Saturday 6 August 2011

Shutter Island (2010) - Martin Scorsese

It was Freud who discovered that the cure to neurosis was to uncover its repressed source in the mind.  It's this notion that structures Shutter Island, a film that blurs the boundaries between mental illusion and reality.

It takes the form of a Hitchcockian exploration of psychosis, with a touch of Victorian gothic drama.  Set in 1950's America, Leonardo DiCaprio plays US Marshall Teddy Daniels, tasked with investigating the disappearance of a patient from the mental asylum on Shutter Island.  On arrival, things quickly go awry, with various suspicious characters seemingly out to hinder Daniels's inquiry.  What begins as a typical detective mystery scenario descends into madness, literally.  Though the final twist is easily predicted within the first twenty minutes thus rendering the denouement fairly unsatisfying, the narrative is well constructed and plays out with intensity and suspense, despite the presence of a number of tropes typical of the genre.

What really shines here is the lighting (excuse the pun).  The island itself is suitably foreboding, with sharp cliff faces and dark swirling skies creating a frightening atmosphere.  The constant storm allows for some intense contrasts in the lighting more typical of the horror genre, heightening the suspenseful atmosphere.  As for the acting, DiCaprio performs well as Scorsese's male muse but the inclusion of Ben Kingsley as the psychiactric doctor is an obvious choice that undermines the mystery of the plot.

The narrative may have its shortcomings, but as a thrilling mood piece Shutter Island is a success.