Author Topic: Shutter Island  (Read 29145 times)

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matt35mm

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Re: Shutter Island
« Reply #120 on: March 20, 2010, 04:10:43 PM »
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The film was mildly enjoyable for the visual elements.  Unfortunately, I felt like the screenplay was not very good at all, mostly because it forced all the actors to stand there and just explain what's going on.  All of the big revelation scenes are just people explaining things and then repeating in ridiculously simple language so that everyone in the audience could get it.  There were a few times where I understood what they were saying the first time they said it, and then felt annoyed when they immediately repeated the same idea in simpler language.  Never for an instant could I believe that any of the psychiatrist characters were speaking as a psychiatrist would, mostly because of the simplicity of the ideas, and because they explain things as you might to a child.  They don't even sound like adults talking to other adults because of this over-explanation.  Also, the notion of a person "going insane," such that they were sane and, due to a single traumatic event, become insane, seems dubious to me.  There are post-traumatic disorders, but that doesn't seem like the same thing as insanity, which would be a chemical/physical problem of the mind that plagues a person's whole life.

That was my biggest problem with the screenplay.  The structure of it is okay, though I think the more intriguing story idea would have been "Could a sane person be made to believe that he has been insane for years?"  That would have been a more interesting revelation, since a lot of people seem to guess that Leo's already insane (he sure acts insane for the whole damn movie).  It's mildly hinted at with the last couple of lines that he might not have regressed and is choosing to have the memories ripped out of him, but that it still remains clear that he did kill his wife and did go insane.  What I'm suggesting is a story where the Leo character really did just land on that island a few days ago and by the end of this experiment, was made to believe that he had been there for years.  It would, at least for me, raise a lot more disturbing questions and be more philosophically interesting.  But that would be a different story.

Stylistically, my favorite thing was the lack of continuity between shots.  Scorsese actually does in his other movies, which is a stylistic choice that I respond to more than his kinetic camerawork, which is usually more remarked upon by others.  When I edit, I'm often a slave to continuity, and it's not difficult to achieve continuity if that's important to you, so I don't consider it a mistake when Scorsese eschews continuity.  It's something that I would like to experiment with someday.  Anyway, I believe that the lack of continuity is done more in Shutter Island than in other Scorsese movies, for the obvious reason that Teddy is insane, and it's effective.  I'm talking not so much about an object being there in one shot and not the next, but rather having a back and forth between the actors and from cut to cut their hands are in different places.  I believe there a few times when a character has a cigarette in his mouth and in the next shot he's holding it by his hip or something.  I think it's a really neat idea to not direct the actors to have their hands in specific places for specific lines, and then edit according to performance rather than continuity.

Other than that, it was stylistically and technically fine... really good, even, but we've come to expect showy stuff like that from Scorsese, so the experience is never mindblowing.

But really, the main thing that prevented me from liking this was the exposition-heavy screenplay.  Other than the Teddy character, none of the characters had any motivation to be saying any of things that they were saying, except to explain it to the audience, and for the 10th time to Teddy.  It was very emotionally distancing for me.  Also, the representations of insane people were borderline silly.

Captain of Industry

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Re: Shutter Island
« Reply #121 on: March 20, 2010, 06:47:46 PM »
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They don't even sound like adults talking to other adults because of this over-explanation.  

Is there a moment when this type of conversation happens without DiCaprio in the room?  Because otherwise it seems perfectly reasonable to me, given the preposterous circumstance.    They have one day down to one moment and one chance to reveal his insanity to him, and it seems to me they'd have to use a variety of intellectual and social devices in order to achieve this.  He HAS to get it.  They're going to make it impossible for him to not get (aside:  as an audience member, in that watch tower, I didn't mind this, and I really also think it's the most transparently humorous moment of the movie in terms of genre deconstruction and bizarre expectation reversal, and I really felt myself passing through the phases of acceptance myself [given the preposterous circumstance]).  You are saying his mind was more developed than a child's, but I'd say that specific point of comprehension would be extremely difficult for him to reason.

Also, the notion of a person "going insane," such that they were sane and, due to a single traumatic event, become insane, seems dubious to me.

What I'm suggesting is a story where the Leo character really did just land on that island a few days ago and by the end of this experiment, was made to believe that he had been there for years.

Obviously a direct and unintentional contradiction here.  For a number of reasons.  How many days does the film take place over?  Four, maybe five?  You're saying it's more likely for man to be convinced, in five days, that he's been on an island for years and didn't realize it (!), even though he probably came to the island sane, and has little emotional investment in any of the people there, then for a man to go nuts because his fucking wife murdered the goddamn kids in a super weird and thoughtless way!  Get out of town.  Does the film specify that Leo went immediately nuts, that a helicopter was flown in to lift him out of the backyard because he was so immediately insane?  To me, the guy could have gone nuts, however long it took, and he definitely didn't have to be insane to kill his wife in that moment.

matt35mm

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Re: Shutter Island
« Reply #122 on: March 20, 2010, 07:53:43 PM »
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NOTE: This is long because I'm working out what I think about these ideas, not because I'm arguing with you about anything.  So it meanders a lot and I wouldn't blame you for not reading it.  Just don't read it as some kind of rant against what you said, because it's not.

SPOILERS

They don't even sound like adults talking to other adults because of this over-explanation.  

Is there a moment when this type of conversation happens without DiCaprio in the room?  Because otherwise it seems perfectly reasonable to me, given the preposterous circumstance.    They have one day down to one moment and one chance to reveal his insanity to him, and it seems to me they'd have to use a variety of intellectual and social devices in order to achieve this.  He HAS to get it.  They're going to make it impossible for him to not get (aside:  as an audience member, in that watch tower, I didn't mind this, and I really also think it's the most transparently humorous moment of the movie in terms of genre deconstruction and bizarre expectation reversal, and I really felt myself passing through the phases of acceptance myself [given the preposterous circumstance]).  You are saying his mind was more developed than a child's, but I'd say that specific point of comprehension would be extremely difficult for him to reason.

I can't really recall any scenes where DiCaprio is not there.  Your argument makes sense for the scene where they finally tell him what's going on, but what I'm talking about is a problem that runs throughout the movie.  The dialogue is all very expositional.  I couldn't pick up on any subtext in the film because I felt like it was all verbally spoken, down to the motivations and why everyone did what they did.  I suppose that could be reasoned away with the fact the Teddy is crazy and half the people he speaks to don't even exist, but I found it difficult to reconcile that with me as an audience member having to sit there and have these things effectively be explained to me as well as to Teddy.

It's like how some people here found it funny (you say you find it humorous as well) when Ben Kingsley reveals that board with the anagrams on it.  I felt like that was what the dialogue was doing all the time.  If the whole style of the dialogue is about how you explain things to a person with limited reasoning abilities, then the movie still doesn't give the audience any additional work to do, effectively making it so that everything that happens is explained verbally to us in simple terms.  I felt like I never got the chance to discover anything that wasn't explained verbally to me.

Now that I'm thinking more about it, I think one of the problems that I have with it is that an insane person's mind is not simply like the mind of a child--an essentially normal mind.  An insane mind has an inability to reason properly, so the notion of talking to Teddy in a way to make it impossible for him not to get doesn't really work.  They're explaining it to him like he is a sane but stupid person, a poor tactic for Teddy, but a great tactic for the audience (except, not really).

Also, the notion of a person "going insane," such that they were sane and, due to a single traumatic event, become insane, seems dubious to me.

What I'm suggesting is a story where the Leo character really did just land on that island a few days ago and by the end of this experiment, was made to believe that he had been there for years.

Obviously a direct and unintentional contradiction here.  For a number of reasons.  How many days does the film take place over?  Four, maybe five?  You're saying it's more likely for man to be convinced, in five days, that he's been on an island for years and didn't realize it (!), even though he probably came to the island sane, and has little emotional investment in any of the people there, then for a man to go nuts because his fucking wife murdered the goddamn kids in a super weird and thoughtless way!  Get out of town.  Does the film specify that Leo went immediately nuts, that a helicopter was flown in to lift him out of the backyard because he was so immediately insane?  To me, the guy could have gone nuts, however long it took, and he definitely didn't have to be insane to kill his wife in that moment.

Well, I'm really talking about two different things here, so I should clarify.  The first clarification is that I was definitely talking about a different story, not this story.  I didn't mean it as a suggestion to change this story, but rather that it made me think of another kind of story that I would have found more intriguing.

I don't really know much about mental insanity from a psychiatric point of view, so I was just saying that I am under the impression that, for actually mentally insane people, there are chemical and/or physical defects in the brain that were always there, and not caused by a single traumatic event.  While a traumatic event could trigger apparently insane behavior, the lack of sanity was always there, such that a sane mind cannot become insane, barring physical damage to the brain.  The length of time (whether Teddy went instantly crazy or went crazy over a longer period of time) doesn't matter.  Oh, and I neither suggested nor thought that Teddy was insane when he killed his wife; that action was reasonable given the circumstances (i.e., sane).

So anyway, the other story that I was suggesting would be based on an experiment whereby a sane person is isolated from society, expose him to strange things that are performed by actors which he cannot fully explain, and then later explain to him that his actual life was imagined and that he has physically been in this place all along.  The reason that this would be intriguing to me is because you can always logically explain that the things that you thought were real are not real (in the way that Descartes logically proves that he cannot know that the world exists at all outside of his mind).  There does actually exist a logically sound explanation as to how everything you think is real could actually be imagined.  A sane person would be able to logically follow the explanation, and the experiment would be to see whether that, in the context of inexplicable happenings (which are actually performed by actors) could, over time, convince the sane person that he has been insane all along--not that he once was sane and became insane, but that he was always insane.  It would be explained with such strong logic that it would be sane to think that you might be insane.  Interestingly, you would have to be sane in order to be convinced of this, because one of the hallmarks (as far as I've heard) of actual insanity is an inability to fully follow logic.  So, if you can be convinced that you are insane, you are probably sane, yet it still remains possible to be convinced that everything you thought was real was actually a dream or trickery.

This is a seriously considered thought in philosophy (though normally discussed in terms of the existence of the world, rather than whether you are sane or not), so this story idea would be to take the thought experiment into the realm of an actual experiment.  Maybe a better way to put it is not to convince a sane person that he is insane, but rather that everything he ever thought was real was in fact not real, and that he has physically been on this isolated island for years while imagining a life elsewhere.  This is a very different story than the one in Shutter Island, but I brought it up because the movie made me think about it.

But I just wanted to clarify that I don't think it's a contradiction because the story idea would not require that a sane person actually becomes insane, but rather is made to believe that he has always been insane, and that if he were to realize that his ability to follow that logic means that he's not insane, he may still be convinced that his real life was actually invented in his mind (which is not the same as insanity).

Which now actually makes me think that the Teddy character in Shutter Island is not technically insane, but is instead suffering from something closer to what Leonard suffered from in Memento.  He must be sane if he can be convinced, even through super obvious explanation, that he is insane, at least if we're subscribing to the notion that insanity specifically involves an inability to follow logic.  That makes Ben Kingsley's notion that he can simply talk a person out of their insanity or let them play out their insane behavior until it has passed ridiculous.

But again, to clarify, I don't really know anything about real mental insanity.  

Captain of Industry

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Re: Shutter Island
« Reply #123 on: March 20, 2010, 08:51:09 PM »
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I'd watch your Cartesian thriller.  Have you read The Invention of Morel?



If so, let's talk about it in relation to what you're saying.  If not, I recommend it and think you'd like it.

As far as Shutter Island is concerned, I hadn't begun to consider the insanity aspect thoroughly until your post.  I did the easier thing and accepted it blindly as a dramatic element.  But immediately when I read your post I realized it was worth considering.  And having considered, I think Scorsese definitely used insanity for its dramatic features, sure like Leonard in Memento, or Tyler Durden in Fight Club.  

And if the film is about a man whose kids were slaughtered by their mother, his wife, who he then slays, if that's the emotional and dramatic current, then either way (he was insane or not) the ending is perfect (I just love the end).  Either way the film is more about guilt than insanity in the first place.  Scorsese uses insanity to emphasize self-preserving dimensions of guilt, and the DiCaprio character from The Departed has simply been pulled out of a gangster drama and thrust into a psychological horror film.  Psychological dramatically speaking, in its approach to exposing the interior of its central character, but not scientifically speaking, as in not actually dealing with the reality of insanity or insane people.  Which I agree would be an awesome movie, and I agree that it isn't this one.

matt35mm

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Re: Shutter Island
« Reply #124 on: March 20, 2010, 09:21:49 PM »
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I haven't read The Invention of Morel, but I've got some free time coming up so I'll make it a point to read it soon!  Thanks.

And if the film is about a man whose kids were slaughtered by their mother, his wife, who he then slays, if that's the emotional and dramatic current, then either way (he was insane or not) the ending is perfect (I just love the end).  Either way the film is more about guilt than insanity in the first place.  Scorsese uses insanity to emphasize self-preserving dimensions of guilt, and the DiCaprio character from The Departed has simply been pulled out of a gangster drama and thrust into a psychological horror film.  Psychological dramatically speaking, in its approach to exposing the interior of its central character, but not scientifically speaking, as in not actually dealing with the reality of insanity or insane people.  Which I agree would be an awesome movie, and I agree that it isn't this one.

Yeah, that all seems fair to say.  Thinking of it in terms of guilt works much better for me, and indeed I didn't think it was a bad story.  I felt a pang in my heart at the end because of I responded to the tragedy of the story.  Still, I'm left bothered by what remains as unnecessarily simplistic and expositional dialogue that feels like it's there to make sure that every member of the audience gets it.  It wasn't only the psychology that was explained, but also character motivations and thoughts.  I blame the screenplay for it.  I'm guessing that the book is better, simply because books can bring us into a character's mind without the need to have the character say it.

matt35mm

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Re: Shutter Island
« Reply #125 on: March 21, 2010, 05:47:55 PM »
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By the way, has anybody pointed out that the Max Von Sydow character in Shutter Island looks like a parody of the parody of a Max Von Sydow-esque scientist from the Monorail episode of The Simpsons (post poorly-timed haircut)?


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Re: Shutter Island
« Reply #126 on: March 22, 2010, 12:37:17 AM »
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haha, i totally thought the same thing when i was watching it.

tpfkabi

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Re: Shutter Island
« Reply #127 on: March 22, 2010, 02:48:49 PM »
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the whole part with the lady in the cave in a very hard place to get to - was that real? i'm trying to remember the context, but even when watching i thought it was a crazy place to go to. what if he died on his way to that spot or the lady for that instance? it's was a pretty treacherous place to get in and out of if I remember correctly.
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ElPandaRoyal

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Re: Shutter Island
« Reply #128 on: March 22, 2010, 03:53:11 PM »
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the whole part with the lady in the cave in a very hard place to get to - was that real? i'm trying to remember the context, but even when watching i thought it was a crazy place to go to. what if he died on his way to that spot or the lady for that instance? it's was a pretty treacherous place to get in and out of if I remember correctly.

He was investigating at that point, and if I remeber correctly, he went down on the cave (nice!) because he thought his partner had fallen there.
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Re: Shutter Island
« Reply #129 on: March 22, 2010, 05:16:45 PM »
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at that point the film is clearly telling you this guy is nuts. the way ruffalo is shown just suddenly lying there without having made a sound while falling and dicaprio's ambivalence about what just happened are clear indications of this. but sure, the fact that he just goes down that wall of rocks like a professional rock climber tells you right away this is just one big hallucination.

Kal

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Re: Shutter Island
« Reply #130 on: March 22, 2010, 09:11:50 PM »
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at that point the film is clearly telling you this guy is nuts. the way ruffalo is shown just suddenly lying there without having made a sound while falling and dicaprio's ambivalence about what just happened are clear indications of this. but sure, the fact that he just goes down that wall of rocks like a professional rock climber tells you right away this is just one big hallucination.

But he was taking those pills for his headache, so you don't know why he was hallucinating exactly

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Re: Shutter Island
« Reply #131 on: March 23, 2010, 11:54:37 AM »
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 but sure, the fact that he just goes down that wall of rocks like a professional rock climber tells you right away this is just one big hallucination.

...or just bad writing. and that kind of laziness is so common in movies nowadays that its often hard to tell whats intetional.
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Alexandro

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Re: Shutter Island
« Reply #132 on: March 23, 2010, 12:58:08 PM »
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At that point in the film I was absolutely convinced this character was insane, but it was the first time I noticed the film admiting it in such direct way.

I don't think that particular moment is an example of bad writing, it's not a badly written movie per se actually, but the CHOICE of relying so heavily in the explanation via dialogue is just off putting in this day and age.

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Re: Shutter Island
« Reply #133 on: March 23, 2010, 04:21:42 PM »
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it could be like Hitchcock's 'water cooler moment' like the hotel scene in Vertigo?
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Alexandro

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Re: Shutter Island
« Reply #134 on: March 23, 2010, 04:30:12 PM »
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well as much as I love Psycho, I would love it if Hitchcock would have cut the near to the end scene where everything is explained, or at least made it less cheesy.

 

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