Search Terms & The Blog: Shutter Island

Leonardo DiCaprio, left, and Mark Ruffalo in "Shutter Island" (Paramount)
Leonardo DiCaprio, left, and Mark Ruffalo in “Shutter Island” (Paramount)

I often get lots of funny phrases and questions in my search terms and I’ve always said that one day I will do a post on them. Something prompted me to seize the day, and so I have started a column of sorts for my colorful and interesting search terms and questions. When you come to Linus with questions, you get answers!

Spoilers Galore for Shutter Island – You’ve Been Warned

With the movie out, Shutter Island is a really popular search term.  I agree that it was a mind-bender, both when I saw the book and read the movie.  Though I have no idea what Scorsese was thinking about when he ordered up the score (I though the music was loud and too overly dramatic – bordering on campy ’50 movie, so not a fan), I felt like the emotions were all there.  I left the theater feeling  like I had been in the head of someone who had issues, and was very sad.  It’s that kind of story.

Okay, you really have to read the book/see the movie to get the full picture but here is the gist of how it goes down:

U.S. Marshals Teddy Daniels and his partner, Chuck Aule, show up at Shutter Island to investigate the disappearance of a patient named Rachel Salandro who has gone missing from the island’s mental health facility for the criminally insane, Ashcliffe. They arrive in the pouring rain and at the start of a huge hurricane-like storm. They start conducting the investigation into Rachel’s disappearance but run into problems with a reluctant staff and the only doctor who might be able to shed light on the situation is the mysteriously missing- Dr.  Sheehan (whom the head doctor, Dr. Cawley says he allowed to leave on the last ferry out for  his vacation). They find a note written by missing patient Rachel Salandro asking about a 67th patient, even though there are only 66 patients on the island. Things get weird.

Teddy keeps having flashback of his dead wife Dolores, from when he served in Germany during World War II, and of  a child who  follows him around asking him why he didn’t save her. He is also having migraines, for which he takes medicine at the insane asylum. Everything is just crazy and weird stuff happens, and Teddy is seeing things that may or not be there. Teddy starts to think that the institution is running experiments on the inmates. He and Chuck break into the most dangerous ward where Teddy encounters a man with a seriously scarred face called Noyce. When Teddy asks who did that to his face, he says that Teddy did, and that Teddy is a  rat in a maze and gets Teddy to thinking about who he can trust. From then on Teddy starts to question his partner Chuck, until Chuck goes missing and Dr. Cawley tells him that he came to the island alone. Say what?

At some point Teddy had run into a lady in a cave who warns him that he has been drugged if he has taken medicine, smokes cigarettes or had anything to eat or drink- now he will never be able to leave Shutter Island.  She then throws him out of her cave because people will be looking for him and she doesn’t  want them to find her. Teddy thinks that everyone is trying to make him seem crazy and prevent him from leaving the island with what he knows. Teddy becomes determined to break into a lighthouse that is on the island, a place where bad things happen, because he can’t leave th island without Chuck. He creates a diversion and blows up Dr. Cawley’s car and then knocks out a guard, but when he gets to the lighthouse Dr. Cawley is the only one there.

Dr. Cawley tells him that he, Teddy,  is the 67th patient, Andrew Laeddis, and that he has been at Ashcliffe for over two years since he killed his wife after she drowned their three kids (she had been suffering from post partum psychosis, she asks Teddy to put her out of her misery- in the movie). The missing Dr. Sheehan turns up and it’s Chuck Aule, Andrew’s primary psychiatrist, who has been playing the role of Chuck Aule in a last-ditch, all-out role-playing exercise intended to bring Teddy/Andrew back to himself and keep them from having to perform a lobotomy on him. Apparently Teddy is the smartest and most dangerous patient they have, always escaping and beating people up, like with Noyce’s face.

Andrew Laeddis seems to have reverted back into his head where he thinks that he is U.S. Marshal, Teddy Daniels, and  Dr. Sheehan is his partner Chuck Aule. Dr. Sheehan is really disturbed to hear this because it means that the treatment has not taken and Andrew/Teddy has gone back to his delusions and to potentially being a danger to the rest of the inmates and staff of the facility. Dr. Sheehan/Chuck is sad that he is delusional again because that means they have to give Andrew/Teddy a lobotomy, and he gives the signal to the approaching doctors that the treatment has failed and they must perform surgery. But then as Andrew/Teddy is readying himself to go with the doctors, he turns to Dr. Sheehan/Chuck and asks him if he would rather live a monster or die a good man. Andrew/Teddy gets up and walks to meet the doctors, and Dr. Sheehan/Chuck calls out “Teddy”, but Andrew doesn’t answer. He just keeps walking. (I took that to mean that Andrew knows who he is (not Teddy), and that he would rather die as Teddy than to live as Andrew Laeddis, knowing what has happened to his family and what he did.)

Right here: My review of the novel Shutter Island. I also found an interesting article comparing the psychology in Shutter Island to real psychology.  The author mentioned that some of the ideas and techniques were dated, but I wonder if he forgot for a minute that the book/movie would have had to have been based on the theories and information available in the ’50’s. After reading Paula Butturini’s memoir, Keeping The Feast, I was surprised to hear that drug resistant depression was so prevalent and that people were still undergoing electroconvulsive therapies.

Leave a Comment