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Sunday, May 02, 2010

'Shutter Island': a case of mind-shut

After a long and eager wait, I was finally able to catch the film "Shutter Island" last night.
Needless to say why I had been eager to see the film. Yet for the uninitiated, let me confess for the umpteenth time that Martin Scorsese happens to be one of my all-time favorite filmmakers, and Leonardo DiCaprio is a favorite actor for whom I have had a huge admiration since I first saw him in "What's Eating Gilber Grape".
But this time, I was having a whole lot of apprehension too...
Recently, on a Bangla television channel, Anjan Dutt, the much acclaimed filmmaker from Kolkata who needs no introduction, has publicly rubbished "Shutter Island" saying that he was so appalled that he could not even sit through it!
After having watched the film, I can easily debunk Anjan Dutt's claims, which now expose him all the more more as a disgruntled creative individual with wrongly channelized gumption.
Incidentally, a few years back I was seated next to Anjan Dutt at a Kolkata multiplex (Inox-Forum) where he came with his son to watch the Clint Eastwood film "Mystic River". I remember, shirking from interacting with him after I found him visually frustrated by the film that unfolded on screen. On the other hand, I loved the film "Mystic River", which is based on the novel penned by Dennis Lehane, who also happens to be the writer of the novel "Shutter Island" which Martin Scorsese has filmed, and I must admit that I loved the same nervous energy and the character-based conflicts that pepper "Shutter Island".

The film "Shutter Island" finds Scorsese collaborating with many of his favorites yet again, from lead actor Leonardo DiCaprio (who has previously worked with him in "Gangs of New York", "The Aviator" and "The Departed"), cinematographer Robert Richardson, film editor Thelma Schoonmaker, and music supervisor Robbie Robertson.

The cast of "Shutter Island" includes, apart from Leonardo DiCaprio, such stupendous talents as Ben Kingsley, Mark Ruffalo, Michelle Williams, Max von Sydow, Emily Mortimer, Elias Koteas, Patricia Clarkson, and Ted Levine.

The story emerging through layers of dread, deception, enigma and intrigue, is actually quite simple.... or so I thought.... however, the story-telling is quite remarkable, to say the least. It would be a shame to divulge the details about the tale, as the emotional jigsaw puzzle that the tale offers to a viewer, ready to uncover and solve, is better not spoiled.
The manner in which the characters are assembled for us viewers makes it a treat to watch, just like all of Scorsese's films. From the very beginning the visuals just grip us completely and make us ready for all the madness and bewilderment that ensues.

Scorsese is the master of invoking suspense and paranoic atmosphere, and here he succeeds brilliantly. The body of the film is richly textured, and, in parts, it even brings back the magic of Alfred Hitchcock. Our fears, our beliefs, our weaknesses, our secrets are often locked up, and in "Shutter Island", a serious viewer can surely
probe such natural tendencies to keep things all wrapped up. But even for a lay viewer, the film holds much charm and thrills that never fail to mesmerize.

The film's title (the book's too) refers to the remote island where apparently a murderess is believed to be hiding after having escaped from a rather strange institutional facility for the criminally insane.

The film can be best classified as a psychological mystery-thriller; much of what is seen and experienced pose questions; the thin line between reality and delusions often gets blurred. Everything is not as it seems.

Ben Kingsley, Mark Ruffalo and Max von Sydow have added a lot of nuance to their characters. Michelle Williams, Patricia Clarkson and Emily Mortimer have fantastic screen presence and they've brought out their best even in the short scenes.
Re-creating the atmospheric tone of the Fifties, and even the flashback scenes that depict the horrors of the Second World War wouldn't have been as difficult and exacting as the portrayal of the paranoia, ranging from the fears about communism to that about brain-washing, which is perceived by the characters. The perfect casting makes that job easier.

The asylum having only one point of entry (since the island’s terra firma sits atop a base of sheer cliff walls) provides much scope for the exquisitely created dark interiors and visual effects. The experiencing of trauma, anxiety and grappling with doubts, distrust and 'disappearance' becomes the leitmotif, and the symbols of loss of sanity effectively embellish the scenario.

I would personally recommend the film to all my readers,
and to all cine-lovers.
Just indulge yourself in the magic of cinema.
Savor the brilliance of a maestro, immerse yourself in the topnotch scenes and the noirish twists, and let's rubbish the trashy criticisms of frustrated cynics, let's just tell them to shut up their big mouths!


mehul said...

Wow! Without giving away the story, you have whetted the appetite for the readers, those who are yet to see the movie. I have seen it and hence can say that I agree with your take on SHUTTER ISLAND completely.
I plan to read the book too, as soon as I can grab a copy.
Leonardo DiCaprio has done a fantastic job! The script is delightfully twisty, the cinematography stunning, and the location is a character all by itself..... what else does one need to sit glued to the screens for a film? The critics who've panned the movie must have been left uneasy by the fact that Martin Scorsese's brilliance hasn't fizzled out nor has it become dated.

aarav said...

Apart from MYSTIC RIVER and SHUTTER ISLAND, yet another Dennis Lehane book has been made into an interesting film..... it's GONE BABY GONE (directed by Ben Affleck). Each of these tales, and films, has one common thread - the search for truth. The tales connect investigation, probing, analyzing, dissecting and even redemption & retribution in a strange manner.

I am aware of the fact that SHUTTER ISLAND, the film, has opened to mixed reviews worldwide, but most unbiased viewers like us are surely going to feel rewarded by a uniquely fulfilling cinematic experience after having watched it, which is a major achievement in this day and time.

pallavi said...

Had to watch the movie after reading your review!
I agree, it's a cool movie.... though it is a bit slow. Maybe it was done intentionally to build the tension and sustain the suspenseful atmosphere. I have not seen many of the earlier films of Martin Scorsese, so can't compare. But 'Shutter Island' is surely a good watch. It is riveting psychological drama, and hence it has less frills of a mystery flick or a thriller.
I must say that the movie kept haunting me long after it ended - especially with the final poser that's voiced by Leonardo's character.

abhishek said...

The moment I saw in the papers the famous Churchill quote that summed up 'Shutter Island' as a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma, I knew I had to see this film! And I loved it immensely. The extent to which the film has probed the emotional interiors is fascinating. Thanks for the posting the brief review, buddy. Keep up the good work.

shiv said...

Shutting up minds that have been active, rather hyper-active, in an attempt to do a mapping of the same, and even a complete overhaul, is way more threatening than the apparent mindgames that are played by a mind that makes delusions, phobias and anxieties play up.
The film opens up many such questions which are quite baffling. The constant 'What if' hypotheses were much intriguing.
I too was left agog with the final query of Teddy in the film.... it's all a question of comparative damages after all!

Krishh said...

SHUTTER ISLAND proves that Martin Scorsese is so very vibrant a filmmaker, even at this age.
Without him, the West wouldn't have warmed up to Satyajit Ray as they do even now, long after his demise.
Incidentally, Scorsese has also shown keen interest in restoring, preserving and archiving of the films made by Mrinal Sen and Chetan Anand. He is supposed to visit India this summer.... I am so thrilled.... Scorsese has also been enthusiastic to restore 'Kalpana' - the film made by UdayShankar, the dance legend who is sadly not revered and remembered by his countrymen; 'Kalpana' being a pre-cursor to the avant garde films of the West.

Abhijit Sengupta said...

Great review buddy! I watched 'Shutter Island' a week back and I absolutely loved the movie! Scorsese once again proves that he hasn't yet lost his 'Midas touch', no matter what the critics say. The mark of a good psychological thriller is that you keep on guessing the plot twists, and every time it happens you're completely taken by surprise. It hits you out of the blue. And that's exactly what happens in 'Shutter Island'. The film slowly builds up the tension and by the time the climax unfolds, you're left jaw-dropped! Scorsese cleverly blurs the distinction between reality and imagination. What I loved the most about the film is that 'Shutter Island' has an old-school filmmaking charm to it. That you can make a gripping thriller without the aid of blood, gore, indiscriminate killings, illogical stunts is clearly evident in 'Shutter Island. All the actors - DiCaprio, KIngsley, Ruffalo, Max von Sydow - were terrific. So was the cinematography and editing.

And I still fail to understand what made Anjan Dutt pan the movie so harshly!

abhishek said...

Some fresh piece of good news: A trip to Shutter Island is once again on the cards, as per media reports are concerned. HBO and Paramount Television are likely to develop a prequel series based on the 2010 film directed by Martin Scorsese. Tentatively titled Ashecliffe, the story is likely to take place in the isolated mental hospital depicted in the Leonardo DiCaprio starrer and the drama would explore the hospital's past and misdeeds by its founders.