shutter Island, or the island that shutters, find its narrative interest in the exploration of the mechanisms of paranoia and the ways in which these regulate the learning processes and the use of defense mechanisms.
The island is literally a symbolic place that crushes the protagonist under the weight of suspicion and doubt: the doubt that someone don’t want to let you go, the doubt that there is an on-going experiment on the island, the doubt that someone wants you to be declared mad so to keep you tied and jailed or the ultimate suspicion that some people want you to believe you are not who you believe you are.
Everything, always and in any case, that moves the truth further and further away (and more out of reach) from being discovered – is there anything to discover anyway?
The mastery and therefore the true masterstroke of the author lies, at least from a narrative point of view, in keeping the real turning point well hidden, in the flood of possible other options by provoking a series of reactions in the viewer aimed at trying to find possible confirmations to the new paranoia crafted from time to time. If Jean-Pierre Melville spoke of the author of a film as a paranoid, Scorsese instead does everything he can to demonstrate that the spectator (and the process he uses to watch a film) is the actual paranoid.
Until we get to the last twist, which in fact represents a choice (after all, we all always make choices even in the presence of paranoia – to believe or not?) and not coercion. A choice that consists in wanting to impersonate a “good man” and die (symbolically through lobotomy) as such, rather than continuing to live alongside the knowledge of having been “a monster”.
This choice, however, which we believe it’s made consciously by the protagonist (his last line is incredibly ambiguous and strongly resonant and we would not be surprised to find alternative analysis to our belief), is present, subtly, throughout the entire film: just compare the scenes “imagined” by DiCaprio’s character with the “memory” ones. Teddy does everything he can to find refuge and explanation in the “fantasy” rather than in the raw and brutal reality (with some unfortunate spill overs, though).
On a slightly (not too much) different note, finally, the shutter is also that mechanism that allows the light to get into a camera device and impress (on film) or re-elaborate (in digital) an image.
This clearly opens the door to a reading of the film that is free to roam in any direction and even in a meta-reflective sense: so why not believe that Scorsese, through his narration and the staging of a “better world”, although not real, advises us to take shelter and refuge (in pure paranoid fashion) in an “alternative”, “fantastic”, “dreamed” world – cinema – to rediscover ourselves being better than we actually are in our daily lives?
- Skills and mastery in holding all the threads and playing openly with the viewer.
- The actors and the characters. It is an absolutely amazing staging work.
- At a re-watch, it reveals small clues along the way.
- The imaginative sequences reveal influences that span through the history of cinema and which include, among other things, clear hints to Fellini and Kurosawa (especially the one of Dreams – in which Scorsese played Van Gogh).
- Obviously, we are talking about a film that we particularly liked but whose complete and total originality should probably be discussed.
- For us it’s not a real cons, but for someone it could (hopefully not, but we have to be realistic nowadays): like many films of this type that offer a sort of puzzle (although this is definitely less extreme then cases like Lola Rennt or Memento just to name a few) this is a film to watch carefully – it doesn’t allow distractions.
What do you think of this film? Please leave a comment below and let us know!
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