After eight handwritten pages of notes taken over two viewings (aside from the first recreational viewing), I have only more questions and not enough answers as to the truth of Shutter Island. The easiest explanation is the one that is offered in a straightforward fashion by the film itself. However, there are lots of questionable bits. My hope in writing this is not to assert my own “absolute truth” and to impose it on others, but to bring to light the many things that poke holes in the straightforward narrative fed to us by Dr Cawley. What follows are a series of questions and points of consideration that I ask all of you to try to examine in order to form your own interpretation of what happened on Shutter Island.

What Happened on Shutter Island? A Summary of Considerations

Before I present to you my narrative as based on the evidence I’ve provided, I want to show you a concise list of things that bring to light just how questionable the reality presented by the doctors really is. I invite my readers to keep this list in mind and to form their own conclusions on what really happened in this movie.

  • Teddy makes sure to mention that “it was the smoke that got her, not the fire.” It is important to him that his wife was not burnt to death.
  • Teddy never mentions his children by name or in his verbally recounted personal narratives. Additionally, when he says that four people died in the fire, he only mentions his wife specifically. Think about it: if your whole family died in a fire, wouldn’t you say that “my wife and kids died in that fire”, or “my whole family died in that fire”? In contrast, he does mention his wife by name.
  • Everybody is trying to get Teddy to accept false memories. One big example is when Deputy Warden McPherson says that Teddy said himself that nobody would survive the rocky cliffs without shoes; in fact, it was Dr Sheehan who said this. Also note how everybody calls him Marshal over and over again, to reinforce the idea that he is indeed a U.S. Marshal.
  • In the scene where he is denied access to the records, Teddy doesn’t know where his report is going to go: Dr Sheehan completes his sentence for him, saying that the report will go to the FBI (“Hoover’s boys”).
  • We can’t really trust anything the doctors say: they proved their duplicity by trying to pass the nurse off as Rachel Solando.
  • Dr Rachel Solando (in the cave) calls Teddy a Marshal, but she couldn’t have known that he is a Marshal if she was really on the run because Teddy only identifies himself as a cop.
  • Teddy doesn’t know what a real revolver feels like: he confuses a cheap water pistol for a real one.
  • The name ‘Andrew Laeddis’ looks made up when compared to the name of ‘Edward Daniels’. That is to say that Edward Daniels is the source of the anagram, not the re-arranged product.
  • The quote, “Why are you all wet, baby?” is misspoken in Teddy’s ‘memory’ of what supposedly happened as described by Dr Cawley. Instead, he says, “Baby, why are you all wet?”
  • Although this is a weak point, his wife Dolores calls him Teddy in his dreams.
  • Why does Dr Sheehan call out the name Teddy at the very end oaf the movie?

Find your answers to these questions and watch it online now!

What really happened – An Explanation of Shutter Island From Beginning to End

Teddy Daniels’s real name is Edward ‘Teddy’ Daniels. He is a World War II veteran. Coming back from the war, he became the maintenance man at his own apartment building; he was never really a U.S. Marshal. He was married to Dolores Chanal, but has no children. He is a pyromaniac who burnt down his own apartment, killing four people—one of which was his wife. He is also a conspiracy theory buff.

In his extreme mental distress at learning that his fire killed his wife, he broke down and dissociated himself from reality. He created a new history. In this new history, a hideous man named Andrew Laeddis (really a reflection of the ugly and unbearable side of himself) was the man who “lit the match that caused the fire that killed [his] wife.” Andrew Laeddis was sent to Shutter Island. To explain his own existence on Shutter Island, Teddy Daniels remade himself as a U.S. Marshal, originally sent here to hunt down Andrew Laeddis.

In reality, the newly incarcerated Teddy Daniels was declared insane and was sent to Shutter Island. At Shutter Island, Teddy became the subject of an experiment. The experiment was one in which the psychiatrists would attempt to implant false memories into Teddy’s mind. Teddy, in a state of delusion, claimed that he was a U.S. Marshal to justify his presence. He met Dr Cawley who invented Rachel Solando for him to hunt down. Dr Sheehan, posing as Teddy’s fellow Marshal and partner Chuck, stays close to him to push him in the right direction. He encourages Teddy to continue the hunt (“I’ve never quit anything”); instills paranoid fear in him (the mausoleum scene); and plays upon that paranoia (urging him not to go to the lighthouse in an exercise in reverse psychology), all in an attempt to ensure that he reaches the lighthouse (in a highly unstable state) for the final event.

When Teddy reaches the lighthouse, he is confronted by the inconsistencies and flawed logic of everything that he has been going through. He is presented with a far more reasonable explanation, though it is a fabricated one. This is the point at which the experiment is judged to have either failed or succeeded. If Teddy accepts this fictitious account, the psychiatrists have succeeded in attempting to implant a false memory into a patient.

Teddy has been through this before, and he now realizes that there is no way out of Shutter Island. He tells the doctors that he accepts their narrative in order to avoid lobotomy. However, sitting on the steps outside, he reconsiders and decides that lobotomy would be better than chasing Andrew Laeddis for the rest of his life: he figures they’ll just try to keep forcing this lake house narrative on him over and over again. When asking whether it’d be “better to live as a monster or die a good man,” Teddy is making a choice to take the lobotomy and thus die a good man. He refuses to accept the reality that he is just a maintenance man whose wife died because of his pyromania, and is instead perpetually stuck in a delusion in which he is Teddy Daniels, U.S. Marshal hunting down Andrew Laeddis (an entity created in his dissociative disorder), the man who killed his wife.

Things to Question

Here are some things to take into consideration, questions to ask yourself to formulate your own interpretation of the film. What follows is the reasoning behind my interpretation.

Is Shutter Island really a government operated correctional facility for the criminally insane?

Military field radios at Shutter Island

I like to start with this because it’s one of the first pieces of reality that is presented to us.

At the very least, it is affiliated with the military. The Warden drives a military jeep that has government plates, and in the ending lighthouse scene, Dr Cawley uses a military field radio to notify someone to tend to the guard that Teddy knocked out.

The Warden is also described by Teddy as an “ex-military prick” (this of course is not necessarily reliable or specifically confirmed: the orderly only says that he won’t “argue with you there”). Finally, the guards are using the M1 Garand rifle, a military weapon. Of course, I’m no expert on the historical use of military weaponry in non-military correctional facilities (such usage is more common at maximum security facilities in the modern day).

A military jeep with government plates on Shutter Island

With that said, the first two points still stand. While there may be nothing inherently suspicious about a correctional facility run by the government, it would reason that an actual military-run prison—one that is not conducting any shady experiments—would have military police and not corrections officers. I’ll admit that this is a rather weak point, but it’s something to take note of nonetheless.

The Role Playing Game as a Brainwashing Experiment

Try watching the movie with the perspective that the doctors are all trying to impress their version and reality onto Teddy. Note how they always address him as Marshal. This is a way for them to reinforce the idea that he is indeed a U.S. Marshal investigating Shutter Island. They never ask him to recall anything. Instead, they simply present a narrative for Teddy to accept. It’s quite possible that they are experimenting with ways to implant false memories: not a bad way to create a patsy. Note: 2 May 2012. It’s also possible that calling him Marshal is an easy way for the writer to avoid committing the character to either identity (Teddy or Andrew). The novel might be a good source of information.


Want to compare the movie with the novel? Get the book now!

Earlier in the film, there is a scene in which Teddy is examining Rachel Solando’s room. Dr Sheehan is the one who points out the fact that Rachel did not bring the shoes. Deputy Warden McPherson was not present in this scene. Yet in a concurrent scene in which Teddy asks about the caves he sees in the distance, McPherson says, “You said yourself Marshal, she’s got no shoes.” Teddy never said this. It was Dr Sheehan. This is more evidence that what we are watching is an experiment in implanting memories. In a meta sort of way, it’s also a way to implant memories in the audience watching the movie: some people may “remember” that Teddy said that line. Clever, no?

Perhaps this whole role playing game that the doctors at Shutter Island created is actually a form of mind control in and of itself. Forget the lobotomies and other cruelties: what Teddy is going through is a cruel new experiment.

Was Teddy actually a U.S. Marshal?

This is not so clear. When he is getting angry at Dr Cawley for his lack of cooperation, he says, “We’re going to file our reports and hand it over to…,” fumbling with the correct government agency that would be in charge: Dr Sheehan finishes his thought, saying that the report would be given to “Hoover’s boys” (the FBI). Unusual for a law enforcement man who’s been on the job for a while, I’d say. Yet earlier, he was able to identify MI5 and the OSS as intelligence agencies.

What does this imply? It’s up for grabs, really. But maybe Teddy is just a conspiracy theorist obsessed with intelligence agencies. Perhaps when Deputy Warden McPherson tells him that “Executive Order 319 in the Federal Code of Penitentiaries” gives him final authority, Teddy’s leg was being pulled: maybe there is no such order. Just a thought.

But really, the questionability of Teddy’s status as a U.S. Marshal is evident in the ending lighthouse scene, when Teddy claims he knows that his gun is loaded because of the weight. However, he is entirely wrong: the revolver is a water pistol. It’s quite difficult to mistake a metal firearm for a cheap plastic one that can be broken by hand. Does Teddy really know what a real loaded revolver feels like in his hand? The dent in the barrel he described could be just a sign of his “highly intelligent and complex fictions.” All of this points to the fact that Teddy could very well not be a U.S. Marshal.

So if Teddy was not an actual U.S. Marshal, then what is he doing at Shutter Island? And if he wasn’t a Marshal, then what is he?
Note: 2 May 2012. Whether Teddy is a Marshal or not doesn’t seem to matter too much, I feel.

Teddy Daniels as Andrew Laeddis, Pyromaniac

It’s quite possible that he actually was the Andrew Laeddis that he described to Dr Sheehan: the maintenance man of his apartment building, the one who lit the match that burnt his house down. Perhaps Teddy Daniels is the pyromaniac. After all, there is consistent use of imagery depicting matches in Teddy’s hands. He also seems to be quite knowledgeable about how to start fires, especially big ones: he somehow knows how to set a car on fire, improvising with a tie and a pebble to create a fuse. I doubt that’s standard training in the U.S. Marshals.

There is compelling visual evidence that Teddy Daniels is indeed the pyromaniac. During a dream sequence, Teddy meets a scarred man (I call him Scarred Laeddis).

Extreme closeup of matches in Shutter Island

This scene contains the first use of the extreme close-up shot of a hand lighting a match. In this scene, that hand belongs to Scarred Laeddis. In the rest of the film, the only other time we see this same extreme close-up of a hand lighting a match in the same way is when we see Teddy lighting it. Thus, I posit that Teddy is this scarred man named Andrew Laeddis. I feel extremely strongly about this: considering these shots, it’s as if Scorsese is telling us that Teddy is the same person as the scarred man, the person who lights matches in the same way.

Psychologically speaking, the big ugly scar speaks to a reflection of the scarring of his psyche, as well as to the horrifying ugliness he sees in himself. Scar Laeddis offers him his flask of alcohol, saying “I know how much you need it.” This is Teddy’s dissociated identity speaking to himself.

Matches in Shutter Island

So let us consider that Teddy is a pyromaniac. Teddy is thus the pyromaniac who set his apartment on fire, a fire that proceeded to kill his wife. Quite reasonably, he carries an immense amount of guilt for the death of his wife, which is why he soothes himself by saying that “it was the smoke that got her, not the fire.” Perhaps Teddy is not an actual Marshal. More likely, he is in reality only a World War II veteran-turned maintenance man who burned down his own apartment building. In which case, what is he doing on Shutter Island? It could be for any number of reasons. If he is just a pyromaniac, perhaps he was taken to the island the first chance they got: when he was caught for committing arson.

Teddy’s Children

Because Teddy never mentions his children in his personal verbal narratives (they appear only in hallucinations and dreams), it’s quite likely that he indeed has no children. Remember, he only mentioned his wife specifically amongst the four people that died in the fire at his apartment. Who on earth wouldn’t say that their children died in the fire as well? Teddy in fact had no children.

For one, Teddy never sees the boys at all: not in hallucinations, not in dreams. The only one of his “children” that he saw was the little girl. And that little girl first shows up when he dreams of the frozen bodies at Dachau.

The little girl frozen at Dachau

How can Teddy have hallucinations of Rachel Laeddis (his daughter) if he never had any children?

Remember, the doctors said that he had regressed many times. This means that it’s quite within the realm of possibility that he was exposed to those same photos that he was shown at the last lighthouse scene. The daughter never appears anywhere but in hallucinations. Besides, there is even stronger evidence that his supposed daughter is ac tually the little girl he saw in Dachau.

What is the Lake House Narrative?

The lake house scene in Shutter Island

The lake house narrative is the story that Dr Cawley and Dr Sheehan tell Teddy is what actually happened. According to them, his wife burned down their apartment. From there, they moved to a lake house where she drowned their three children in the lake. Teddy then killed his wife – presumably to “set [her] free”.

This narrative is completely false: it is a version of reality that the doctors are trying to get Teddy to accept. Perhaps it is only a mistake in the filming of the movie, but a closer examination of the lake house scene shows that the children’s bodies don’t even appear in the lake until after Teddy starts looking for them. Not only that, one should note that Teddy says, “Baby? Why are you all wet?” when he is “recalling” this lake house narrative, rather than “Why are you all wet, baby?” as repeated by Dr Cawley as well as his wife in his hallucinations.

Who pushes Teddy along on his journey?

Everybody works to move Teddy through the experiment. Dr Sheehan is always the one to push Teddy along in a particular direction. In the scene where they are sleeping in their bunk beds, he nudges Teddy to continue the investigation. In Ward C, George Noyce suggests that Laeddis is in the lighthouse. When they get close, Dr Sheehan, in an act of reverse psychology, tries to dissuade him from going; at which point Teddy becomes suspicious of Chuck’s identity and tests him with by asking him how the weather is in Portland, knowing that Chuck is actually supposed to be from Seattle. Teddy’s movement throughout the entire film is influenced by key players, a reminder that he didn’t go down this journey with free will.

Is the “real” Rachel Solando real?

Dr Rachael Solando in the cave at Shutter Island
Dr Rachel Solando (as opposed to Nurse Rachel Solando) is found by Teddy in the cave. When he says that he’s a cop, she slips up and says, “You’re the marshal.” If her story is true, if she was in hiding because of her inquisition into the conspiracy, then she couldn’t possibly know that he’s a U.S. Marshal: he’s in an orderly’s uniform. There isn’t any real Rachel Solando. Rachel Solando is entirely fictitious, an entity dreamed up by Teddy Daniels’ tortured mind. Think about it: the conspiracy theory she talks about is exactly something that a crazy patient would say. This Dr Solando is really just Teddy’s imagination at work. Where’s my evidence that she’s only a figment of his imagination, you ask? The white flashes.

What’s with the white flashes/lightning flashes?

Another visual theme in Shutter Island is the white flash. It happens when Teddy is sleeping in the orderly bunk, where we first see the warden (played by Ted Levine). Teddy goes to sleep and has a crazy dream. Then he “wakes up” in the same room he fell asleep in and sees his wife. We see very quickly that Teddy is actually just having another dream: he “woke up” from one dream into another one. When he really does wake up, it’s a white flash of lightning that wakes him. Later, when Teddy spends the night in the cave with Rachel Solando, he also awakes with a white flash. These white flashes are a reminder that Teddy is not experiencing true reality.

Who is George Noyce?

George Noyce in Ward C
George Noyce is very likely exactly who he appears to be: someone Teddy met outside of Shutter Island. The truth is that he was part of their psychological experiments and that he was imprisoned for stabbing those men. When Teddy came along to Shutter Island, they needed someone he knew from outside the experiment, someone he could trust (at least to a certain degree). Thus, the folks on Shutter Island took George Noyce out of Dedham Prison and put him back on Shutter Island. So it is true that he is here because of Teddy “and Laeddis.” To Noyce, all he knows is that Laeddis is some guy that Teddy is hunting down. He doesn’t necessarily know that Laeddis is just a fictional character created for the experiment. But he does know that all of this is an elaborate game made for Teddy.

Water imagery in Shutter Island

Some may interpret this to the benevolent reality that surrounds and traps him. This is a convenient explanation, but let’s take a closer look at what water actually does in the film.

Water surrounds Shutter Island. A violent storm—a form of water—serves to keep Teddy Daniels trapped on the island.

Shutter Island - Rainy Car Window 2

Shutter Island - Rainy Car Window

Running ink

Water serves to obfuscate Teddy’s view throughout the film. Rain makes it difficult for him to see out of the back seat of the car. Rain smears the word RUN written by Mrs. Kearns in Teddy’s notepad. The ocean separates him from the lighthouse, prevents him from leaving the island. Supposedly, the lake is the cause of his children’s death. Water, in other words, is bad news for Teddy Daniels.

Teddy Daniels is Edward Daniels

Dr Cawley explains the anagrams on Shutter Island

The true identity of Teddy Daniels is Edward Daniels, and not Andrew Laeddis. The ending lighthouse scene consists of Dr Sheehan and Cawley feeding Teddy the lake house narrative, and implanting the idea that Teddy is actually Andrew Laeddis. These are folks feeding good old Edward ‘Teddy’ Daniels horse manure by the truckload. If Teddy accepts his identity as Andrew Laeddis, he must also accept the lake house narrative. Both of these are falsehoods though. Everything—and I mean everything—coming out of the staff’s mouths cannot be trusted. They are all in on some massive game. Everything about Andrew Laeddis is false. Besides, when you think about it, the name Laeddis looks made up. Edward Daniels seems like a much more plausible name, especially considering the time period.

Finally, in the last scene of the movie, Dr Sheehan calls out, “Teddy?” At this point, it is clear to him that Teddy is no longer ‘crazy’ and is of relatively sound mind. Teddy supposedly has accepted his identity as Andrew Laeddis. If he really was Andrew Laeddis as the doctors proposed, then Dr Sheehan would call him Andrew by instinct, considering the role playing game was supposedly over. Instead, he slips up and calls him Teddy because Teddy Daniels’s true identity is Edward ‘Teddy’ Daniels.

Andrew Laeddis: Fact or Fiction?

Andrew Laeddis, the scarred psyche of Edward Daniels

So if Andrew Laeddis and the history attached to the name is a falsehood, that means Teddy Daniels is Edward Daniels the pyromaniac who killed his own wife. So what is he doing on Shutter Island? Well, he got sent to prison after getting caught for setting the fire, and then he was transferred to Shutter Island. This is the narrative that Teddy invents for Andrew Laeddis, but it is actually his own story.

The reason he transfers his personal history to a dissociated identity by the name of Andrew Laeddis is because he carries an immense amount of guilt for killing his own wife (when he set his apartment on fire), so much that he assuages himself by saying that she died from smoke and not from burning (explained on the ferry scene, a point he emphasizes, almost as if he is telling himself for his own benefit and not just for Chuck). Instead of dealing with reality, he creates the alternate identity of Andrew Laeddis, a separate entity who is the man who killed his wife. Then, he makes himself a U.S. Marshal and gives himself the task of finding Laeddis. The doctors at Shutter Island are conducting experiments. In this experiment, they allow for his fantastic alternate reality to be played out. At the end—if the doctors were benevolent—Teddy should be able to see that there is no Andrew Laeddis and must accept the truth that he is actually the one who killed his wife in a fire.

Instead, the doctors are experimenting with implanting false memories and attempt to convince Teddy that he shot his wife after she killed his (non-existent) children, and that he is in fact Andrew Laeddis. So far, he has not accepted the doctors’ proposed reality. Assuming he gets to the vital point at which the whole game culminates (the lighthouse scene), then he must either accept the reality or not. If he does not, it counts as a regression. They could then detain him on the ferry until his memory ‘resets’, at which point he regresses into his identity as Teddy Daniels the U.S. Marshal, hunting down the man named Andrew Laeddis, the man who burnt down his apartment and killed his wife.

However, back in the real world, the idea to hunt down Rachel Solando was introduced in an experiment. The key point here is that Teddy came to Shutter Island insane, believing he was a Marshal hunting down Andrew Laeddis. Only later, when they started experimenting, did Rachel Solando become part of his hunt.

The Lighthouse

The lighthouse isn’t in the same place as the beginning of the movie. Or at the very least, something changed. Look at these screenshots.

Shutter Island - First occurrence of the lighthouse

Shutter Island - Last occurrence of the lighthouse

The first one is from the first sighting, the second one is from the last shot. As you can see, the first lighthouse had a great length of land lined with fences. The second shot shows the lighthouse without the long fences. This implies that the lighthouse was changed. Are there two lighthouses? I’m not sure, but at the very least, this should seem suspicious.

The thing aboutthe lighthouse is that it is actually home to patient experimentation. If there was no conspiracy going on, then Deputy Warden McPherson’s claim that the lighthouse housed a sewage treatment plant would’ve been validated when Teddy finally got in there. Instead, that whole lighthouse was staged as the final part of the experiment. It was completely empty, save for the little office Dr Cawley set up on the top floor. I’m no plumber, but I highly doubt that it’s easy to dismantle sewage treatment equipment and leave no sign of it.

Shutter Island - Lighthouse Interior

Is Teddy really crazy?

Most people ask this question because they want to know whether Teddy Daniels is Teddy or Andrew. My interpretation is that Andrew Laeddis is a fictional identity that is being forced upon Teddy. But I also think that Teddy had to be a little crazy to end up on Shutter Island to begin with: he is, after all, a pyromaniac. He shows that he is capable of developing fantastic narratives, evidenced when he quickly invented a story for how the water pistol in his hand was real, loaded, and actually his, complete with a backstory for the “dent in the barrel.” He has hallucinations, but those may be the result of the cigarettes and pills that are given to him. But that doesn’t mean that Shutter Island is not home to a bunch of psychiatrists with military affiliations who conduct experiments on the patients.

Is it better to live as a monster or die a good man?

In the much debated ending of Shutter Island, Teddy asks whether it’s “better to live as a monster or die a good man.” He then goes willingly to receive his lobotomy. The interpretation: he is saying that he would rather effectively die (by undergoing a lobotomy) as a good man. But why?

The fictional lake house narrative is unbearable to Teddy because his own wife killed his children, and he, in emotional anguish, misguidedly killed his own wife. In absolute reality, he is a pyromaniac who killed his own wife. Either of these realities is too painful to accept.

Thus, there is only one scenario in which he can live with himself: when he deludes himself into believing that he is Teddy Daniels, U.S. Marshal on the hunt for Andrew Laeddis (his dissociated tortured self), he is the good man tracking down the man who killed his wife (a man who is not himself).

Final thoughts

As you can see, I reject the straightforward narrative that the doctors present. There are far too many suspicious factors at play. So if we reject that narrative, what about Teddy’s? There’s a problem with his narrative too, because he’s off his rocker. Because I could trust neither the doctors nor Teddy himself, I was left to my own devices to construct a narrative.

Of course, there are many issues with all interpretations of the story, mine included. Inevitably, there will be holes in anybody’s version of the “real” events. Perhaps the point is that there is no definitive version of the real events. Reality is a slippery thing, and our personal narratives are always colored by our most recent memories. From an artistic point of view, perhaps this is what it feels like to be insane: to be unable to discern reality from fantasy, to be unable to tell truth from fiction.

With regards to cinematic concerns, I have yet to determine the importance of the fire or water imagery. I still don’t know the significance of the repetition of the record player. Perhaps given more time, I’ll discover the themes behind the usage of such devices. But in the mean time, I am satisfied with this conclusion, given all of the visual and thematic evidence.

I do urge all of us to consider that we are watching a film; we should be mindful to keep to the director’s vision—not the novel’s writer’s vision—and to use the visual language of cinema as the lens through which we should examine this film. Speaking to the point of interpretation, I am of the school of thought that what a creative work’s creator says about his own work is not nearly as reliable as what we can conclude for ourselves: artists can say whatever they want about their work, but it does not necessarily reflect what is actually experienced. I am partial to the New Critic and deconstructionist school of theory; and this particular analysis, while not necessarily written through any strict theoretical lens, tends towards the deconstructionists. The film has far too many suspicious absences and omissions, contradictions, and conflicts for me to consider it to be unified: I find that the meaning and implication of the film is not what is suggested to us by the surface narrative of the film. I believe that the latent content says volumes more about the film than the overt content does.

Author’s note: This is a place for intelligent discussion. Please be productive when writing your comments. If you are going to provide your point of view, please provide us with at least a modicum of reasoning. Frankly I don’t care at all what you think happened unless you also express your reasoning. I will delete any comments that do not add to the discussion. I will also delete all comments with any sort of negativity in it. Be civil, be smart. Thanks.

  • Thanks for that. I just watched the film for the first time and aside of being really confused, I also enjoyed it very much. And I'm also glad that I, too, saw the difference in (presumably) two lighthouses, which raised more questions. I'm not sure what to make of this film yet, but I'll let you know if I do.

  • This movie is certainly worthy of discussion, and I'm looking to find the truth of the film, as slippery as it is. So by all means, please do let me know what you think!

  • fucking movie,shit hole type of movie reviews.dont really understand why all you motherfuckers and whores want to waste so much time on this crap

  • I have to wonder, why did you waste your time searching for a Shutter Island movie review if you didn't care about this movie? Why bother commenting at all?

    • Fedthedual

      I have to say that i dont agree with your analys
      You use some argument you present like proof but it s just some point of view 

      Take the matches argument 
      I think that YES it s a strong message . But can we suppose that teddy bear the burden of  what did his wife . He don t blame anybody except this man andrew laeddis
      His wife try to kill herself and he done nothing but how can he didnt know that there was a problem
      He thinks that he could handle that by taking her to a calm lake . But it was worst . So he fell responsible for that, so responsible that he invent a monster to chase to avoid to forgive himself
      I think honestly that the matches thing is a symbol that he feel responsible he lite the match by avoid the problem of his wife

      For the two light house , well could you imagine a tiny island with two lighthouse? No this is useless
      The fence in the first shots is normal because they don t want teddy to go down there too soon . At the end of the movie he is lobotomised so ,no need to keep the fence ,no need to keep some gards around it . At this point you forget to see the cinematic concept : first lighthouse threatfull sky big fence and last one calm . No more threat game to play 

      I found your review very good ,but you avoid to answer of a question implied by you theory
      WHY? If they brainwash teddy , why ? This is pointless like "ok fellows we will take this guy and make him believe that he is an ex US marchall who kill his wife"
      Someone speak about the manchourian candiate but there was a purpose on that brainwash in Shutter Island not any clue of a purpose 
      We can agree that they can t brainwash a man whitout a purpose

      I found your observation about car and weapon very interressant But 
      You can t be on an island whitout road and ride a cadillac . I can make a mistake but i think that jeep make the first car for all terrain and remember there are no real road back there

      I think that all of this was to make us feel what a big mental illness feel like . And how difficult is the reality to accept and how conveniant is the plot theory when we try to hide ourself , our fear , our responsability .

      But see a plot as easely as teddy see it is a sign of mental illness ! 

      I agree that scorsese made a masterpiece here but we have too stick to the fact 
      I ll be honored to talk about this film further with you 

      Sorry for my english I m french ( I know… Nobody's perfect )

      • Hi,

        Thanks for reading and commenting!  I must say that your comment is one of the more thought-out ones here, despite the rough English (no worries, I can mostly understand what you are saying).

        There *is* a reason for brainwashing Teddy: for experimental reasons.  The experiment is to see if one can create memories of events that never happened.  In the psychological literature, this is actually quite reasonable and quite doable.  There was an experiment where a person was told by his or her relatives of a "memory" (actually just a made-up event) of them as a child where they were lost in a mall.  The person accepted this event that was told to them as a memory and even made up details to fill in the gaps.  Pretty interesting stuff.

        Good point about the use of jeeps.  I readily admit that it is a pretty weak point.  I think that, if anything, it is a stylistic choice to remind us of the military theme.  Others have said that this movie is about Auschwitz, so the military jeep and other military details support that argument.

        As for the lighthouse, I'm not too attached to the idea that there were two lighthouses.  But there is definitely *something* going on with the lighthouses.  That's all I really want people to notice.

        I think your more symbolic interpretation of the matches is pretty interesting, I'd never considered it that way before.  As for what this movie is about, I think you're right about that too.  When you think about it, trying to figure out this whole mess of a story is probably, like you said, what it must feel like for a mentally ill person who can't make sense of what is real and what is not.  Like I said in my article, I think that perhaps the point is that there isn't actually any real hard truth that we can find, because the truth is always elusive and subjective.  Everyone on the Internet can argue back and forth all day about the "true" meaning and the "actual" events of Shutter Island; but really, it's all open to interpretation.  I think the point is that there is so much ambiguity that it's so hard to get to a more solid point of view and that, like you said, it's much easier to swallow what is being told to us.  If the Auschwitz arguments hold water, this overall arc and theme of being told to believe something is certainly in line with that: the regular Germans who turned Nazi were just doing what they were told and going with the flow, just like Teddy Daniels did.

        All in all, I still challenge viewers to use cinematic "evidence" to back up their claims.  This is, after all, a film; and (good) filmmakers are trained to use the visual language of cinema to convey subtlety and nuance.

  • mike wright

    The other thing to point out about the lighthouse is this: When Teddy is first looking at the lighthouse (aka the sewage treatment plant), he is shown to be looking upwards. And they are already well above sea level. No way is this an editing mistake. I am certain that there are two lighthouses.

    I'm not sure I know of another film where so many supposedly intelligent people completely misunderstood the whole thing.

    • Hi Mike,

      As I always say to everybody, thanks for writing in! I haven't rewatched the movie in a bit, but I'm sure you're right about that little bit about the different eye lines. Good catch.

      To be fair, it is fairly convoluted and it took me quite a number of viewings to try to nail down some certain truths to build the rest of my reasoning off of. In my opinion, Inception is another such film that is easy to misinterpret; actually, I think it's overanalyzed, but I'll discuss that in an upcoming piece.

  • E. Penn

    I just saw this movie for the first time, and really it wasn't all that convoluted or hard to follow. The ending line – better to live as a monster or die a good man – kind of said it all for me. He accepted the reality to a point, (he did not answer to 'Teddy' at the end) but walked forward knowing who he was (in some respect) so in essence, he had become the Master of the Game.
    I thought the last Lighthouse was evidence that there was no deep dark secret. It was, just a lighthouse.

  • S Carlson

    Thanks for the analysis. It makes more sense to me now. I do believe there is some parallel between Rachael Solondo and Teddy, it seemed like the Dr.s were trying to relate her fictional life to Teddy's. If you have any more thoughts, I would like to know. I wondered why the water didn't dissuade him at the end when he had to get to the lighthouse. Also, what was with the Warden? Was he just messing with Teddy? Why was the lady "patient interviewed so flustered at the mention of Laaedis?

  • Laura

    Hey just wanted to thank you for your wonderful analysis. I was trying to make sense of the ending and yours seems to make the most sense to me, especially with all the proof and evidence you have! Everybody else likes to just take the easy shortcuts, but I like yours the best because you actually take the time out to explain every bit of your logic and building your case. I'm surprised this article isn't on the top of the list when I search for 'Shutter Island ending'!

    I'm also actually a little disappointed that you didn't like Inception that much, I'd love to see a 'visual analysis' of Inception just like you did with Shutter Island!!!

  • Taylor

    you're wrong. all of this is wrong. they aren't feeding him lies to accept reality, that is what really happened to him and how he delt with the deaths of his children and his wife. what you are saying is fake is real, Teddy Daniels is an identity Andrew made up in his head to help him forget about what Andrew did. It's called a denfense mechanism.

    • Kara

      Taylor, where's your evidence? I don't see any :P Wistful Writer's evidence is pretty strong. Why else did Martin Scorsese use those close-ups of the matches? It's to tell us that Leo's character is really the one who started the fire. There's a lot of other suspicious things like that the author pointed out too. If you read through all of it and follow the evidence and suspicions you'll see that, no matter what you believe, the "lake house narrative" as the writer put it is defiintely false. I agree that Laeddis looks made up and that Teddy Daniels is just Edward Daniels.

      The defense mechanism is needed by Teddy because he can't accept something about himself. What is that something? It's the fact that he killed his wife. But what is the defense mechanism? He denies reality. You're falling into a lot of traps and getting distracted by lots of things in the story I 'll bet, but if you just follow what this article says it makes sense.

      Basically, I think that there are lots of different interpretations, but ultimately, Leo's character is the one who really killed his wife, BUT nothing that is being told to him is true. Think about it, why would you trust what someone tells you is true about yourself instead of believing yourself. I think the author of this article is trying to just look at Teddy, because he's the only reliable person in this whole story: everything else could be fake or made-up.

      Overall, I have to agree with this writer's cinematic analysis. Hey Wistful WRiter, have you gone to film school or something?

      • Michelle

        Kara, One could say that Teddy Daniels is two common of a name like John Smith. One could say that Andrew Laeddis is a more believable name. I find the description of him being Teddy Daniels very interesting. But I take to heart Taylor's description as the Psychiatrist keeps saying, "a defense mechanism". While watching the movie, I believed the description in the lighthouse by the Psychiatrist that said Andrew's "wife was manic depressive, suicidal" and that Andrew would not listen to her and moved to the lighthouse to drink. Then Andrew chokes his Psychiatrist(played Chuck). I believed that his wife had three children that she drowned and Andrew shot his wife and Andrew said he blamed himself for his children being killed as he did not help his wife. It sounds like his wife's manic depressive made her so sick that she was in a psychosis and killed her children. Andrew killed his wife, but still blamed himself. Remember the Texas case of Andrea Yates, suffering from several depression and psychotic episodes, and she waited until her husband went to work and methodically drowned her young children. Andrea had mental illness. I hate to bring up this terrible case, but it follows the same pattern as the movie, except Andrea's husband divorced her-he didn't kill her like Andrew killed his wife. I found the end of the movie interesting when Andrew's Psychiatrist(Chuck) sat next to him and asked Andrews opinion on what's going to happen now. Then Andrew called him Chuck and said he needed to get off this island. I believe that Andrew relapsed and went on the same pattern of believing he was Teddy and a US Marshal. The above narrative says, "In his extreme mental distress at learning that his fire killed his wife, he broke down and dissociated himself from reality. " The narrative is saying he is Teddy, but I believe he is Andrew. When he calls his Psychiatrist Chuck at the end of the movie, he is going into his pattern of dissociating himself from reality. Like the Psychiatrist told Andrew, he must admit what is real. It was interesting Andrew woke up when the nurse that played the young Rachel was there, and Andrew called out "Rachel." I believe he meant the nurse not his daughter. When he sat on the bed, and talked to the psychiatrists, he may have even known that the Psychiatrist was Andrew that killed his wife and his wife killed his three children. He may have told them that to get out of his bed to be able to go outside.(not restrained or the lobotomy yet). The next scene(the ending scene) he is back on the pattern to calling his Psychiatrist Chuck and back in his pattern of disociating from himself.

        • Kara

          The only problem with the last name Laeddis is that it literally doesn't exist :T

          I've heard of the Yates case, but here's the thing: this is a movie, and Martin Scorsese made it. The most damning evidence, as Wistful Writer pointed out very strongly, is the cinematic evidence. Why would Scorsese make those extreme close-ups of the hand lighting the match? If you knew anything about the language of cinema, that is basically his way of saying, practically screaming, that Andrew is "the man who lit the match who killed his wife."

          To me, the strongest part of this analysis and explanation is that it relies on visual evidence. Film is, after all, a visual medium, and with an auteur like Marty at the helm of this film, you can't deny that the cinematic evidence presented here is very strong.

          I had to pull out my DVD, but also note that at the end of the movie, Teddy passes out and there is that white flash again. These white flashes are Scorsese's way to tell us, yet again, NOT to believe what is going on.

          Wistful Writer is right, how can you trust anything that is coming out of the mouths of the doctors at Shutter Island? You can't. The only thing here that we can really use is Scorsese's interpretation of the book/script.

          We can really only believe what comes out of Teddy's mouth, and he never mentions that he has children or at least two boys. One of the biggest most strong pieces of evidence I read in this post is how Teddy only mentioned that his wife died in the fire. I mean, come on! Who the hell would say that his wife died BUT NOT HIS CHILDREN? I think ANYBODY would say "My wife *and children* died in that fire" when they talk about it.

          Whether or not he is Teddy or Andrew, who cares, the fact is that the story told by the doctors is complete bullshit and that Teddy/Andrew never really had kids, and all that other that was summarized.

          • Michelle

            It is interesting how you talk about Scorsese and visual for the movie. I found online Lehane's comments(the author of the book 'Shutter Island'):'Shutter Island' Author Dennis Lehane Gives His Read On The Movie's Ending
            Posted 3/3/10 3:30 pm ET by Adam Rosenberg in News

            Spoiler alert. Might as well get that out of the way from the outset. Expect a more in-your-face warning immediately preceding the major "Shutter Island" spoiler after the jump.

            Martin Scorsese's latest has a whopper of a conclusion. It's almost a note-perfect adaptation of Dennis Lehane's book. "Almost" because there's one comment made at the end which throws the entire house of cards constructed by the author into question. Lehane already told us that he stays out of the writing process once an agreement has been made to adapt one of his books. But he did share his thoughts on the slightly altered ending seen in the film. Seriously: don't hit the jump if you haven't seen this movie.
            SPOILER WARNING: "Shutter Island" concludes with the revelation that Leonardo DiCaprio's U.S. Marshal Teddy Daniels is in fact an alternate persona constructed by former U.S. Marshal and current Shutter Island inmate Andrew Laeddis. The entire investigation that unfolds over the course of the story was in fact an elaborate ruse designed to rattle Laeddis so much that he puts his Daniels persona to rest.

            In this book, there's no question about how the ending plays out. Laeddis, seemingly on the road to recovery after his shocking ordeal, goes to sleep. He wakes up and meets with his doctor, who had been playing the role of his partner for the "case," outside the main facility. As the two sit there, it becomes clear that Laeddis has once again lapsed into his Daniels persona, essentially sentencing himself to a lobotomy.

            The film is more ambiguous. Things play out similarly, but as Laeddis/Daniels sits and has a smoke with his doctor/partner, he asks the question "Would you rather live as a monster or die as a hero?" This raises the possibility that his relapse is in fact intentional, that Laeddis is so tired of being sick, he longs for the blissful ignorance that a lobotomy will bring.

            We asked Lehane for his thoughts on the altered ending in an interview last week. "I would say that line, which comes across as a question, he asks it sort of rhetorically," he explained. "Personally, I think he has a momentary flash. To me that's all it is. It's just one moment of sanity mixed in the midst of all the other delusions."

            "When he asks the question, he does it in such a way that, if he were to say it as a statement… then there's no solution here but to stop the lobotomy. Because if he shows any sort of self-awareness, then it's over, they wouldn't want to lobotomize him. My feeling was no, he's not so conscious he says 'Oh I'm going to decide to pretend to be Laeddis so they'll finally give me a lobotomy.' That would just be far more suicidal than I think this character is. I think that in one moment, for a half a second sitting there in that island he remembered who he was and then he asks that question and he quickly sort of lets it go. That was my feeling on that line."

            That's about as detailed an explanation as a fan could hope for. It's also a sensible read, even if you don't agree with the decision to make the change. Lehane was and is okay with it though.

            "I liked that line when I read the script," he said. "There was just some debate as to how much of a question it is and how much of a declarative statement. In the end they went with it being a question, which I think is important."

            I also found online the answer to some questions about the movie:Screen Grab
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            « On HBO, 'Tim' lives, 'Gervais' snee… | 'Washington, Washington …' » Monday, February 22, 2010
            News Spoiler questions, now that we've seen Shutter Island
            Posted by Curt Holman on Mon, Feb 22, 2010 at 3:42 PM

            Shutter Island? I hardly know her island!

            1. Why did it get bumped? It's no spoiler to say that Martin Scorsese's asylum drama Shutter Island was originally supposed to be released on Oct. 2 of 2009, during fall Oscar-contention season (and ahead of Halloween, too, for that matter). Then Paramount bumped it to the usual Academy Awards dead zone of February. Given that Shutter Island also screened out of competition at the Berlin Film Festival suggests someone didn’t have much faith in its reception. Surprise: Shutter Island has earned considerable praise (as well as detractors) had the best opening weekend of either Martin Scorsese or Leonardo DiCaprio’s careers, and is a lot better than such “official” Oscar releases as The Lovely Bones or Nine.

            2. Is Shutter Island a real place? Shutter Island’s twist is that Leonardo DiCaprio isn’t really federal marshall Ted Daniels, but a mentally disturbed former law enforcement official who has spent the past two years as a patient of Ashcliff, the isle's high security mental facility. The denouement reveals that "Daniels'" investigation of a (non-existent) runaway patient has been an elaborate role-playing exercise, with Ashcliff’s staff and patients going along with Daniels’ complicated delusion.But does anything we see actually exist? The island itself — complete with craggy cliffs, dungeon-like cells and a spooky lighthouse – is almost comically Gothic. Ben Kingsley’s goateed, bow-tie wearing, pipe-smoking shrink looks almost like a parody of a Freudian head doctor. (He reminded me of a line from a Woody Allen movie: “I am a psychiatrist! This is my pipe!”) The imagery's so heightened, it's almost easier to believe that nothing really looks the way it's shown to us. I would not be surprised if Scorsese considered an alternate ending in which the island was an illusion, too.

            3. So what's real and what isn't? With an unreliable, delusional protagonist, Shutter Island has the kind of plot that can attribute any discrepancy to the hero's psychosis. Much of the supporting characters' strange behavior – the hostile guards, the stonewalling doctors – makes a lot of sense once you realize that they already know Daniels is crazy. Daniels suffers from flashbacks, disturbing dreams and outright hallucinations. But did he see a real body (or even a dummy) in the water below the cliffs? Did rats really pour out of the seaside cave? Was Patricia Clarkson's character real? I feel safe in assuming that Ashcliff's support staff didn't go to the trouble of stage managing a fake hurricane.

            4. Why do the doctor’s play make-believe so long? Daniels spends much of the film supervised by his "partner" (Mark Ruffalo), and is forbidden from carrying a real gun or gaining access to the patients' medical records — which makes sense, since he's no longer a cop. But he also subjects patients to hostile questions, physically attacks one of them and risks his own life multiple times. Surely they would not have allowed him to climb up and down those jagged cliffs. If that actually happened.

            5. Who wrote the note? When Daniels inspects the cell of the missing woman, he discovers a note that reads “THE LAW OF 4” and “WHO IS 67?” If the patient was never missing, who's cell was that? Did one of the doctors write it to guide Daniels on the path to his real identity? Or was it really Daniels' own cell, and he wrote the note himself during a semi-lucid moment?

            6. What’s with the fire imagery? Daniels’ hallucinations (the ones we definitely recognize as hallucinations, that is) frequently involve either water or fire. His late wife (Michelle Williams) frequently appears to him as drenched with liquid, and at one point crumbles to ash. Since some of the key "real" deaths involve drowning, the water stuff makes perfect sense. But what about the fire? Daniels mentions in passing that his wife started a fire and revealed her own mental instability, which he feels guilty for ignoring. But the fire/ash business seems to go even further – the facility itself, after all, is called ASHcliff. Either its a red herring, or something's going on there.

            7. What’s with the anagrams? Ihad to have this explained to me, but the explanation of "The Law of 4" is that Ted Daniels is an anagram DiCaprio's character's real name, and the missing patient's name is an anagram for his late wife. But isn't that more "The Law of Pairs?" Do anagrams really come up that often in actual cases of mental illness? It seems even more a script writer's convenience than the rest of the plot points. convenience.

            8. Is there a Franken-De-Niro homage? Scorsese nods overtly to Vertigo (with a winding shot in a staircase), The Manchurian Candidate (with a mention of North Korean brainwashing) and The Silence of the Lambs (with the casting of Ted “Buffalo Bill” Levine). Elias Koteas also makes a cameo as a hideous hallucination, with mismatched eyes and a stitched-up scar across face. Is it me, or doKoteas’ make-up and delivery deliberately footnote Robert De Niro’s performance as the monster in Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein? Maybe I'm imagining things.

    • Michelle

      I find the description of him being Teddy Daniels very interesting. But I take to heart Taylor's description as the Psychiatrist keeps saying, "a defense mechanism". While watching the movie, I believed the description in the lighthouse by the Psychiatrist that said Andrew's "wife was manic depressive, suicidal" and that Andrew would not listen to her and moved to the lighthouse to drink. Then Andrew chokes his Psychiatrist(played Chuck). I believed that his wife had three children that she drowned and Andrew shot his wife and Andrew said he blamed himself for his children being killed as he did not help his wife. It sounds like his wife's manic depressive made her so sick that she was in a psychosis and killed her children. Andrew killed his wife, but still blamed himself. Remember the Texas case of Andrea Yates, suffering from several depression and psychotic episodes, and she waited until her husband went to work and methodically drowned her young children. Andrea had mental illness. I hate to bring up this terrible case, but it follows the same pattern as the movie, except Andrea's husband divorced her-he didn't kill her like Andrew killed his wife. I found the end of the movie interesting when Andrew's Psychiatrist(Chuck) sat next to him and asked Andrews opinion on what's going to happen now. Then Andrew called him Chuck and said he needed to get off this island. I believe that Andrew relapsed and went on the same pattern of believing he was Teddy and a US Marshal. The above narrative says, "In his extreme mental distress at learning that his fire killed his wife, he broke down and dissociated himself from reality. " The narrative is saying he is Teddy, but I believe he is Andrew. When he calls his Psychiatrist Chuck at the end of the movie, he is going into his pattern of dissociating himself from reality. Like the Psychiatrist told Andrew, he must admit what is real. It was interesting Andrew woke up when the nurse that played the young Rachel was there, and Andrew called out "Rachel." I believe he meant the nurse not his daughter. When he sat on the bed, and talked to the psychiatrists, he may have even known that the Psychiatrist was Andrew that killed his wife and his wife killed his three children. He may have told them that to get out of his bed to be able to go outside.(not restrained or the lobotomy yet). The next scene(the ending scene) he is back on the pattern to calling his Psychiatrist Chuck and back in his pattern of disociating from himself.

  • dontworrybehappy3977

    I appreciate the description. I have manic depressive and did not understand "A Beautiful Mind". The delusions and rest of the movie did not mesh together for me. I should have looked up an explanation on the internet for that movie. I find the description of him being Teddy Daniels very interesting. But I take to heart Taylor's description as the Psychiatrist keeps saying, "a defense mechanism". While watching the movie, I believed the description in the lighthouse by the Psychiatrist that said Andrew's "wife was manic depressive, suicidal" and that Andrew would not listen to her and moved to the lighthouse to drink. Then Andrew chokes his Psychiatrist(played Chuck). I believed that his wife had three children that she drowned and Andrew shot his wife and Andrew said he blamed himself for his children being killed as he did not help his wife. It sounds like his wife's manic depressive made her so sick that she was in a psychosis and killed her children. Andrew killed his wife, but still blamed himself. Remember the Texas case of Andrea Yates, suffering from several depression and psychotic episodes, and she waited until her husband went to work and methodically drowned her young children. Andrea had mental illness. I hate to bring up this terrible case, but it follows the same pattern as the movie, except Andrea's husband divorced her-he didn't kill her like Andrew killed his wife. I found the end of the movie interesting when Andrew's Psychiatrist(Chuck) sat next to him and asked Andrews opinion on what's going to happen now. Then Andrew called him Chuck and said he needed to get off this island. I believe that Andrew relapsed and went on the same pattern of believing he was Teddy and a US Marshal. The above narrative says, "In his extreme mental distress at learning that his fire killed his wife, he broke down and dissociated himself from reality. " The narrative is saying he is Teddy, but I believe he is Andrew. When he calls his Psychiatrist Chuck at the end of the movie, he is going into his pattern of dissociating himself from reality. Like the Psychiatrist told Andrew, he must admit what is real. It was interesting Andrew woke up when the nurse that played the young Rachel was there, and Andrew called out "Rachel." I believe he meant the nurse not his daughter. When he sat on the bed, and talked to the psychiatrists, he may have even known that the Psychiatrist was Andrew that killed his wife and his wife killed his three children. He may have told them that to get out of his bed to be able to go outside.(not restrained or the lobotomy yet). The next scene(the ending scene) he is back on the pattern to calling his Psychiatrist Chuck and back in his pattern of disociating from himself.
    I want to mention why I got on the internet after this movie. I wanted to see if lobotomy's were used on the mentally ill and if so when were they stopped.I found this on the web. "While the procedure lobotomy, initially termed a leukotomy, has been controversial since its inception in 1935, it was a mainstream procedure for more than two decades, prescribed for psychiatric (and occasionally other) conditions—this despite general recognition of frequent and serious side-effects. The Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine of 1949 was awarded to António Egas Moniz "for his discovery of the therapeutic value of leucotomy in certain psychoses".[2] The heyday of its usage was from the early 1940s until the mid-1950s when modern neuroleptic (antipsychotic) medications were introduced. By 1951 almost 20,000 lobotomies had been performed in the United States. The decline of the procedure was gradual rather than precipitous. In Ottawa's psychiatric hospitals, for instance, the 153 lobotomies performed in 1953 were reduced to 58 by 1961, after the arrival in Canada of the antipsychotic drug chlorpromazine in 1954.[3]" It is interesting the psychiatrist in the lighthouse told Andrew he was withdrawing and I think it was from chlorpromazine.
    The internet also says that, " A Lobotomy consists of cutting the connections to and from the prefrontal cortex, the anterior part of the frontal lobes of the brain." This is how the older Rachel described what the Shutter Island Hospital was doing to patients. For the end of the Lobotomy, I found"In 1977 the US Congress created the National Committee for the Protection of Human Subjects of Biomedical and Behavioral Research to investigate allegations that psychosurgery—including lobotomy techniques—were used to control minorities and restrain individual rights. It also investigated the after-effects of surgery. The committee concluded that some extremely limited and properly performed psychosurgery could have positive effects." I also found this article that really shows the terrible side effects of a lobotomy, "In December 1888 Gottlieb Burckhardt, a psychiatrist with little experience of surgery, made one of the first forays into the field of psychosurgery when he operated on six patients, two women and four men aged between 26 and 51, in a private psychiatric hospital in Switzerland. Their diagnoses were, variously, one of chronic mania, one of primary dementia and four of original paranoia (primäre Verrücktheit, an obsolete diagnostic category sometimes anachronistically equated with schizophrenia) and, according to Burckhardt's case notes, they exhibited serious psychiatric symptoms such as auditory hallucinations, paranoid delusions, aggression, excitement and violence. He operated on the frontal, temporal, and tempoparietal lobes of these patients. The results were not overly encouraging as one patient died five days after the operation after experiencing epileptic convulsions, one improved but later committed suicide, another two showed no change, and the last two patients became "quieter". This equated to a success rate of 50%. Complications consequent to the procedure included epilepsy (in two patients), motor weakness, "word deafness" and sensory aphasia. Only two patients are recorded as having no complications.[14][15]" It is interesting to note that electro shock therapy is still practiced today. I have a friend that has manic depressive illness that received electro shock therapy her last time just two years ago.
    I found this article online about electro shock therapy,"One of the most misunderstood of all the mental illness treatments is that of electroconvulsive therapy, better known as electro shock therapy. The movies are filled with distortions of this therapy, but it is one of the most effective and safe treatments for severe depression that the medical community can offer. Though there is often a temporary memory loss for some patients who are subjected to this therapy, is very safe and rarely causes any other complications. With the use of sedatives and muscle relaxants, the negative reactions from past decades' use of this therapy has been removed. It is the prerogative of the psychiatrist to suggest the use of such mental illness treatments in some cases."
    I want to say that I have manic depressive mental illness. I was diagnosed 10 years ago. I do not tell people in public that I have a mental illness, unless they have one too. There is a large stigma associated with mental illness. I have a cousin that has pschyzophrenia and I saw her before I was diagnosed with manic depressive. My cousin was quiet and too herself. I was scared to upset her and basically scared of her, so I did not talk to her at the time. I was not diagnosed until I was 29, so I have a college degree as I had the concentration to earn one. I have worked for the last 10 years and not been on disability. I have been off work since February, as I got the terrible idea to stop taking my meds for 2 months. I went into a strong depressive state. I'm back on my medication for 8 weeks and starting to do better. I identified with this movie very well and in my mind he is Andrew that can't cope with reality. I wasn't coping with reality. I haven't been in reality for the last 4 months. I quit my job without having another job. I've only done this one other time when I was in a Mania. I did seek treatment at my local Psychiatric hospital both times and I'm starting to get better. But I wish I did not have to deal with getting sick. I bring this up, because if you have diabetes and have to take your insulin to live, you usually take it. If you have cancer and have to take chemo to live, you usually take it. What is frustrating with mental illness, is even if you are taking your medicine, you can still get sick. The medicine may stop working or may not be enough. In my case, I found out my psychiatrist wants to keep me on an antidepressent. I was worried to stay on one for fear it will push me into a mania. I wish there was not stigma so I could share this with the public in person, but my only way to feel comfortable is to talk on the internet. I do not want the public in person to be scared I will hurt them or act out. I have not been to prison and have actually worked for the last 20 years and have a college degree. Not all people with mental illness are long term institutionalized like the movie. I look forward to the day that a person can tell the public in person that they have a mental illness and the public will treat it like diabetes or cancer. I do like this quote found online,President William Clinton was more specific: "Mental illness can be accurately diagnosed, successfully treated, just as physical illness."
    I found this definition for mental illness online:Any of various conditions characterized by impairment of an individual's normal cognitive, emotional, or behavioral functioning, and caused by social, psychological, biochemical, genetic, or other factors, such as infection or head trauma. Also called emotional illness, mental disease, mental disorder. I believe trauma brings out mental illness. I found out it was in my genetic makeup as my birth father(I was adopted as a baby) has mental illness. My adopted father died. He raised me and was my best friend. This is when I started with depression. My regular medical doctor gave me an antidepressent that took me into a terrible mania. I went back to my regular doctor, and he told me that I had manic depressive. I didn't know what he was talking about and had never heard of it. I stayed in a mania for 3 months and was staying up for a few days at at time. My aunt thought I was on drugs and I do not do drugs. I finally got medicated with Lithium Carbonate which I have taken for 10 years, but I've been scared of antidepressents as that is how I first got mania. I'm on an antidepresent again. Next time you meet a person that acts strange, looks unkempt(may be due to depression), please try not to judge. I know I used to before I was diagnosed with manic depressive. Have a great day and I still think that He is Andrew.

  • Joel

    I really like your explanation, but there is one thing that doesn't seem to fit for me. If I remember correctly. Cawley shows Teddy a picture of the little girl (supposedly his daughter) during the lighthouse scene. If the girl was really from Dachau, how did Cawley get a picture of her?

    •  I think I may have been wrong about that part.  Perhaps he imagines the little girl because he has been through this experiment many times, each time ending with him 'resetting.'  The image of the little girl has been ingrained in his mind. 

      I've since revised my theory: I no longer believe that anything that comes from Teddy's memories can be trusted; nor can the folks at Shutter Island be trusted.  What that leaves us with, as the audience, is the visual language of cinema.  We can debate all day using other pieces of evidence, but being that this is a film, it's best to concentrate on cinematic analysis to try to gain the most reliable foothold on the Scorsese's interpretation.

  • Jack Flash

     The brilliant thing about this film is that it questions sanity. How do we know right now that we are in reality, and not in our own fantasy world? 

    An example that relates to the movie would be the elevator one (forgive me for i don't recall what this is called). If you walk into an elevator and everyone in the elevator is facing backwards, would you face backwards as well? 

    Another example. If a man looks in the mirror, he sees that his hair is brown. But what if everyone he asks tells him it is blonde? He can clearly see it is brown, but everyone he ask denies this and claims it is blonde. Would he eventually go along with what everyone is saying and admit to himself his hair is blonde, when it clearly is not?

    This was an incredible movie. A movie that makes you think, and that is the real genius behind it.

    • Thanks for writing in.  I much agree with you that it's mostly about how it questions the nature of reality.  If Teddy's internal sense of reality is fraught with inconsistencies and is inherently unreliable due to his mental illness, and the reality prescribed the doctors is suspicious, there really isn't any single reality that we can get a hold of.  

      P.S. Check out the movie La Moustache.  

      • Jack Flash

        Will do, appreciate the reply, I believe you summed it up well.

        P.S. I think this website is great. Definitely has potential!

      • Jack Flash

        Will do, appreciate the reply, I believe you summed it up well.

        P.S. I think this website is great. Definitely has potential!

  • NoNo

    Wouldn't a WW2 veteran know the difference been a gun and a fake gun? Perhaps his mental illness made him believe it was real… nice analysis by the way, really well made. Excellent seld-defense mechanism.

    • Good point.  I only focused on the fact that he may not be a Marshal due to the fact that he couldn't tell a fake gun from a real one.  In fact, I reckon that many folks can tell a water pistol from a loaded weapon: I'm sure even a child can tell the difference.  What this means, though, is up for grabs.  Maybe you're right: maybe he's not even a WWII veteran.  In which case, I still stand by my conclusion that he is the "man who lit the match that killed his wife."  I guess what he really was outside Shutter Island is pretty inconsequential at this point.

  • Poolsidejunky

    OMG mind=blown. No, really, feels like my head is about to explode. Nevertheless you sure did your homework therefor well done. But I think He is indeed a US marshal. And they brainwashed him into thinking he's a patient. As for the ending scene, yeah, i have no idea what went on there… totally didnt see it coming. And i can't agree with any of you people (sorry). 

    • hunter813

      how can he be a marshal. if you spent even a year as a cop you would know what guns feel like you have to be retarded not to tell the diff btwn a real gun and a fake one. theres no proof at all that he is a marshal. if he was a marshall he would know who to send his report to.  look it up, hoover isnt even mentioend in the us marshals, why would you mention hoover. hoover is fbi.  but yeah he was brainwashed, thats what this page is saying that they are feeding him lies and washing his brain to accept what they say as truth

  • SmartyWannabe

    You make really good arguments and I love that you use internal evidence and use pictures and other movie evidence to make your case, just seems so much better than everyone else who makes awful arguments!

    • SmartyWannabe

      But I also kind of just want to believe the easy version of the story lol

  • Serb

    I agree that this conclusion does not seem to be true.
    So much of what you call "evidence" in this article is simply you stating what you think of it.
    Seriously, read;

    It's a lot more simple than you think.

    • Anonymous

      Thanks for writing and sharing that link, I've read that and found problems with it, hence the reason for my article.  
      I encourage you to read more carefully.  I provide many pieces of evidence that do have nothing to do with what I think of the movie: read the list of suspicious acts.A quote from the ScreenRant article:

      People read into things all kinds of ways – but you should have concrete evidence from the source material to back those theories.

      Well, I have indeed used evidence from the source material.There are all sorts of ways to interpret any given creative work, and I do not deem my interpretation to be definitive.  I do, however, point out suspicious acts and other key observations.  Again, the list of suspicious acts is what you want to be focussing on.  It brings to light just how questionable the "popcorn version" of the story really is.
      I still stand by this very key piece of evidence: the extreme close-ups of a hand striking a match: the first one is of Scar Laeddis in Teddy Daniels' dream.  Subsequent ECUs are of Teddy Daniels.  How you choose to interpret this is up to you, but this is cinematic evidence that strongly suggests that Teddy Daniels is  linked to the scarred man in his dreams, a scarred man who is wearing the uniform of a maintenance man; the maintenance man, as described by Teddy, is the "man who lit the match who killed [his] wife."  In other words, Teddy is the scarred man, and thus the man who killed his wife in a fire.The rest of the other stuff is weaker, but this point is quite difficult to debunk, I must say.  I suppose I could rework a theory, but I think I've since moved on.  Perhaps I'll revisit this some day in my spare time.

      • guest


  • MissTania

    please watch the movie again and again. you didnt understand it at all. im sorry…

    • Anonymous

      I usually start with, "Thanks for writing in," but I won't this time because such comments are absolutely useless.  They contribute nothing to the conversation.  So if you would like to explain what your thoughts are, I'm sure everyone would be happy to read it.  Otherwise, you may as well have not commented at all.

  • Lauramumford24

    Interesting. However look at Teddys dreams and flashbacks earlier on in the movie. When his wife looks out the window the back of her has been blown apart. As she behind to disintegrate water drips from her stomach as they clutch each others hands which changes to blood pooling on the floor. So early in the film are these images conveyed suggest to me that he has these images already embedded into his memory not from people who fed him the narrative. Also, water drips from the gu he holds in the lighthouse and when the patient is interviewed and asks for a glass of water he holds an imaginary glass. Is this Teddy's mind blocking water because of the trauma associated with it?
    The two lighthouses are definitely confusing however.

  • Stella

    I agree with Laura… the 2 differents lighthouses are definitely confusing and not explain anywhere at all.. actually they are not even mentionned on IMDB in the goof sections !! This is probably THE element that makes me think that he could be US Marshall Teddy… otherwise I would tend to think that he agrees at the end to fake he's getting mad again to die because he cannot stand his past anymore… I surfed on many websites in french and english and could not find any "official" answer, both theories finds proofs in the movie… like if Scorsese wanted from the beginning to let the viewer makes the choice at the end…. in fact Teddy's last sentence is not in the book ….

  • Col Wilson

    The part that intrigues me most is when Teddy returns to the hospital after being dropped off by the warden in his jeep, on seeing the doctor he enquires about his partner and is told ' you never had a partner' . Why does the doctor say this? If you painstakingly set up an elaborate role play, with the partner as a fairly integral part, why then pretend he doesn't exist? Surely that would arouse unnecessary suspicion and would contribute to his paranoia, if he was indeed delusional in the first place?  Fairly counter productive if you are trying to cure him ! My thoughts are that during his time on the island he is mind washed by the false memories and drugs, and this scene is actually an important point in that it is the first real attempt by them to get him to accept his 'reality' as a patient. Great movie though, loved it ! ps. one more thought that just occurred to me.. the significance of the german doctor. It is well known that quite a few nazi and japanese scientists were granted clemency by the USA in return for the knowledge they gained whilst conducting nasty experiments on people.. this character adds credence to the plot that its a government facility centred around mind control.

  • passerby

    try looking at these link.. it's pretty convincing too..&nbsp ;

  • passerby
  • Keigan

    ummm.. why would a highly intelligent and decorated war verteran come home and become a maintenece man… and why exactly would she have given him the tie? In the lighthouse scene Laeddis claims that he is a Federal Marshall and the Dr. says.. you were but not anymore. This movie is about mental illness, not conspiracy theories!

    • Men were drafted into the military in World War II, and when they came back from overseas they resumed their original jobs or had to find new ones.  Just a thought.

  • Kaitlyn

    He has paranoid schizophrenia, and it was an experierment to live out his delusions. So that maybe he could recal what really happened to him in his life. Which works in the end but because he doesnt want to live with the memory of killing his wifre (who did drown their three children) he gets a lobotomy

  • Llort

    I would appreciate you could remove or edit this post, as it is misleading people to true meaning of the film; which at the same time encourages stupidity. If everyone just took more time to google,they would have found the below extract of the analysis made by others, who attended the press conference held by the actors/director;

    "I was fortunate enough to attend the press junket for Shutter Island
    back when the movie was released, and had a chance to sit down with
    DiCaprio, Sir Ben Kingsley and Martin Scorsese. The stars and director
    talked at great length about how difficult it was to film Shutter Island.
    The problem was that when they started shooting the film, they
    realized that upon first viewing the audience would have to believe
    that Dr. Cawley and Shutter Island could be something sinister, but
    upon second viewing you would have to be able to tell that everyone
    around Teddy is in on the role play game, and are trying to maintain the
    fantasy – though many of the staff and guards are not happy about it."

    In a nutshell, you got it all wrong.

    But that's not the worst part, you leave your post and comments here for others to read and be mislead to stupidity. First I laughed, then I felt sorry and last, I utterly troll you. Read much?


    • tintin in 3d

      lmao @ thinkin im reading all that shit. u fuckin nerd, typin just as much as the other comments below smh….

      "i appreciate you could"
      lol dumb fuck

    • Anonymous

      Presumably, you took the time to read my post (questionable of me to presume, but I am a hopeful kind of person).  With that in consideration, I am rather disappointed that you don't have anything better to say or to add to the conversation.  You clearly missed the point of the article, which is to say that we should use the lens of cinematic imagery to interpret the film, and that the best part of the film is how there is no "true" interpretation: one can find supporting evidence for whatever theory they stand behind.If you do end up having anything interesting to add, please do feel free to comment again.

  • Troll

    Lol you deleted it. rage much?

    • You Fucking Fail

      lmao the dumb fuck shows up yet again.  this time to prove that hes a blind moron

  • wistfulwriter

    Presumably, you took the time to read my post (questionable of me to presume, but I am a hopeful kind of person).  With that in consideration, I am rather disappointed that you don't have anything better to say or to add to the conversation.  You clearly missed the point of the article, which is to say that we should use the lens of cinematic imagery to interpret the film, and that the best part of the film is how there is no "true" interpretation: one can find supporting evidence for whatever theory they stand behind.
    If you do end up having anything interesting to add, please do feel free to comment again.

  • Johnedwards585

    its common sense – patients are kept locked in mental institutes and no-one is gonna risk lives staging a 'play' like that just to get a patient to accept reality. The music at the end and the fact that he was casted as edward daniels is even more proof that they trapped a sane man for their own sick reasons. Nice people don't work in mental homes; what nice person would? This world is mostly cruel, vicious and afraid. It is fear that keeps society mildly'peaceful'; of course a job in a mental institute would take away that fear! Going back to the fictional film – the idea that di caprio's character was already insane is childish and silly, it's just that most people like to block the dark side of life and fabricate their own reality to make their time on this planet easier to 'endure'.     

  • Johnedwards585

    p.s. I know i based my judgement on common sense and not evidence so on that note – If Scorsese really did plan it the other way then he's a 'born again retard'.

  • Guest

    There are not two lighthouses. Since he's crazy, he hallucinates certain things, like the woman in the cave, the cave itself, the rocks he escalades, etc, I dont know about the boat but anyway. He hallucinates the guards around the lighthouse and so probably also sees the lighthouse differently than how it really is.

  • FrintzPas

    Holy fucking shit… all makes sense now.  LIKE!

  • ginzie

    mind status = blown

    i like how you're not trying to make everyone believe your all one hundred percent correct, and that list of questions you have is pretty good, makes me think. ill post back if i conclude something diff than you lol

    (sorry, I forgot to log out of your account!)

  • trev

    Lobotomy was outlawed in most countries after ww2. He states that he killed his wife in 52. Anyway the docs have something to lose, getting in trouble for performing those operations. Teddy has info that they perform these and investigates to his own demise. Figures they have him and would rather die a goodman. All I know is from the beginning I thought he was crazy. But what is harder to believe really? People trying to cover up illegal operations that were being performed. Or someone staging an elaborate play put on by entire staff while the other poor patients sit in cells. G they must of really liked ole Henry.

    • Pseudointerlectual

       Lok deeper into the film.  First of all, we are in a mostly fictional world, so what if lobotomy is outlawed? That is kind of the piont that they are doing something illegal and evil.   Duh. Besides, if  you know that lobotomy is outlawed then you should also know that memory experiments have been done before, in real life  not just in movies. It is possible to alter people's memories by simply having people cooperate together to implant false memories. They did this experiment where they make you think that when you were a kid you got lost before in a mall, and then presto all of a sudden you start thinking oh yeah i was lost before, and then you start filling in fake details for a memory of an event that never happened. look it up. its true. so please, dont tell me that just because it is elaborate it isnt possible. besides this is a fiction story.

  • FilmBuff

    I have to say that actually this is not necessarily all that much of a visual analysis. I mean, you do go through it visually, but I was hoping for more of a "real" analysis in terms of cinematography.

    With that said, you entirely convinced me with the one thing that your entire argument rests upon: the ECUs of the hands lighting matches.  Bloody good catch!

  • Anichka

    Mind fuck much? That's what I love about this film. I love psychology and this film has so much potential for open interpretation and psychological reflection. Xmn

    • wistfulwriter

      Much agreed!  Thanks for voicing your opinion.

  • Susanne

    Doctor Sheehan calls out "Teddy?" because Teddy (Andrew Laeddis!!!) is standing up and walking toward the guards. At this point Dr. Sheehan is confused and didn't understand what Andrew meant with his final words. He is still in his role-playing role and wonders (as his character would have) why his boss is standing up without saying anything.

    Andrew Laeddis looks weird because the author of the book had to make an anagram of Edward Daniels. As a matter of fact, i think you should have read the book this movie is based on before you drew any conclusions.

    • wistfulwriter

      Hi Susanne,
      Thank you for writing in.  Surely you have seen movies that are very different from the novel.  Then perhaps you can understand why I am not particularly concerned with the novel.Depending on your school of critical theory, the novel may or may not be important to your interpretation of the film.  I, for one, am not concerned with the novel because the film is a Scorsese creation: I am ultimately concerned with what the film is saying.  You draw attention to the fact that the author had to make an anagram of Edward Daniels.  This precisely illustrates my point: Edward Daniels is the original name that was given to the character.  Thus, I posit that Edward Daniels is the truer reality, compared to Andrew Laeddis, whose name is the transposition of Edward Daniels.

      Of course, as I was very careful to point out throughout my article, and as I am reiterating again right now, I do not believe that there is one particular interpretation that is absolutely true, just in the same way that there is no one reality that is absolute: everything is relative.  As such, I am always happy to entertain other people's theories, but only if they are well-thought out and well-argued.

      If you have any further insights, please do write again!

  • wistfulwriter

    Welcome, commenters!  Many of you have emailed me, but I suggest that you comment here in a public forum where your ideas can receive reactions from others.

    While you're here for this brief stay, please respect just a few simple rules:
    1) Most of you have been good about your comments, but I thought I should put this rule out here anyway.  Be respectful and avoid any negativity or snarky comments. This is an overall good way to conduct yourself in life, not just on the Internet.

    2) I am not afraid of dialectics, so please feel free to argue with me.  But please do it in an intelligent manner.  I have made painstaking efforts to provide evidence for my arguments.  Please show me the respect of doing the same.

    3) Please try to take all of my arguments into consideration rather than just responding to one or two points.  The reason is that many of you make points that can already be addressed by another argument of mine.

    4) Overall, let's try to further the discussion of this film.  I'm rather interested in people knocking down my ideas and arguments because this will either disprove or solidify my existing arguments.  I'm happy to change my mind, but you have to be convincing!  So if you just feel like saying, "No, you're wrong, I think that Teddy is crazy…" without backing up your opinion, I will likely just delete the comment because it doesn't further the discussion.  I respect your opinion, but there is just no reason to waste space and people's attention on such lazy efforts.

    All in all, let's just remember to have fun with this, because it's not like lives hang in the balance here!

  • Erman

    I don't have much to add, but I have to say that you're right on the money with that extreme close up shots of the hands.  Could you do more "visual analysis" as you put it? I'd be very interested in hearing what you have to say about the way things are shot and the movement and all that good stuff.

  • Seed_of_Darkness

    Nicely done.Just to add sth:He could be a marshall,you know.When he entered the lighthouse,he was already in a very serious state of illusion,so you can't really hope him to notice the weight of the gun – he was all shaking and sweating,for god's sake.And seeing things too.His senses just got affected,that's all.
    Besides,he might have been a bit angry and excited when talking about that "report to" threat,and there're more places to report in apart from FBI,I suppose?His doctor already knew what kind of script to say every time,so it was natural for him to cut in for Teddy.
    Your version of explaination has solved quite some questions of mine:1.Why there was nothing serious about fire in the so-called "killing your depressed wife" incident,when he was apparently the pyromanic himself – I mean,you see your wife light up the apartment and then you pick up the habit yourself?Not very likely!2.His little daughter never took any important role in earlier dreams,3.That "real name",as you have pointed out,surely looks like shit for a name.

    I guess it's in this way,then:
    Fire is the real truth,and Water is the faked truth.Neither could be both trusted and accepted at the same time.They tried to smother his pain of fire with the pain of water,but he knew he was better than that.
    He could be against himself and against the mental facility.He himself was cruel,and the facility was cruel just as well.He's gonna be justice.He's gonna defy his own evil and the evil from the outside.
    So,the final anwser is oblivion.
    Only in that could he find his final peace…A good man.Not a monster in his heart.Neither a monster created by their experiment.
    It's only better in this way.

    –Another one to contemplate on whatever myth in the world,
    –Seed of Darkness

    • wistfulwriter

      Thanks for your thoughts! When I have time, I may decide to revisit the film and analyze it again. One thing to think about is that in Freudian psychology, water usually represents the mind. The subconscious exists under the water. In which case, the hurricane may symbolize Teddy's angry and stormy psyche. His own mind (which is ill) is what traps him on Shutter Island. I suppose that I'll focus on understanding the fire and water imagery in the film the next time I get around to it.

  • Hafsaugas

    I have two questions.
    The first being why would they experiment on Teddy if he is already crazy.And two being does Teddy actually have children there are so many opinions on this matter i get thoroughly confused.Thank you for your article is was very insightful.

    • wistfulwriter

      Hi there!
      Thank you for your kind words!  I'm happy to share with you my views on the matter.

      1) The motives of the doctors on Shutter Island are nefarious, to be sure. They have a whole island at their disposal, why not conduct some shady experiments on implanting memories?  

      2) I do not believe Teddy has any children because he never mentions them in his verbal narratives. To quote myself, "Remember, he only mentioned his wife specifically amongst the four people that died in the fire at his apartment. Who on earth wouldn’t say that their children died in the fire as well?"  

      The boys are never mentioned or depicted except in the lake house narrative scene.  The little girl is, IIRC, first depicted in Teddy's memory of Dachau; in a subsequent scene, she haunts Teddy's dream/hallucination by asking him why he didn't save her.  That could be interpreted to mean that she was one of the people he killed in Dachau.  That there are photos shown to Teddy isn't meaningful because we never really see the photos (maybe some people may have freeze-framed it, but remember that you can't do that when you watch a movie in the movie theater where it was meant to be viewed). Besides, at that point, Teddy is in a highly unstable state and his acceptance of those photos is unreliable evidence that the photos are real.

      All in all, I feel that there is more evidence against Teddy having children than there is for.

      • Hollasino1

         Hehe. Sorry about interrupting but I thought I should  just contributing my opinions!
        I believe that Teddy did indeed have children as he always had hallucinations of a little girl.
        His hallucinations show that he is guilty of not saving her "Why didn't you save me?" was a reoccurring quote from her.
        Scorsese hints and foreshadows to us through Teddy's hallucinations of him at Dachau that the little girl is his daughter. (As she was lying with Dolores Chanel.)
        . The scene where he arrives late to discover the Jews already dead and stacked in huge piles by the Germans,   the director emphasizes a Mother and daughter lying in the pile.
        When he looked at it again, he saw Dolores Chanal and his daughter Rachel lying there. This meant he felt the same guilt for her death. This was a clever foreshadowing technique.

        • wistfulwriter

          There is no need to apologize for well thought-out opinions :)  I'm just glad that you are one of the few people who are actually taking this discussion seriously!
          That's a pretty interesting take on it.  I can see that you have a sort of New Critic view on it.  I'm not sure if you have learned about this (sorry if you already have and I'm just repeating myself), but New Critics take the view that the creative work is indeed unified—that is, they look for parallels in the overt meaning and the language of the work.  New Critics try to reconcile contradictions to show that everything matches up between what the artist presents and what it "really" means.With that said, I can agree with your analysis; but I would still point to the bigger picture. By my own interpretation, the doctors are not benevolent and they are conducting their own memory experiments.  Thus, any guilt that Teddy may feel can be the result of the doctors.  I find it suspicious that Teddy's memories only include his wife and daughter.  If he had two boys as well (which Dr Cawley says he does), why do they not show up anywhere else except for in that dream scene where Nurse Rachel Solando, splattered in blood?  The fact that Teddy dreams of the nurse and imagines that she is his wife is cause for alarm.  It's a little hard to mistake someone else for your wife, don't you think?

          Overall, I personally have a hard time overlooking these inconsistencies, hence my deconstructionist view on the film.  But your analysis of foreshadowing and your unified take on things is most certainly valuable!  I hope you'll continue to develop your analysis and share it with us!

  • Hollasino1

    I think your analysis is not necessarily correct. I believe that fire represented fantasy (hallucinations and dreams) and water represented reality.
    When Andrew/Teddy dreams of his wife falling into ashes in their burning down apartment, Scorsese was showing that this was not true, but his fantasy belief. His deliberate sea sickness and the dialogue "Pull yourself together Teddy. It's just water, a lot of water…" show a deliberate link to the death of his children. Also "Why are you all wet, baby?" and shows that Dr Crawley is trying to trigger Teddy's memory to remember the truth. The lighthouse represents the truth as he ends up getting lobotomized. Which one is better,
    to live as a monster or die as a good man?"

    • Love2

       I mean, your interpretation may be correct but that's not what we learned in class.

    • wistfulwriter

      Thanks for contributing to the discussion!
      Certainly, I am not presenting my analysis as the definitive one.  I would love to read a write-up of what you believe, along with more in-depth evidence to backup your analysis.  So far, you have presented us with your thoughts, but we are not privvy to the justifications for these beliefs.  Why is the phrase that you quoted about water a "deliberate link to the death of his children"? I imagine that it may have something to do with the fact that his children were supposedly drowned by his wife.  The only problem I have with this interpretation is that the doctors cannot be trusted because they have already tried to deceive Teddy by lying to him about pretty much everything and putting words in his mouth.  Their benevolent intentions are suspect because of this.

      In a way, this is a deconstructionist analysis.  That is to say that I take the view that there are many contradictions that cannot be reconciled, and that these contradictions point to the disunity of the film.  In other words, I "read" the film "against itself."  I see too many contradictions and problems with the straightforward narrative that tells us that the doctors are benevolent and that Teddy Daniels is really crazy and that he had a wife and kids, etc…

      I really cannot stress enough the fact that he never mentions his kids in his personal verbal narratives, nor does he ever talk about his wife drowning his kids.  One could argue that he does not talk about it because it is highly traumatic and that he is repressing these memories, but I find this absence particularly suspicious.  

      At the end of the day, I believe that the core redeeming quality of this film is that it lends itself to many many interpretations.  My main contention with most people's interpretations is that they are not well thought out.  I would love to hear what you learned in school about this!

      • Hollasino1

         You have a good point too. Thank you for taking your time to share your opinion! I respect the fact that you do not take offense or have the intention of offending anyone with their own point of view.

        I am writing an analysis and I was wondering if you knew any important and significant symbols used in the film by Martin Scorsese (apart from the symbolism of fire and water) ? Thank you!!

        • wistfulwriter

          I must admit that because of my own inflexibility, I am unable to look past the inconsistencies.  I should work on this :P 

          I believe that the film is rife full of symbols.  There is significant military imagery that forms an interesting theme (I just haven't gotten around to examining it).  

          Another thing to think about it is the lighthouse.  A lighthouse is usually a symbol for navigation and illumination.  A lighthouse shows you the way, keeps you safe, serves as a beacon, etc.  Perhaps that is a good piece of evidence that the doctors really are benevolent, that they are trying to show Teddy the way.

          I'll post some more when I think of them!

  • Firsh

    I love all of these loose ends. I have noticed that the background in the first view of Delores in the lighthouse matches the wall and window in the cell where Teddy wakes up after feinting. Was the lighthouse an imaginary part of the role-play? Why does it change, even disappears when he is cliff climbing? How would anyone reach it without boats or a landing dock?
    Also, could the Laedis story have been implanted in order to use Teddy to kill anyone they designate as "Laedis", the ghost soldier paranoia? I have yet to watch "Hour of the Wolf", but notice similar picture.

  • Jenny

    I really enjoyed reading your analysis, it seems like many of the movies Leo has acted in are filled with loose ends and psychology, and I love them.
     I also wanted to point out that Edward Daniels and Andrew Laeddis use the same letters, so maybe the staff decided to put together a first name that sounded normal, and used the rest of the letters to make up a last name, explaining why they used Laeddis. This is just speculation, however

    • wistfulwriter

      Thanks for voicing your opinion!  I agree with you that they probably created the first name that made sense and just used up the left over letters.

  • Shawn Swaich

    Great analysis, I agreed with most of what you said and you shed some light on a couple tings I didn't see, but I think the main problem with your analysis is that some parts conflict with each other.
    Everybody trying to get Teddy to accept false moments could work both ways to show he's insane in the experiment, or the island working against him.
    I also agree with the real Rachel Solando being a fake but he fact that she assumes hes the marshall could mean that the doctors have been watching him for awhile now(which would make sense because all the islands doctors have regular meetings as seen right before they find Rachel) and she would have also had to have escaped recently because you see no food with her, and i can't imagine her have being able to escape with any supplies, she was most likely recently imprisoned because the doctors didn't trust her to keep quiet while performing the experiment, or while the marshalls are on the island.
    I've read the book and if memory serves, there were two lighthouses, but I didn't notice the fact that they showed both, so thanks for that.
    I do however believe most of what Cawley says, and that he had three children, another symbol for his children is the piles of bodies when dreaming after his migraine where you can see 4 piles of bodies, one for each person he killed one for his wife, and the other three for his children( i know he didn't kill his children but he blames their death on himself because he was always too drunk to notice his wife was dangerous). Also, in the book his daughter was his "favorite" which could be something they just didn't bother mentioning.
    I also think that fire represents hallucinations or dreams, but im not going to bother with it because that leaves the fire when he was speaking to Dr.Naehring unaccounted for.
    I wrote a thesis primarily on the book, about Teddy's guilt leading to denail and supression and im primary arguement was that he invents Teddy to escape the "responsibilities" or guilt of being Andrew Laeddis(you'd have to read the book to get the responsibilities part) but it is a strange name, one the author could have easily changed to sound better.
    If you noticed, the girl that is the "fake" rachel solando is the same nurse that gives Teddy his medicine when he awakes from dreaming of the truth near the end of the movie. Just a clever little thing I noticed(also from the book)
    I think Teddy wants the lobotomy because he thinks it would be better to die believing himself a hero who tried to save his wife than living as the islands deadliest patient, and a monster in the eyes of society.(strange as he almost laughs at some of the insane patients throughout the movie, like the girl screaming in the hallway)
    Reading the book added a lot of different meaning and I think some of it was taken out to have the effect that it could go both way, it definately could go both ways in the book, one is just more likely than the other.

    well, thats my input, my own analysis is due tommorow and I just thought reading other analysises would better help me, thanks I hope you didn't tae my input the wrong way :)

    • wistfulwriter

      Your input is rather refreshing and rather welcome! As I have said quite often, I prefer to treat each creative work on its own. Thus, I have chosen to interpret the film through only the film itself, disregarding authorial intent and outside sources. However, this can be limiting to some, and I appreciate that you used your knowledge of the book to shed some light here.

      I am quite interested in what others have to say about Shutter Island, and your thesis is quite interesting to me. I'd like it very much if you could share it with me. You can either email it to me (just contact me via the contact form first) or you could post a link to it here.

      Thanks again for taking the time and effort to express your thoughts!

  • That special man

    The main trouble with this interpretation is that the movie is based on Dennis Lehane's book of the same name. It is an adaptation of his novel, therfore it has to be interpreted the same as the book. The movie was not intended to be completely the opposite of the book, and in the book it is very obvious that Teddy is really Andrew.
    Think about other movies based on a book. "Gone With the Wind," could it be interpreted that Scarlett was a Unioin sympathizer and spy? It is not interpreted as such because it was not presented as such in the book.
    If it were a movie completely on its own then interpretation of the movie alone can be debated. Since it was based on the book, it should be interpreted the same as the book.

    • wistfulwriter

      A film is its own creative work and should be judged on its own. There is no reason that a film has to be interpreted in the same way as the book is. When you read the novel, you are influenced by what Lehane has created. When you watch the film, you are influenced by what Scorsese has created.

      Consider how a film is made. In this case, the screenplay was written by two different people, neither of which was the author of the novel. Then the director comes into play and interprets the screenplay. Then there are the actors who usually have some kind of input into how to interpret their roles, and then there is the cinematographer who helps with the visual style of the film. All of these are influences on the original work.

      As you can see, there are many degrees of reinterpretation of the novel as it passes through the many phases of filmmaking. Therefore, a film is a collaboration. And as such, a film is not the product of a single person's imagination. A film is different from a novel—even if it is based off of it—because so many different people are involved with its creation.

      Contrast this to a novel. To quote John Irving: "When I feel like being a director, I write a novel." In other words, when Mr Irving wishes to have full creative control over his creation, he chooses the novel because the novel's creative expression belongs solely to him. When you read a novel, you are experiencing what the author has written for you. When you watch a film, you are experiencing what the director has captured on film for you.

      But even if the novel happens to be the screenwriter, we must consider that novels and films are two different mediums. As such, they must be judged and analyzed separately. In the novel, we might, for example, analyze the meaning of vague words and double meanings because that is one way amongst many that novels communicate meaning. And in the film, we would analyze the shots used, the motion, and the visual style. Each medium has its own language and its own tropes; and to successfully analyze the work, we must take these things into account.

  • That special man

    wistfulwriter — I don't agree that the book and the movie based on the book can have two seperate and opposite interpretations. If the movie had been promoted as similar to the book "Shutter Island" but completely different, then this interpretation could stand. Can you name one other movie based on a novel that has a completely different and opposite interpretation.
    The director Scorcese and writer Lehane have both interpreted the story as being the same and having the same meaning. This was Director Scorcese's intention and to make any other interpretation is to say Scorcese failed in his attempt to do this.
    I believe the movie portrays a Dr.s extra effort to help humanity. An effort in vain but at least trying to do something rather than just lobotomising the man and playing golf that afternoon.

    • Professor Laskoff

      I have been reading this thread for quite a while now, but only now did I feel the need to step in to comment (especially because now that the semester is over, I have much idle time on my hands).

      As a professor of media studies, I must commend Wistful Writer on his analysis. While it is not necessarily "by the book" and whlie it is not focused enough for an academic paper, it certainly is the most enjoyably comprehensive layman-esque analyses that I have read. It is, as claimed, backed up with plenty of evidence.

      On the other hand, you, sir, have absolutely no evidence whatsoever.

      You say that the director and writer have both interpreted the story as being the same and having the same meaning. First of all, authorial intent is, as this writer has explained time and time again, largely irrelevant. While there are many differing views on authorial intent, my department–as well as most of the others that I have taught at–agrees that while authorial intent is useful at times, it is often best to leave it out of the equation.

      For example, if I were to shoot a short film depicting two men having sexual intercourse, and I told you that my film was about the rising average temperature all over the world, you would be well-advised to disregard my authorial intent. The author–in this case the director–can be mistaken and misguided. If you have ever read a great sounding synopsis for a film and ended up hating the actual film, you have experienced the divergence between the intent and the execution (i.e. the audience's received effect).

      Just for your information, authorial inteent is irrelevant for both deconstructionists and New Critics. As this writer has stated, this analysis is leaning towards a deconstructionist view. He argues his stance quite well.

      You, on the other hand, seem to have little training in theory or media studies. You also seem to have little training in philosophical debate. I do not mean to be rude, but I strongly suggest that you take a class or two in critical theory or media studies before you write your comments. Wistful Writer here has demonstrated a relatively good understanding of theory, and he has put in a good effort to analyze this film. I can understand, then, why he is frustrated with low-quality comments, yours included.

      To address your point that Scorsese (for Christ's sake, please do the man a favor and spell his name correctly) and Lehane have "both interpreted the story as being the same and having the same meaning," please provide us with evidence for that claim.

      To address your point that interpreting the film in a way other than what Scorsese intended, well, let me just say that you are demonstrating that you are rather close-minded and ill-informed as to the way that media works. First of all, what is wrong with Scorsese failing? His failure is not impossible. Second of all, his intentions do not preclude alternative interpretations.

      Summarily, it suffices to say that you are small-minded and lack general understanding of theory, an understanding that is important to any analysis and interpretation of a film (or any other sort of artistic expression, for that matter). If you were a student in my class, I would dock many points for your incompetence. I can't imagine that you would earn anything higher than C in my class. You could stand to learn much from this writer. Instead of arguing with nonsensical points, you should really try to learn something about critical theory.

    • wistfulwriter

      Please provide evidence for your claims. That is all.

    • That special man

      You're in essence saying the man that made the movie misunderstood the meaning of the movie even though he made the movie. I guess — to each his own. I still want examples of a movies based on a book that were interpreted completely the opposite of that book, or is this a "first" ever?

      • Professor Laskoff

        You are special as your name proclaims. You are especially dense. I still want examples of you making any sense.

        I'm not going to waste much time breaking down your arguments (I'll let the philosophy majors do that for extra credit), but you are basically operating under the flawed assumption that authorial intent is canonical. You are ignoring the biggest argument here: that authorial intent DOES NOT MATTER. Read this carefully again and again: what a director intends to mean does not necessarily match up with what the audience gets out of the movie. The meaning of the movie is NOT ABSOLUTE. This is the flawed premise that you are operating on.

        As for your request for examples, I will not even indulge that request because you fail to grasp the basic premise of anything that this writer or I have shown you. You clearly lack the critical thinking and analytical skills necessary to this discussion, so I'm going to stop right now. Anything else I try to teach you will fall upon deaf ears. In fact, please do us a favor and stop with your pedantic and illogical arguments. You're about as obtuse as they come…not only do you fail to take into account new information, your arguments are completely insufficient and avoid the course of discussion. It's amazing just how reasonable dumb people can make themselves sound…Jesus Christ am I'm glad you're not one of my students, because I hate dropping the average grade of my class…

      • dan

        THE SHINING!!!!!

    • wistfulwriter

      Why don't you just tell us what you think the meaning of the film is rather than trying to tell us who is right and who is wrong. Let others judge for themselves.

      • That special man

        This is meant for Wistful Writer only, Professor — you're an idiot. Jesus Christ I'm sure glad you're not my teacher because I'd hate to punch you out in front of the class.
        I have read many interpretations of Shutter Island and I think this interpretation (that Teddy is Teddy) is pure speculation on guesswork and false assumptions. I agree with Scorsece and Lehane when they interpret it (Teddy is Andrew) and I see no tangible proof that any of which you say "may" be going on actually is.
        In my opinion the movie is about Dr Cawley putting his career at risk to try to further and improve medical psychiatry.
        There is no right or wrong in someones personal opinion.
        I would still like examples of a movie that has an opposite interpretation from the book that inspired it .

        • wistfulwriter

          Respectfully, I must say that this conversation is going nowhere. You say that I have no proof when in fact I have written an entire analysis on it. You say I have false assumptions, so let's hear about them. Poke holes in my logic, I'm happy to hear all about it. If you do not agree, that is fine and well with me. But you don't address my interpretation with any evidence of your own. All you're really doing is saying that you don't believe that my interpretation is valid. All you're really doing is repeatedly saying that you, Lehane and Scorsese are in agreement in their interpretations. Yet you haven't produced any proof yourself.

          While I don't take Professor Lakoff's offensive tone, I do agree with his or her points in regards to your flawed argumentation; in which case, if you would address these flaws, we can progress with a useful and intellectually stimulating conversation. Otherwise, you're not adding anything with what you are saying. I appreciate you writing in, but please back up your claims. Otherwise, I am just going to have to ignore your comments, which I hate doing. If this goes on any further, I just might end up deleting this entire thread of comments between you, Prof Lakoff, and myself, simply out of the desire to remove unproductive comments. This is not censorship, it is just housekeeping.

          So let's try to bring this thread out of the schoolyard where we just say "No, YOU'RE wrong!" and into the college classroom where we respectfully point out the flaws in each other's work, shall we?

          • That special man

            witstful writer only—
            I don't get you, other posters scream cuss and swear with no point what-so-ever and they stand where my post will be deleted because it is irrevalent.
            In forming an opinion and understanding the movie I think it is important as to artist interpretaion and to what message he was attempting to portray. I think I will base my interpretation on Scorcese rather than you.
            You interpret the movie as crazy Teddy the pyromaniac. Then why would the asylum permit crazy Teddy to walk arround with a box of matches? This would be tantamount to Mrs. Kearns walking around with a hatchet, or Breene walking around with a kitchen knife. It just aint going to happen.
            I hate to pre-empt all your made up reasons such as he found them on the floor, or the Dr.s didn't know about them, or they were a secret stash. Teddy used matches to light up ward C and Cawley didn't ask for them at the lighthouse.
            The real reason he was permitted to have matches — because he was Andrew and was not a pyromaniac.
            "I will not indulge your request" — what a cop out and a way of saying there are none.

          • wistfulwriter

            Professor Laskoff could've been a little more diplomatic, yes, but I don't see any screaming, cussing, or swearing.

            Previous posters have expressed their opinion with respect.

            You, on the other hand, came here with a contentious tone. I had politely suggested to you that you simply state what you believe and provide evidence. Instead, you doggedly returned with an axe to grind. You came here hell-bent on expressing just how wrong you believed I was. You say things like, "I think I will base my interpretation on Scorcese rather than you." The funny thing is that don't care whether I am right or wrong on this analysis. I merely hoped that this would start an interesting discussion. I even said that I'm not presenting this analysis and interpretation as definitive. It's funny how you seem to have it in your head that I am insisting that I am right. Why is it so important to you that I am wrong and that you are right?

            Because of your tenacious adherence to a policy of pointless argumentation, I may edit out the pointless portions of your comments while leaving the useful parts of it intact because I hate having clutter and nonsense on my website. Had you simply stated your stance as you did in this last comment, had you simply and politely pointed out the flawed parts of my analysis, I would've gladly given you credit for your contribution and went on to have a pleasant discussion with you. But you insisted on doggedly engaging me—and only me—on your own inflexible and unarticulated terms, all at the expense of other commenters' good points.

            You'll notice that previous commenters have disagreed with me before, and I had absolutely no desire to remove their comments or edit them in any way. That's because they were being intelligent about their debate. They were adding something to the conversation. And most of all, they weren't being a pain in the ass.

            I gladly welcome intelligent discussion. But you have not shown that you can have an intelligent discussion. As such, you are no longer welcome here. All further comments that do not have a civil tone will be deleted.

          • That special man

            to wistfulwriter
            I do have an adversarial approach and as such you may judge me as hostile but beleive me I am not. There is no right or wrong in someone's personal opinion. I ask for you only because I would get people like Lunkhead professor that insult and berate me. I speak to you only because you are civil and seem to be like the moderator of the board. When I read the postings I came across a lot of meaningless profane statements. Maybe you've since "housecleaned" these posts.
            With that being said you should answer my question. How is a convicted pyromaniac permitted to roam an island full of tinderbox buildings knowing he has a boxfull of matches?
            The Dr.s took away his cigarets but not his matches. Dr. Sheehan was with the man 24 hrs a day. Guards and orderlies were in constant contact and even the warden was unconcerned.
            Using this logic I thought of sutable punishments for other notorious crimnals.
            John Dillinger — should be given a gun and made to guard a bank.
            Charles Manson — should be made the head of an asylum on a ranch in the desert.
            Andrea Yates — should head an orphanage next to a lake.
            Richard Starks — punishment should be having to monitor a womans college dormitory.
            There, as civil as I can possibly be.

          • wistfulwriter

            Thank you for your change in approach and tone. It is much appreciated. It is not so much that I do not take well to adversarial tones; rather, it is that there is no reason to be contentious here. It is not as if I am attacking or criticizing someone's way of life or anything, in which case I should very well expect a heated argument from those with opposing views. This is merely one person's interpretation of the film in question, and one that does not even presume to be definitive. I could understand that someone might be contentious if I had presented this as gospel, as the definitive interpretation that precludes all others. But that is not the case.

            Now, as to your question. First, I must note that you still have a bit of pugnaciousness in your tone when you say that I "should answer [your] question." I won't quibble over peanuts, however, as this is already a great improvement from before.

            I feel that your examples are slightly hyperbolic. There is nothing to suggest that Teddy Daniels is a "notorious criminal." He killed four people in one fire as far as we can tell. That's not quite as notorious as the folks you mention.

            Nonetheless, you bring up a very fair point: a pyromaniac really ought not be given access to matches. I haven't rewatched the film in a while, so I can't come up with an explanation as to how he came across those matches. But do recall that Dr Sheehan lights up Teddy's cigarette on the ferry scene. This implies that Teddy is not in possession of either matches or cigarettes. In other words, the fact that Teddy has matches at all does not mean that the folks on Shutter Island know that he has them. The fact that they took away his cigarettes is in my opinion only indicative of the doctors' poisoning him. There is little reason to take away someone's cigarettes only to allow them to smoke cigarettes later, other than to control a situation.

            As for your use of the phrase, "tinderbox buildings," this is really just rhetoric on your part: the buildings seem rather sturdy from what I can see. After all, they are made of brick and stone and can withstand a hurricane.

            On the whole, given that Teddy assuages his tortured guilty soul by telling himself that his wife died because of the smoke and not by burning to death, and given that there is an ECU of Laeddis lighting the match just as there are ECUs of Teddy lighting matches, I still propose that Scorsese is telling us that he set the fire that killed his wife. Do note that I am not positing whether Teddy is Andrew or Edward or anything else: I am not implying anything else except that he killed his wife by burning the building down.

            I'm interested to hear the entirety of your interpretation of the film. I prefer to go over the big picture first, rather than picking on minor individual points first. If we are privvy to your overall impression of the movie, then we can sort of get a map of where you are going, so to speak. If you could edify us with your version of the story, that would be great. It would be even better if you would do as I did: back up your claims with evidence from the movie after you tell us what you think "really happened".

          • That special man

            to wistfulwriter
            I was afraid you would give me a silly answer and I would be miffed.
            You did and I am.
            At least give me a little more 'creative" explanation like —
            Evil Dr. Cawley gave pyromaniac Teddy matches and sent him to ward C. He was hoping Teddy would torch ward C. Ward C was built like a chimney, dried wood, a open oxygen source and masonry walls to reflect the heat. It would be engulfed in flames in 20 minutes making rescue of the patient/inmates virtually impossible. In this way Dr. Cawley no longer had to pay upkeep expenses of ward C, reduce the prison population and get rid of the worst of the worst. He could free up at least 1/3 of his budget for more "experiments."
            Teddy crossed Dr. Cawley up and blew up his car instead. Poor Dr. Cawley, things didn't go as planned.
            It doesn't make any sense but so what?

        • can you please cite some of those many interpretations? i'm interested in reading what you consider to be valid

        • FrenchFriedTaters

          Could you please show us the articles that show us what Scorsese and Lehane tell us what is the truth of Shutter Island? I can't find it anywhere :(

        • dan

          THE SHINING!
          Stephen king hated the film because kubrick interpreted it totally diferent from the novel and used it to portray an entirely different message. feel free to research this before u come back with an ignorant response. there now u can lay off wistful writer because his analysis is far more interesting than your insignificant comment.

    • dan

      "Can you name one other movie based on a novel that has a completely different and opposite interpretation."

  • Professor Laskoff

    To Wistful Writer: keep up the good work. I can tell that you put a lot of effort into this, and that you have a good eye for media studies. I hope that you will keep that course of study an open possibiilty because you show promise. If you ever wish to improve upon this analysis, I would recommend that you focus on the cinematography. As it stands, you use factors in the story, which is acceptable. However, the crux of your analysis lies in only one visual analysis, the extreme close-ups of the matches. Use more film-oriented theory and technique in your analysis and it would be in tip-top shape.

  • mattone

    it is not surprise to me special man is a jackass. he is from the england hahaha. if he was in my house and he talk like this i will hit him one in the mouth to remind him who is the boss. he is bad manners but else people you can see have good way to speaking. i think art of course can reason different to variety of people there is not one way to think of something otherwise it is not art it is essay documentary. it does not have to be black white or blue red

    you are correct that they are saying that teddy say things that he did not say really. you questions are good ones i will have to think about this more and watch it more. thanks for writing this it is very helpful. sorry for my english is not good my friend show me this maybe i should tell him to express on this for me hahaha

  • bcurtis82

    Thanks for writing this analysis. I just wanted to point out that at the ending, Teddy/Andrew makes it sound like he is crazy/relapsed,that is why Chuck calls him Teddy. But besides that, everything else is pretty good stuff. I asked my friends the same questions (they think Teddy really is Andrew just like the movie says) and they can't account for them. Myself, I am not sure either way yet. I think at some points you make judgment calls that I wouldn't make myself, but then again you have to make those calls and that's the problem, I can't make those calls.

  • melissa

    …this totally blew my mind. I was so convinced that the straight versino of the story is what happened…I feel so….vulnerable…. :P

  • another

    You've inspired me to write my own analysis because there are some things that yours does not cover with what I think. I will let you know when I am done writing it!

  • Glawson

    There is so many things to consider, and I think that while your analysis may not be the same as mine, you are mostly right: I think the point is that there is nothing that can be certian to be the truth of the movie. It is very very confusing and there are too many questionable things to make sure that you are foolproof in your version of the story. Thanks.

  • kaeson

    Well done. You have basically elucidated all the things that I found fishy with the story that the doctors told Teddy was the truth. So far, of all the interpretations that I have seen, this one is by far the most in-depth one that covers most of the bases. I think that a previous commenter said that you have taken it too literal an interpretation, and I think that there can be some value in viewing this more 'artistically' and more 'metaphorically' so I would like to read an interpretation in that style if you have the time or intention to go back to this.

  • jlm

    Nicely done! I had so many questions before, and now I have a few more, but mostly less :-P

  • KD Madrid

    I have great respect for you because you have written this analysis and you have not made it into a quest to "prove" that you are right. I think that you do this work a great service by asking so many of the right questions, and leading us to come to our own conclusions. Personally, I had my own conclusion, but after reading your questions, I could no longer accept my conclusion. And maybe most readers will accept your conclusion, but I am thinking on my own, thanks to your questions.

  • emma331

    This is by far the most interesting interpretation I've read so far. It seems a little, oh, I don't know, a little far fetched, but you back it up with so much that it's hard to say otherwise! You're completely right that its is easier to take what the doctors said. But that is the easy way out. You caught so many inconsistencies, it's mind boggling, I have no clue what to think anymore….

  • Future18B

    you say that the weak points of your argument are the part of the military gear, and i agree with that. what else are they going to use, it is a tough island, only milspec gear can used. good catch on everything else though. i don't agree with your conclusion but you have to give it to him he backed verything up. but just like what the movie says, just because you can back it up doesnt mean its true

  • Nahim

    Watch again the film, and you´ll find that this is the only possible thing. NO HOLES NOW!!

    • wistfulwriter

      I must admit that your interpretation is a rather interesting and compelling one! Thanks for sharing!

  • deyguap

    Dr. Cawley was a good man and telling the truth, it was the other german "nazi" doctor who was still practicing the old ways of experimenting and torturing patiensts. Teddy shot his wife, you are looking too deep. and finally scorcese wouldnt do all that for a crazy pyro.

  • Steve

    I'm not sure if I agree or disagree with your analysis but find it very interesting. I feel as though the guards and prison officials are all antagonistic, the air about them suggests so. I do believe that Teddy has always been at the prison, notice that the main prison official (played by the blad man?) on a few occassions he explains to Teddy that he is trying to do something that has never been done (or along those lines). This likely is him trying to see whether Teddy will realise that this is all a game, nothing is real. George Noyce also explains that it's all a game. Also, their are subtle things and flashed images that suggest Teddy is not sane, and in fact everything he is seeing is made up in his mind. At one point there is a very quick flash of a nurse (possibly Solando) holding lobotomy equipment. Also, when he is talking to the patient (the same one who writes "RUN" on his notepad) she asks for a glass of water, when Teddy's "partner" returns to the table she drinks the water. However, the first footage of her drinking the water, it is a mimicking action – there's no glass in her hand, not until after that first sip. This sort of surrealism suggest this scene isn't real (or does it?). The only other scenes where such strange surrealism happened was in his dream, when "scarred laeddis" is in the study – Teddy's cigarette smoke is not given off by the cigarette, it is inhaled by the cigarette. These scenes may not be of any importance to the story or actions in the scene, but are brilliant, subtle pieces of filming by Scorsese which make me think the have a part to play. Also, who is the patient who attacks Teddy in ward C? And finally, the Lighthouse is described by patients as an evil place, where the prison (and possibly government) perform experiments on the patients. But this reasoning is only imagined by Teddy and the insane patients. Much evidence for the experimental talk not being true is that much of it is spoken by the "real" Solando – who based on her whereabouts, the white flashes and the surreal appearance of rats on the rocks, is only a figment of Teddy's imagination. The fact that upon entering the Lighthouse, it is plain to see that it's not the experimental place of cruelty which Teddy is told about (well at least, it doesn't seem like it is). However, it's also not the sewerage treatment facility which the prison officials describe. So, my question is, if Teddy is in fact insane based on what seems to be his imagination of what the lighthouse is – then why is the Lighthouse not what the officials explain it to be? Also, if the Lighthouse isn't a place of experimental cruelty, why is it the final image we see after Teddy goes for his lobotomy?

    • wistfulwriter

      Thank you for sharing your informed opinions!

      Re the glass of water (patient's name is Mrs Kearns):
      When we see that there is no glass of water in her hand, it is shot from Teddy's perspective. This does indeed suggest that he is disconnected from reality. In regards to whether it happened in reality, I believe it did on account of the reactions of people and the fact that we see Mrs Kearns in a nervous wreck talking to Dr Cawley in a later scene. I have also noted the cigarette smoke that animates in reverse to be a marker that tells us that Teddy is not experiencing reality at that moment.

      In regards to your comments on the final images, I must say that I find that to be rather indicative of the nature of the lighthouse. As I look back on the two shots of the lighthouse, I find it interesting that there is a strong discord between the imagery and the sound that accompanies it. The skies have cleared in the last shot of the lighthouse, and the setting sun creates a rather pleasant image. Yet, the music is particularly ominous. My conclusion: there is more than meets the eye at Shutter Island.

      But at the end of the day, I personally have come to believe that the most important thing to get out of this film is the experience of feeling crazy. If we can't make sense of the narrative, how can poor ol' Teddy? Ultimately, I don't think that there is—or should be—a definitive narrative: after all, like I noted so long ago, there are holes in any version of events. I believe the greatest achievement of this film is the ambiguity of it all. Reality is such a slippery thing in Shutter Island, and even when things seem to be real, even those things become questionable.

      Thanks for writing in, Steve!

  • tamiramira

    Also, Teddy is a nickname for Edward. I feel that this should be noted.

  • PD

    A point or theme that is made repeatedly in the film that I don't see any real attention given to is the Hospital staff (doctors and wardens) continually forcing the notion on Teddy/Andrew that he is essentially ultra-violent.

    In the context of the two days that the film portrays, Teddy/Andrew's reactions that can be labeled "violent" are:
    1. reactions to the staff not cooperating with the investigation
    2. being labeled and antagonized by Dr. Naehring
    3. getting attacked by the patient in Ward C
    4. blowing up the car, which seems to be a relatively random act in the film
    5. subdueing the guard at the lighthouse
    6. the confrontation with Dr. Sheehan and Dr. Cawley in the lighthouse

    The other incident of violence that comes to mind is the killing at Dauchau, but in the lighthouse scene Dr. Cawley indicates that he may have killed people at Dauchau – the tone of this statement in the movie lends itself to us disregarding the thought that Teddy murdered anyone there.

    All of the events I have listed, except for Dauchau, are reactions to the predicament he finds himself in at the hospital, and if you consider the notion that his memories are being sculpted and implanted by continuous reinforcement from the hospital staff, I can't by into the concept that Teddy/Andrew is an exceptionally violent man.

    The jeep scene with the Warden is very odd to me for all these reasons.

    The final event that I find odd is the supposed murder of his wife on the shore of the lake. If we buy into the idea that this is his violent crime, I don't believe that a man who kills his wife after she drowns the three children and asks to be set free would end up in the Mental Hospital for the only the most violent and heinous mentally insane crriminals in the US, or the world.

    While his crime, if we believe that it is real, would be awful, it would not be found to land him in Ashecliffe.

    I feel as though there isn't enough evidence to strongly support the idea that he is "as violent as they come."

    • wistfulwriter

      Yet another smart and well-thought out comment, I'm delighted! Thank you for sharing your thoughts here!

  • Ezio1579

    One thing I would add is that it seems that dachau must have some significance given the fact that it featured in the movie so often, is it possible that the things he saw drove him psychotic. And also I believe that the largest theme in this movie is the lobotomy, it's set in the 1950s when lobotomy was at its peak and throughout the movie teddy is draw to the lighthouse and viewers get and eerie sence that something sinister is going on. I believe that the writer is trying to stress how crude, cruel and rudimentary physiotherapy was a mere 50 years ago. They would try an experiment but if it failed it was just another lobotomy.

  • Sarah

    Very impressive.

  • Austin G

    Dear Wistfulwriter, first of all, thank you so much for spending much time on this movie review. The only thing I'd disagree with you is that the doctors were not benevolent. I think the doctors were benevolent. As you said, Teddy was a pyromaniac and he set the apartment on fire which killed his wife. But this is too hard for him to accept. Neither would it be acceptable for him if the doctors try to implant an entirely different story. So in my opinion, the doctors made up a story in which Teddy himself killed his wife, but which was for a good solid reason that she killed their children. I think the facility had nothing to do with implanting false memories or anything. The doctor's were just trying to let him play a more sensible role, than what he actually did as a pyromaniac. Lobotomy was a treatment of the day. The only thing was the crude way in which it was carried out. The movie tries to cry out loud that Teddy himself was the pyromaniac. I liked your observation of "Scarred" Laeddis very much. Cheers for that. Actually this movie seems to be a war between one's good self and bad. And the good finally wins. After writing all this, i doubt why can't the lakehouse story be true and Andrew Laeddis the pyromaniac be the imaginary entity that was created by Teddy to relieve himself?! I doubt so because Teddy himself says about his wife complaining of an insect clicking across in her brain and pulling wires just for fun and that he din't get her help. So he's taking over the responsibility of the deaths of the children also himself. So, in his point of view, he killed the four of them. And the doctors were trying to make him believe the real story, which was a more sensible one in which he killed his wife only because she killed their children?! Kindly enlighten me more! I really doubt whether I'm sane enough now.

  • Ishan

    You've done lots of analysis my friend and that too, is
    interesting :), but my understanding of the story is completely different than
    yours, which I am going to post here.

    To tell the story in short, I feel that Teddy and Chuck are US
    Marshals in real world and this hospital, which actually is for mental
    patients, Dr Cawley and Dr. Naehring use for their own experiment on human mind
    to create monsters whom they will send out to do things (in Rachel’s world,
    during the conversation in the cave) “a sane man will never do”. So, Rachel has
    actually gone missing and hiding out in a cave and while investigating the case,
    Teddy finds out about the other things which are going around. Now, Dr. Cawley
    doesn’t want Teddy and Chuck to let out with the findings so he uses various
    means to disturb their sanity (again, as Rachel asks Teddy in the cave “if he
    smokes his own cigarette?”).

    The reasons I saw the story this way are:

    Why does Rachel (in the cave) tells Teddy about
    Cawley’s bad intentions that he wants to create monsters (by wiping out his/her
    emotions/ feelings) and send them out to do things a sane man will never do?

    Again, in the cave –Rachel says that they can’t
    let you leave (because Teddy had found enough to expose them when he goes out).
    Also she asks, if Teddy has any past traumas which Cawley would later use as a
    cause to lose his (Teddy’s) sanity (and that’s why he had to be executed, while
    in reality Cawley wanted to experiment on Teddy).

    Also the aspirin Teddy took from Cawley,
    the food he and his partner are having and the cigarettes they are smoking which
    are going to cause Teddy lose his sanity. In short, this conversation, in the
    cave, between Teddy and Rachel gives different impression (atleast to me) about
    the story than your analysis (just my point of view).

    At the end, on the stair case, Teddy says “Don’t
    worry partner, they’re not goanna catch us” and Chuck replies “That’s right, we’re
    too smart for them”. Why would they say it?

    It was interesting to watch to movie but it left lots of
    question unanswered J

  • els

    I really like and appreciate what you wrote and how you wrote it, it's noticeable that you spent a lot of time with the movie and are pretty smart.

    In fact my opinion is the same as Hollasino1's. The story presented to Teddy in the lighthouse is the reality which he tried to suppress. But after all he doesn't want to live with the truth (that he shot his wife because she drowned their children), so he decides to "die as a good man" as U.S. Marshal researching on Shutter Island.


  • MeMe

    Well is he crazy or not lol this was a great movie but also a very confusing movie..(:

  • Austin


    Just food for thought. On the first image of the light house, You ll notice the fence to the left that is not there in the second image. If you look at that fence again, you'll notice that it has actually been cropped in. Break the fence up into sections, just the left portion, not the one around the light house and you will see that they are copies of each other. The little portion of the fence in the middle on the rock has been duplicated from the light house fencing on the left of the base of the building. (keep in mind your looking only at the same scene shot, image 1) The first portion of the fence on the rocks to the left has been duplicated to the portion of fencing after the little fence. Look at the similarities.
    This shot, in a way is suggesting that it is of importance, having 2 guards and a long fence that surrounds the rock. And also that there is a path way to the lighthouse from the actual island. After Teddy has been on the medication they were feeding him, when he returns the light house seems far away and the only way to get to it is to swim. Cool stuff.

    • wistfulwriter

      Hi Austin,
      That's great thinking, thanks for sharing!

    • In my opinion I agree with the straight forward view that the movie presents. So the difference in the lighthouses with the beginning vs the end is that
      The lighthouse becomes less threatening and foreboding once the truth is realized by Andrew.
      The second image is is what the lighthouse actually looks like, and what it has always looked like; just a plain lighthouse. The original lighthouse that
      we see in the beginning is how “Teddy Daniels” the suspicious "Marshall" views it, but not how it really is.

      That's my take.

  • JL

    With the author versus director intention debate, it is fair to note upfront that if Scorsese added the diddy to mess with you at the end (which he did) – and this was discrepant to the book – why would it be unfair to assume he would make alternate changes to the perception he took filming it?

  • Patrick Day

    I must admit that your writeup is quite well written and thought out, albeit totally incorrect from the movie I saw. I mean no disrespect or anything. An interesting take on the movie, but i think you are misunderstanding a few key points. I belive that the story is a great visualization of a paranoid delusion that has a nice LAYERED mix of reality, paranoid assumptions, and pure hallucinations. One of the main things is, I believe, that fire is never literal, but a metaphor for insanity. Water is sanity, reality, that killed his children (with the wife's help); fire, the total opposite of water is what is consuming his wife. At the end, he comes to the realization of what is true, yet would prefer to be lobotomized than live with the reality that his wife killed the kids and he ignored her pleas for help. He wants to be the Marshal, not the husband.

    • wistfulwriter

      Hmm….great interpretation of the fire and water. I don't entirely understand how sanity killed his children, but I can understand how insanity is consuming his wife. I think what's interesting is that you can really interpret it both ways. Still, fire as insanity seems to make sense now that I think about it: I believe that Doctor Rachel Solando in the cave is a figment of his imagination, and there is prominent fire imagery in that scene. Perhaps it is time for a second look. I will admit that my initial examination is something of a "close reading" and doesn't take into account metaphorical interpretations. I appreciate your considered thoughts!

  • Mike

    Teddy Daniels is the person andrew has made up. Hence all that he believes is false, including the fire. This summary isn't even close to an accurate account of the plot. Very poorly done. His wife killed the kids and he killed his wife. How can you come up with anything else? People read the book please!!!

    • Swordsman920

      The books' one thing, the movie's another. It's an analsis not a plot summary lol. lemme guess you think that everything in the book is gospel

    • wistfulwriter

      Hi Mike, thanks for reading and posting. The book is one work, and the film is a separate work. Books are written by one person, whereas a film is an interpretation, and is the collaborative effort of many people. If you'd like to point me in the direction of a good analysis of the book, that'd be great.

  • Molly McGuire

    Your analysis is certainly another view to consider. I enjoyed reading it. I'm still in the process of forming my own theory.

    I have two questions. First, if we accept the reality that is presented to us by Dr. Crawley, why did Dr. Crawley say, "Why are you all wet, baby," since by his own words Teddy never accepted that his wife drowned their children or that he killed her. Therefore, how would Dr. Crawley have come by this "information"?

    Second, I don't remember Teddy finding any area where lobotomies might have been performed. The lighthouse was empty, as you say. Therefore, I don't think they were going to lobotomize him. I think they were going to kill him, which is why he asked, "Is it better to live as a monster or die as a good man?"

    Great movie and great fun trying to figure it out!

  • gary vonick

    Very good thought process. I have one basic question as to being ambiguous or not. The title "Shutter Island" is itself an anagram…..truths and lies. I don't think we are to find a definitive answer, only to see there are two conflicting possibilities. Both have evidence and holes.

  • KJ

    Remember in the cave where doctor Solando tells him about effects of the medication? Numb hands is one of the effects, therefore he can't feel that it isn't a real gun.

  • keenlearner

    Martin Scorcese's movie is not the first one which initially presents a homicide story with a twist at the end, that the whole story is fabricated in the mind of a mentally ill. Was he really a marshall? I noticed that he couldn't finish his sentence about the agency and dr Sheehan finished it by the words Hoover Boys or the FBI. This doesn't play a big role because even a proper marshall under stress would lose his senses.

    Dr. Cawley mentioned some psychopharmaceuticals that Andrew or Teddy received during his treatment. The film is shot in 2010 and the plot probably took place in the era after lobotomy has been widely replaced by psychopharmaceuticals.

    This could play in Andrew's fantasy and Dr. Cawley pushed it into his mind. Andrew was taken off his medication to take part in this role play. The lobotomy threated by Dr. Cawley was probably a strategy to enforce Andrew to admit the reality.

    At the end of the movie we saw the wardens carrying an instrument wrapped in a towel. Even in those harsh days as lobotomy was still practiced in the late 1960s, the instruments were sterilized and laid out in the theatre or office. They were not just carried on a tray wrapped in a towel and shown to the patient. So this probably was created in Andrew's mind that he was to undergo lobotomy.

    Towards the end of the film, Andrew admitted that he couldn't accept that his wife killed his childred and he himself killed her. What is actually a dissociative personality disorder? Nothing else than a mechanism where the subject flees into another personality to protect himself from his real evil self.

    The end actually left many questions open. Did the psychiatric experiment lead to a confession of his guilt? If so, then he would be moved to a normal correctional facility and will serve his sentence. His sentence 'better to die as a good man than live as a monster' showed that he would like to end his suffering and mental guilt by undergoing lobotomy, pharmapsychological treatment or a death sentence.

    I don't know how well Martin Scorcese has researched his topic. Unlike Dr. Frank G. Slaughter who wrote 'Daybreak' and based it on new findings. Dr. Slaughter was a surgeon himself. If it is correctly researched, the psychiatric experiment has failed and the patient needs drug treatment or sentence in prison.

  • LUZU

    the movie is an insight into an insane person's mind as to not knowing what's real. Everything is ambiguous on purpose so we know what it's like to feel "crazy" too. There's evidence in all directions, just like an insane person might think about reality.

  • Justin

    Great Analysis! It's very interesting about the two lighthouses. As with everybody, there is no one true answer. The movie is rhetorical

    • Jack

      Though I'm not positive of this, the first thing I concluded when I saw those screen captures is that it was nothing more than a technical flaw in the film making process. After all, the lighthouse used was a mockup on a peninsula north of Boston. It is reasonable to assume they simply changed the set and neglected to return it to its original state. Seeing as this is a Scorsese film and he is known to be a severe perfectionist, I doubt this to be the case now.

      Looking at this observation from a creative lens, maybe the doctors setup those barbed wire fences to reinforce the conspiracy notion in Teddy's mind? Because why would a Sewage Treatment Facility have barbed wire surrounding it as observed by Teddy himself. At the end of the film, once Teddy's theory that the lighthouse is a place where lobotomy's are performed is disproven, the doctors took down the fencing as it was no longer necessary as a tool to reinforce the narrative. Just a thought, and there are a lot of holes in it, but a thought nonetheless.

  • passerby

    The movie intended to get us crazy too, lol. There's too many many contradictions. Here's some examples. Teddy mentioned that the smoke killed his wife, and a moment after that, he swear that he brought his own cigars, which Chuck eagerly offering him, as if he wanted to poison Teddy right away.

    Another one, while Crawley seems so convincingly while explaining that Teddy was crazy, he also blatantly told Teddy that he would do anything to protect the facility (including making Teddy looks convincingly insane).

    And at the end, what Teddy said with living monster or died good man, can very well be implemented to him, or Sheehan as well. Teddy can thought of himself as the living monster, that he killed his wife in that way, or he could be thought provoking Sheehan, asking that does he really wanted to keep on living as a monster, who collaborating with others to perform such inhumane operation, or die as a good man, the result Sheehan would likely get if he is about to fight the collaboration)

  • George

    I would like to note this: You can see Rachel Solando in the scene when Chuck and Teddy were talking about going to the light house when they were over the caves. I quote "Were going to that light house" by Teddy. You can see in the bottom right at the shore is Rachel Solando. Please take a look at that scene.

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  • KiwiKid

    I think they brainwashed teddy to help him justify him killing his wife

  • Jack

    Adding to my former comment, in reference to your observation about the use of white flashes to communicate the line between fantasy and reality in Teddy's mind, when you look at the scene where Teddy climbs down into the cave to find Dr. Rachel Solondo you will note that he climbed down in the first place because he thought he saw Dr. Shean's body on the rocks below. Following the existing narrative presented to us by scorsese (that Teddy is a sane man being manipulated by doctors on the island), why would Teddy (a sane man) see such a thing. To this point there was no evidence to suggest that Teddy was particularly delusional.

  • dave

    I wanted to add something that came to me while reading these arguments.

    Following the idea that Scarred Laeddis is indeed Teddy, I wanted to point out some thoughts I had on the scar 1) There is the speech the doctor gives about etymology of trauma coming from wound. Teddy is traumatized, so creating a version of himself as having a huge wound is not far off. 2) That scar goes between his two eyes…literally splitting his eyes…as though two sides of his outward worldview are fundamentally disconnected. 3) Because the scar is on his face, he wouldn't be able to see the scar without a mirror. Thus, everyone can see that he is scarred except him.

    anyway, just my take on the symbolism of the scar. let me know what you think

  • Empress

    Wow, I just thought it was a great movie. Then I read all this stuff. Wow, I have to watch another 12 times!!!!!!!!!!

  • Food For Thought

    I've got my head wrapped around your reasoning and I want to agree with you, but the one scene that continually came to mind was Teddy's first dream on Shutter Island- where he's in the apartment with Dolores and the ashes are raining down.

    When her back is turned to him, he sees that it's smolering. This part is in line with your theory that he's the pyromaniac and burned down his apartment and killed his wife in the fire. HOWEVER; the part that distresses me is when he walks over and holds her from behind, she is bleeding from a wound in her stomach. This factor was only introduced as the reality Sheehan and Dr. Cawley "fed" to him at the last lighthouse scene because he shot his wife in that manner after she "killed their children." If that was just implanted memories they were trying to impose on him, then why was she bleeding in his first dream before that reality was introduced to him?

    Now I do like your take that the whole thing is just put on by Cawley, the Deputy and all the rest. Due mostly to the inconsistancies- the fact that the Deputy said the lighthouse was used for sewage treatment and he said it was Teddy who pointed out Rachel didn't have any shoes when it was in fact Sheehan who said it and the Deputy wasn't even in the room at that time. But also that Teddy was always being led (and somewhat coerced) by Chuck or another character to go in a certain direction.

    However, I don't understand why after Teddy came back from the caves that Cawley would suddenly say "Chuck" isn't real when Teddy asked him where his partner was. It would make sense when he was stumbling over his words about "Hoover's boys" (being that Chuck was helping him come up with the word as a physical representation of his mind) and when the Deputy said Teddy pointed out Rachel had no shoes (implying Chuck was never there to say it) but there were still times when the other characters addressed Chuck and not Teddy. If the director wanted us to believe the straight-forward storyline which involved claiming Chuck was indeed a fictional character Teddy made up, then they wouldn't have had him interact with the other characters! That way Teddy would go back through all the memories of Chuck and notice that he was in fact not really there (almost like the Sixth Sense, no?).

    I guess I'm throwing out ideas I have that came to mind when I read your article and for now it's only some food for thought- I just watched this movie for the first time today and it was so much to try and take in for one sitting that I had to find some kind of discussion or forum that examined and explained what the *boop* I just watched! It's a great film and I love ones that really make you think about it. Although it will continue to bug the heck out of me until I can find some explanation that will satisfy me.

  • Royston

    This is my interpretation slightly diff from yours.

    possibility that teddy "conspiracy theory” is true is very high and
    most likely because he know/investigate too much. He was lure to this
    island just like what his partner said.

    is there any logic to just set aside an island for a Hospital for the
    Criminally Insane?

    Secondly why would a hospital/jail only have 67
    patient (there more working staff than patient, patient may have died
    for whatever reason)?

    Thirdly is there any reason for the stand-alone
    lighthouse to so heavily fence?

    Fourth, if what they said about teddy
    being a patient in this hospital for 2 years is true, why in e world
    would there be no patients who recognise him. The staff can act all they
    want but you cannot ask the other 66 lunatic to coordinate a play so
    no doctor/nurse professional in their right mind would want to work on
    an island and no institute would want to financially support an
    hospital/jail (67 patient) out of goodwill for the patient unless there
    is something more profitable like human experiments?

    is year 1954 we are talking about, human experiments is not uncommon.
    The possibility that teddy "conspiracy theory” is true is very high and
    most likely because he know/investigate too much. He was lure to this
    island just like what his partner said.

    At the start of the show, his cigarettes may have been stolen (He
    insisted that he had his in his pockets) and chuck offered him
    cigarettes that have been drugged with neuroleptic narcotics, he was
    already drugged before he even got to the island which may explain his
    headache and other mild symptoms which we observed.

    When they have to
    surrender their fire arms, look at the way terry surrender his arms and
    his partner. He is a pro and His partner is clearly a novice that had
    trouble, this also again point out the possibility that his partner is
    not a marshal but may be a psychiatrist like what that state or a
    spy/agent meant to throw terry into the plot.

    only purpose left for him to be there was to be brainwash. We had to
    take note that his hallucination did not came from thin air, every
    hallucination he had experience was based on the information that was
    feed to him. The paper note written “The law of 4 and who is 67”, teddy
    wasn’t the one who came up with this theory and neither was Rachel
    Solando a name he though off. This only makes sense because the doctor
    wanted it to.
    story about Rachel killing and drowning her three children was some
    information they drill deeply into terry brain by one of the patient

    How in the world would a prisoner/patient have access to e exact
    details of how Rachel killed her children especially when Rachel is
    oblivion to this fact, e only explanation is Breene may be one of the
    possible agent. And the old lady after Breene hinted Terry to run when
    Chuck was away. Her action may prove that she does not trust chuck or
    she know that Chuck was not a marshal

    are no nazi experiments in that guarded lighthouse because you would
    not leave any single evidence if you know that marshal are coming to
    your island for investigation

    know, I have built something valuable here, and valuables things have a
    way of being misunderstood in their own time. Everyone want a quick
    fix, they always do. I am trying to do things that people yourself
    included, don’t understand. And I am not going to give it up without a
    fight (This statement is clearly a threat to teddy for his interference
    with the doc human experiment)

    they said is bullshit, there is no reason to go through all this role
    play just for one person because he is violent, trained and dangerous.
    You can just restraint and locked them out .Which mentally ill criminal
    are not dangerous, if they are really dangerous, then all e more shutter
    island exist for them to allow them to live in their twisted fantasy

    it common sense that anyone under the influence on drugs/alcohol are
    more skeptical to believed whatever shit that is being told to them not
    to mention that he may be on neuroleptic narcotics. The dream he have
    may be based on the information he was feed at the end and under the
    influence of neuroleptic narcotics.

    it better to live as a monster, or to die as a good man, this statement
    can actually imply that he can choose to live as a lunatic(acceptance
    that he kill his wife) or to die with his sanity.

    at e very end, his partner chuck call him teddy but not Laeddis. E role
    play was long over, if chuck was really his psychiatrist that was with
    him for e past 2 years. Out of habit or as his role as a psychiatrist,
    he should be more liable to call him Laeddis but not teddy.

    if we take into consideration that every single character that he
    interact with in the show was real including the real Rachael. Then this
    is e most logical conclusion, he was lure to be brainwash or to be
    silence if they failed to cover up for the evil conspiracy

    woman in the cave pretty much tells him that once someone labels you as
    being insane, there's really nothing you can do because if you try to
    prove your sane then the doctors will just use this as proof that you
    are crazy. This is his reality, e moment he steps into Shutter Island,
    it is his loss, and he knows it and he accept it.

  • Laeddis

    First of all, apologies for my poor English. Well. The movie pretty much "obeyed" Lehane's version. You could see "Chuck" or Dr Sheehan's reaction many times that obviously shows that he is in the roleplay:- when the nurse nervously mentioned Dr. Sheehan name( she looked at him, Dr Sheehan scribbled something on the notepad with funny looking face.When Teddy became outraged, you could see Dr Sheehan instructing whether the guards to jump in or cool it for a while. You could clearly notice he have been signalling or instructing when Teddy is not seeing. You could also notice eye contact between Dr. Cawley and Dr. Sheehan especially when something goes out of plan or when Teddy asked questions.

    The conspiracy theory is just in Teddy's disturbed mind. Martin Scorsese is genius to take us deep into Teddy's point of view so that we also could not differentiate what is right and what is wrong. He got us into the situation of what mentally ill patient are experiencing,supposedly. There is no boundary of delusion and reality.

    All in all, the movie is a total perfection, the casts, the narrative and of course Martin Scorsese. All you got to do is see it first time, gather all your thoughts and others (like this beautiful visual analysis by Wistfulwriter, and then see the movie again. That what Martin Scorsese wanted us to do. Ad without no doubt, it is beautifully done.

  • CALenore

    Great analysis from Wistsfulwriter and great comments from everyone here.
    One thing that caught my attention that made me wonder what the hell was really going on was Chuck.
    I looked through it again and several times others mention specifically two people when adressing Chuck and Teddy. If he was a figment of his imagination the people around him would have used different language than that. In the end we can clearly see that Chuck is one of the psychatrist of Shutter Island.
    My question is this, why would Dr. Crawley say that he never had a partner, (when Teddy asks where Chuck is) if not just to mess with his mind, and make him think he is insane? I also think Dr. Crawley wanted to test him at that point to see if he could make Teddy accept what lies he told him in the future.
    There are so many inconsistencies in this movie that I find it hard to take a strong opinion on what the real identity of Teddy is. All I feel is true about him is that he was in the war, and he has what is called 'survivors guilt', or at least that he blames himself for the loss of lives at the death camp.
    There were other things that I found curious;
    The fact that the image of 'Rachel 1' triggered memories of the war.
    The first time he talks about his wife's death it is cut with the images of waves. Symbolically that would usually mean her death had something to do with water.
    The more Teddy takes what is offered of cigarettes etc the more frequently his flashbacks are, the more severaly his dreams are and he sees more of his dead wife.

    The only thing that is apparent to me is that what they are telling him isn't the truth. Or at least not the whole truth.

    The way the title is an anagram for 'Truth and Lies' probably effects the movie greatly. I think that the real story is a mixture of what we believe is true and what we believe is false. I don't think one of the identities made is true. Only one person in the movie guesses at his past, the others barely acknowledge him being a war veteran.

    The way he says "the smoke killed her" and "she thought a bug was crawling in her brain" makes me believe they are connected. I think the smoke from the fire injured her brain and made her insane. They moved to the lakehouse and when she completely snapped he killed her. Meaning both stories have truth to them, and the way he saw her in his first dream fading away to ashes is a symbolic interpretation of how her mind faded away because of the fire.

    I think the important thing that the movie is trying to tell us is that no matter what truth or lies we are told it is the society's interpretation of it, or the people around us interpretation that matters to how we see it. But in the end, we are the ones that decide if we agree with it, as we can see in the end of the movie where Teddy decides that no matter what the truth really is, he is going to die as a good man.

    Just my two cents worth :)

    • wistfulwriter

      Thanks for the great post! I like the idea of the ambiguity of truth, the idea that there is no single truth and that we construct the truth for ourselves using whatever we can.

  • dan

    he got a picture of the little girl from the death camp because shutter island is run by nazis

  • Andrew

    The real story is the one presented by the doctors in my opinion: the reason why Teddy makes up the "pyromaniac" story is that, being fire the opposite of water, this version takes his thoughts and memories as far away as possible from the real "watery" version :-)

  • Just suggesting hehe

    What i think the reason for Dr. Sheehan calling Andrew "Teddy" is probably because remember that prisoner he strangled at ward C.. he once lost his mind and almost killed him because that prisoner called him Andrew. (He wanted to run from reality that he is in fact Andrew, the one who killed his wife and so when the prisoner called him Andrew, he panicked and remembers about what he had done and so.. lost his mind)

    So if Andrew did regressed, Dr. Sheehan doesn't want risking him losing his mind if he calls Andrew by his real name and let him be led away peacefully. (though i may be wrong, this one seems quite vague)

    But please read on, i think the next reason is much better..

    Another reason is maybe because of what Andrew/Teddy said at the end..

    Which made Dr. Sheehan confused and surprised.(As maybe Andrew didn't regressed at all and faked it) Thus, Dr. Sheehan called Andrew "Teddy" to test if "Teddy" will answer him.

    Which obviously we know that Andrew didn't answer which i probably think that because he was already sane and accepted that he is Andrew.

    (And also, if he had regressed and is "Terry" now, wouldn't he turn back and respond to "Chuck"? But he just walked away calmly to be taken away by the Warden even though he said they are gonna get off the island away from this place)

    (Sorry hehe, but also if he had returned back to being "Teddy" wouldn't he be surprised as to why they are only taking him away and not "Chuck" too? As both of them "knows about what this facility has been doing to the patients"{the experiments and stuff that he thinks its true})

    What do you guys think? :D

    So yeap that's what i think but as alot of people say.. There is no right and wrong but i just wanna let out what i think about it hehe :) This movie was really entertaining to watch. So many clues and such but there is never 1 conclusion. Really makes our mind think alot. Very interesting movie. Glad i watched it :D

    Thanks for reading my explanation hehe :D

  • Tim

    A fair portion of the film is given over to Teddy's supposed fantasies of Dachau. In particular, when he's explaining to 'chuck' in great detail the death of the commandant. That it took an hour for him to die after a botched suicide attempt, which is a statement accompanied by a scene in which said commandant is writhing on the ground. But in the first scene of the commandant Teddy is standing over him, slowly nudging a pistol away. Could there be some extra significance to this other than this is purely Teddy's mind at play. The gunning down of the German soldiers is of significance also. And the guard who is semi-threatening and conversational about violence with Teddy. What does this mean?

  • Bhaskar Saikia

    Guys let me tell u… this movie is actually made to feel how the world seems for a mad person….teddy is actualy edward… One point in the movie explains everything and from that point even teddy realizes that he's actually edward and recalls all events occured in his life….. That point is "When he triggered the gun to shoot the doctor inside the lighthouse…He almost killed the doctor…. but soon he realized that it was a vision of one of his fantasis as soon as he heard doctors voice"

  • Ted

    Hi, after a quick etymological research here is what I ended up with: 
    1. Laedis, with one "d" means, in latin, hurt, strik, wound, offend
    2. Dolores means as a name "douleur" (also a noun in french) which means, suffering, sorrow
    3. Chanal, is a family name given to the ones who lived near WATER canals
    4. I found nothing about solando
    5. This is the most tought by the writer I think, Sheehan is from the Irish word 'síocháin' meaning peace. And there is also ", a United States Navy destroyer escort launched in 1943 but never completed"

  • @Ted Thanks for that, very insightful stuff!

  • ki

    There's nothing contradictory about the doctors narrative. You cant construct an alternative narrative for the movie based on the hallucinations of the protagonist, and the near entirety of the movie consists of his hallucinations.

  • Sankalp

    There is one important water based imagery that you've overlooked… At the interview with the patient Mrs. Kearns, after Chuck brings her the water, she picks up the glass with her left hand, it cuts to Teddy's view of her where her right hand is at her mouth WITHOUT the glass of water and it cuts back to the table where her right hand puts the empty glass back on the table… Perhaps this was some trick played by Teddy's mind where it deliberately canceled out the water because it associated it with the death of the children!

  • Justin

    @Jack The hurricane could have also knocked down the larger fence around it

  • babs12560

    I appreciate your perception of this film Wistful Writer – it is as I saw it after watching it just once.  After seeing it more, I am not so sure.  However, there is something that I have noticed that gives credence to your theory that Teddy, is in actuality, Andrew Laeddis.  Throughout the movie each time I have watched it, I've wondered about the significance of the "bandaid" on the left side of Teddy's forehead – this has bugged me because I couldn't figure out why it is there throughout the entire movie.  For that reason, I know there is a significance to it.  Your theory, that he is Andrew Laeddis, who has that "big scar" across his face finally answers that!  Teddy sees it as a scar that runs across his face, when it is actually the scar on his forehead that stays covered during the duration of the movie.  I'm not sure that I accept the theory that he killed his wife when he set the first and that there were no children, but this does lend some evidence to that theory.  Thank you for your perspective!

  • babs12560  Thanks for writing in and sharing your interpretation with us!

  • @Sankalp  That's a great thought, thanks for sharing!

  • babs12560

    There is one more observation I'd like to share.  Throughout the film, Teddy refers to Rachel as "the prisoner."  I find this interesting since Teddy knows it is a mental institution.  Each time Teddy does this, Dr. Cawley corrects him by saying "patient."  It is as though Teddy is using this as a reflective statement, insinuating that he himself feels like a prisoner.  Perhaps an indication that he understands his own situation in the institution?  I watched this film several times for an assignment in my psychology class.  I am completing a case study on Leonardo DiCaprio's character, which is pretty cut and dried, but now I want to figure out all the nuances of the film.  I can't quite thinking about it!

  • babs12560  Please do share with us any further insights you may have, I'm especially interested in what you have to say in regards the application of psychology to the film.

  • Clay4

    I think this film is telling us something about the occult, and CIA mind control programs like MK Ultra and Project Monarch. Could Teddy, as someone interested in learning the truth (conspiracy theorist) have come into some info or witnessed something? Could he, as a respected reputable member of his community, have begun talking and exposing this truth? In order to discredit him, was his family murdered and was he set up/blamed for it, then knocked out and drugged and taken to this psychiatric prison and experimented on? Wouldn't he then be completely discredited as mentally ill, and everything he may have known and was talking about would be craziness….(Look into operation Paperclip) Were they trying to break him down and create a new identity and new memories? There is a lot of occult symbolism in this film. The match could represent Lucifer, the rain is ominous. The lighthouse, like the match, is a light in the dark-illumination/knowledge. Lots of food for thought here…

  • Clay4  Thanks for sharing! I like to think there's something sinister going on that is in the margin of the stories, and your references to these conspiracy theories are quite interesting. If you ever look into it a little deeper, please do share what you find with us!

  • dani

    For you info you may want to reconsider your diagnosis of D.I.D… He is actually a paranoid schizophrenic with PTSD displaying withdrawal symptoms from the medications used to treat his disorder…. The fact that he is no longer medicated cause him to regress, and thus he experiences both delusion and hallucinations.

  • savsandhu63

    another thing that was so great about this movie was the disappearing objects. In the scene where Teddy confronts Delores for the first time, she is seen holding a bottle of liquor, but in the next scene the bottle is gone, although her hands still seem to be grasping it. Then, in the scene where Teddy is interviewing Mrs. Kearns, she lifts the glass to drink water, but then the glass is gone, and she is then seen resting the glass on the table. 

    I think that this could be interpreted as Teddy’s broken reality, and foreshadowing for the audience that something is not right….

    I also disagree about Teddy not having any children, I think the whole reason he ended up in there as a patient is because he is in denial about the death of his children. It is so unbearable to think that his kids are dead,and that he could have prevented it, but he has to deal with the reality that his wife did it. Especially in the scene where he is seen carrying his daughter and she asks why he didn’t save them, i think that this hallucination is a direct way of telling the audience that he did in fact have kids.

  • savsandhu63

    also, after watching the movie a few times, i think that any scenes where you see fire are scenes of Teddy’s fantasies (Rachel in the cave talking about hidden government agendas)… whereas water represents reality (reality of his kids drowning)

  • TwerkedTruth

    I’m thinking the mystery here is, what is the hero thinking at the end of the movie? If I were in his place I would be convinced I have no idea of what the actual reality is anymore. How could I have been so deluded about being an investigative Marshal in the first place? How could they so easily role play and hallucinate me into this new reality of wife killer? If they have such monstrous capabilities, how can I trust any reality in this place? This wife killer reality could easily be just the latest in a long series of realities they’ve shuffled me through over who knows how long I’ve been here. Who knows how I really got here? I may not be guilty of anything. Maybe everything is bogus; the military, the wife, the burned apartment, the Marshal’s badge, everything. It’s all been implanted. Maybe the only thing real is this vague sense at my core that “whatever they’re doing here, it’s bad”. Maybe that’s the real source of my being a “man of violence”. Regardless of what is and isn’t true, it’s clear I’m now their lab rat in this dystopian maze of mind control. Clearly, they can do whatever they like with me like the guards at Dachau. Whatever I do makes me a part of this monstrosity, makes me a lab rat monster in the horror factory of Shutter Island.

    Yet, what act of rebellion is even possible? What act of sabotage, however minor, can conceivably be achieved? Only death can remove me from this spinning wheel of manipulation. Death, or the death of lobotomy they threaten. Here’s an idea. What if my last act as a whole man turns the tables on them? What if I manipulate the manipulators? What if I fake regression to the Marshal reality thereby manipulating them into removing me from their little collection of experimental subjects? One less rat on their island rock. A small act of sabotage committed under their all knowing noses. Maybe the last sane act of the hopelessly insane man they’ve turned me into. I hear the doctor call out “Teddy”. He’s not convinced. He wants to see if I’ll turn. I should turn to convince him.

    Maybe I’ll just stop watching the news.


  • TwerkedTruth

    I have an idea on “The Law of 4”, what it refers to and why it was never explicitly explained. It was purposely left unexplained in the movie because it was not intended by the doctors to direct the hero toward the conclusion they wished him to find. Rather it was intended by the director, Scorsese, as a message to us, the movie audience. In the theatre, there is a concept known as “The Fourth Wall”. What we see on stage is three walls but there is an imaginary fourth wall which the audience looks through to see the action on stage. The fourth wall separates the actors from the audience. Sometimes an actor will separate from frozen action on stage and as an aside speak directly to the audience to provide them with information, a special secret just between the actor and audience. This is called, “Breaking the Fourth Wall”. Regardless of how it was intended in the book, I’m thinking that’s exactly what Scorsese is doing with “The Law of 4” in the movie. Not only is he breaking the fourth wall to deliver this message to the movie audience, but the message itself is all about how both situational fourth walls permeate the movie and how the movie-movie audience fourth wall effectively falls away, capturing us within the insanity of Shutter Island. This is why we are left feeling so disoriented after watching the film, not sure anymore what is real and what is delusion. A bit like life on our planet these days.


  • nalk

    Watch movie again! The ending is clear and correct. Andrew made up teddy in order to escape from the fact that he killed his wife and his wife killed all his children. Pay attention to doctors, psychiatrists and interviewed patients: their words are especially emphasized on lake, daughters, wife, etc. They try to make Andrew remember and wake up from his unreal hallusination. Pay attention to what goerge noyce told him: he called him Laeddis. Subconscious of Andrew create a hallusination in which everybody seems like a part of a conspiracy. And look at the final scene: Andrew shot the doctor with his gun and he saw blood on the wall, but then blood disappeared and he then understood that the gun is fake! The interpretation above is a sign of danger: man, you gotta go to a hospital; too much imagination :) 
    There is only one thing that leaves an open door: the mad woman wrote “RUN” on the notebook. But considering that this woman is crazy, we can ignore it. What if she hallusinates that the therapy that is done on Andrew is a conspiracy. If she was not mad, they would not keep her there. And I guess, the woman in the cave was Anddrew’s halusination. Remember, thousands of rats came out of that cave! How real can it be! Whatever she said was a product of defense mechanism of Andrew. Anyway, watch movie twice and everything will be clear.

  • This post on IMDB seems to be in agreement with a conclusion of this article:
    The IMDB post is pretty well thought out and in depth too. Good stuff, strong arguments.

  • Old Georgy

    @George you are a liar, there was no rachel solando there in the scene, i have watched it closely

  • babs12560

    Old Georgy – please read the “Author’s note” regarding respectful posts.

  • @George Hi George!  Could you give me the time of the movie when you see that? I just fired it up and I didn’t see anyone, so it’d be helpful if you could tell me how far into the movie you saw this.

  • sheiladillingham


    Hi, I have read several comments… and I haven’t seen yet anyone noticing the definite disdain for the German doctor that is Crawley’s business partner… his nose and mouth curl up as if he despises this man… and he speaks in German to him.. he also appears to be disdainful to the main warden when he asks who he is to the orderly… I was just surprised to not see anyone comment on that.. not that it means anything… just noticing it… also, I think it is mentioned on here… that he never acknowledge/sees the children except when he is in the lighthouse and being told his ” boathouse story”.. but before that scene, I believe there’s a scene that he is talking to his partner in the library/study and then a scream and a vision of supposedly his wife/but its the patient/nurse Rachel who’s neck is slit, and the 3 children are on the ground dead.. and the little girl,Rachel, asks why he didn’t save them… so he DOES see them before Dr. Crawley speaks of them.. he doesn’t call them by name.. but he does see them….

  • sheiladillingham


    another thing, is it possible. that the deputy ( the bald headed guy)who seems to be in charge of the men, not the main warden seen later in the movie, when he refers to the lighthouse as being a sewage treatment place,,,that he is, in fact, calling the inmates/clients/prisoners “SEWAGE”.. after all I am sure that some people working in places like that may think of their “clients’ as dirt, or trash.. and that is other words for Sewage…. and so the lobotomies going on in the lighthouse, is treating the sewage/trash… thus being sewage treatment…. I’m just questioning possibilities….

  • sheiladillingham

    So, is the Law of 4…. the 3 kids and his wife…

  • sheiladillingham What a great catch about that ‘sewage’ treatment center!  As for Teddy’s images of the children, I believe that they’re leftovers from previous attempts to implant memories in him. But then again, it’s been a while since I’ve watched the movie, so take that with a grain of salt :)

  • insomnis

    Just having watched the movie and reading the comments posted here, I think that the memory sequences/flashbacks regarding the liberation of Dachau are neglected.
    For instance take the Dachau camp commander’s failed suicide attempt: We kinda see him crawling on the floor as he has shot himself on the cheek instead of the usual temple area – where Di Caprio’s bandaid is placed throughout the entire movie; on his temple, probably covering the scar of a failed suicide attempt that may have happened after he shot his wife by the lake in reality.
    It makes perfect sense for a man with his story: Wanting to put a bullet in his own head after losing all his children and killing his wife. Failing, crawling for an hour only to be rescued and placed in a mental institution with potential physical (brain damage, remember migraines) damage on top of a heavy trauma.
    The camp commander tried to reach his pistol and finish the suicide job – to end his pain. Di Caprio (the soldier) prevented him from doing so and made him suffer longer. You can see the resemblence with the mental institution’s “military prick” warden, a soldierly figure keeping him alive and in agony – while all that Di Caprio wants is to end his pain.
    Food for thought regarding the Dachau scenes and the mysterious bandaid, can be elaborated further..

  • smog dude

    The part in mental hospital when the lady askes for glass of water but when she lifts her hand her hand is empty & then she sets down the empty glass on the table , what’s the explanation for that?

  • something cool

    I think that the whole movie is in Teddy’s head.  There is no Island, he is told that.  There is no storm, he is told that. 
    If you notice, the rain is always pointed out to him by
    other people in the movie.  He believes
    it because he is in fact crazy.  He is
    suffering severly from PTSD during WW2. 
    And I would go as far as to say that he has no wife or kids.  All of this is put in his head in an effort
    to study the idea that they can implement ideas or memories in someones
    The next question is, why Teddy, sure he has PTSD but there
    are a lot of people out there suffering from distinguishing reality from
    The reason they pick Teddy is simple, he is a trained
    killer. He was in WW2 and people were
    very afraid in America, mainly psycologists how they would react when they came
    home.  Would they kill people? Would they
    go crazy?
    Another factor is the time, there is a reason Scorsese tells
    us the year, 1954, the height of the “red scare”…
    I think Teddy is apart of a massive experiment to utlize
    people trained during WW2 to perhaps implant memories into their head to be
    implanted in the Soviet Union to cripple communism in other countries.  This was not uncommon by our own military to
    take very crazy tactics to find every path to take down the Soviets in the
    event that we would ever be at war. 
    So to conclude, nothing in this movie is REAL, other than
    the fact that Teddy was in WW2, he is suffering from PTSD and the government is
    trying to see if they can use these highly trained killers as future
    He was NEVER married, NEVER had kids, and he NEVER killed
    The use water and fire to drive this home because in 1945,
    the winter was so cold and the troops could not light a fire in fear of air
    Teddy is obsessed with fire because he was told he could not
    light one, and being told you cannot do something will make you obsessed with
    it.  That is where the lighthouse comes
    into play, they know he is obsessed with things he cannot do, so by telling him
    he CANNOT go to the lighthouse, they know he will go there. 
    As far as the record playing, that is information they must
    of gotten from him during post-war interviews to drive home his memories of the
    DEATH CAMP that made him have PTSD. 
    It is all a government ploy to take advantage of PTSD
    victims during WW2 to combat communism if the situation go any worse. 
    I would love to hear thoughts on this theory…please let me
    know where some holes are in it…

  • epicmeme

    Nalk knows what he is talking about. You guys are the ones who like to overthink those types of movies dont you? :D You are like crazy conspiracy theorists just like the movie portrays Teddy.

  • Milad

    I think Teddy is a U.S. Marshall, because when they are entering the institution, Warden McPherson tells them to hand over their guns, and teddy easily gives his revolver, but Dr Sheehan could not do it easily. This might be a reason that Teddy was familiar with his revolver and was potentially a Marshall!
    However, about him , not being able to recognize a real and fake revolver, we could say that we was using high doses of drugs and he was really anxious on the lighthouse.

  • nutsandleach

    No no no, he says “is it better to live as a monster than die a good man?” he says this because he understands the true story the docs are telling him, but would prefer to “die a good man” in his mind, so he chooses to return to his self-created U.S. Marshal story.

  • nutsandleach

    @TwerkedTruth interesting.

  • Lainamermaid

    smog dude I noticed that too! I thought that my eyes were just playing tricks on me and I dismissed it. I’m glad to see someone else noticed it.

  • guest

    Daniel’s willingness to undergo a Lobotomi proves that he is neither Teddy the real US Marshal, nor Teddy (a personality created by Daniels’  conspiracy regression), nor Andrew (a personality created by doctors to make him believe he is).
    1. If Daniels is Andrew, the real 67th patient, how is a mentally-ill patient willing to be lobotomized, or uttering a principle of being a good man and  a monster?
    By calling his partner “Chuck” at the end of film, there are 2 possibilities: Chuck & Teddy Daniels are 2 real US Marshals, or otherwise Daniels is Andrew who regresses again into his hallucination as Teddy.
    However, Daniels’ willingness to undergo a Lobotomi is against 2 possibilities.
    – If Teddy and Chuck are two real Marshals, how is he as US Marshal wiling to surrender without giving a fight to the malpractice of a bunch of civilian doctors?
    – if Daniels is Andrew who regressed into previous illusion again as “Teddy” the US Marshal, how is he in the illusion as a US Marshal willing to surrender to the malpractice of some civilian doctors?

  • Latenightcasino

    I question whether Teddy was actually married – why refer to his “wife” by her maiden name? This appears unusual for the 1950s. Could she have been his girlfriend before the war?
    PTSD fantasies triggered by memories from the Dachau camp could be linked to both the record player and falling ashes. Musical activities and a crematorium were both significant features at the camp.
    The lakeside house is a fictional setting of false memories. This place appears to be a retreat and not somewhere Teddy would go to resume normal life after he/Dolores had burnt down an apartment block.
    The use of clothing that looks like German uniforms appears to be a device to create anxiety or provoke PTSD – maybe as a test for Teddy, or part of the treatment of other prisoners?
    The children don’t feel like real characters that Teddy knows or loves. When burning the doctor’s car, the hallucination of Dolores does not interact with the little girl in a motherly way. All she does is hold her hand dispassionately, there is markedly less visible affection between Dolores and the girl than appears in Teddy’s memory of the frozen little girl with her arm wrapped over a body at camp.
    I don’t believe Teddy was a marshal. I think his return to civilian life after the war was very brief before he ended up in a military psychiatric prison. He may have been a caretaker and burnt the apartment building down, killing a mother and her 3 children because he didn’t realise it was a Saturday and they were at home.
    Although he was involved in unlawful killing of German officers at Dachau, I don’t believe Teddy intentionally murdered anyone after the war. I don’t believe that he would be allowed to run around unsupervised at the Island if he was known to be a murderer, even as part of a treatment plan. The staff would never agree to it. When threatened with the idea of violence in the car, he only says he would put up a good fight, he is not frightened or aggressive.
    He was never going to leave the island. The treatment was to see if he would accept a fictionalised version of his past, and if not to accept a lobotomy to cope with his mental illness.

  • Wasabi

    A few bizarre events are not covered, for example :
    The Missing Alcohol bottle

    In the dream sequence, Dolores initially held a bottle of alcohol(?) and later in the same scene, it was missing yet she was still grasping something. Teddy obviously knew it was a dream, yet the bottle vanished. Now, if something of major importance happens in a dream, one usually notices it, but nooo, woman grasping at nothing is not fastastical. I paused for a few minutes and thought, teddy knew it was a dream, so he more or less controls what happens there, so the missing bottle was his doing. Then it dawned upon me. Yes, as stated before, its part in the film itself is more or less insignificant. It can even be removed and it probably wont change anything. I believe the missing bottle was a hint for the audience, a hint of what actually happened, Dolores held a bottle, letting us know that it is a dream/fantasy(obvious, I know, hell, even Teddy knew but…) later on, when the bottle was gone, Teddy (Us too), saw that she was charred, telling us that Dolores/WhoeverSheWas indeed was burned for real. Also if you think about it, Dolores said “You can never leave” a tad bit too much. In a nut shell, Teddy tried to go back to fantasy(The Bottle in hand, alcohol signifying his sanity/insanity), but reality struck him (if only briefly) hence the missing bottle. What follows also fits, Dolores/WSH burned, Teddy cant leave the place, he is here, ashes raining down, i still cant dont fully understand what Dolores meant by “She’s here though”. Maybe it meant the fire burned but Dolores and the said young girl, hence “She’s here (with me,death)”. This  part of the article is about the Missing bottle and the missing bottle only, it doesnt deal with whether Dolores was his wife, whether he had a child or whether he started the fire.
    The Invisible Glass
    When Teddy was questioning the (In)sane patient, she drank from an invisible glass, this brings many questions:
    Q.Was there a glass with water at all?
    A. Yes, if you watched the carefully, Chuck handed her a glass with water in it, and when she placed it down, it had obvious signs of recently being filled with water with the water droplets running down the outer side of the glass.. simply put, it was wet.
    Q.Did she actually drank from it?
    A. Yes, suppose she didnt drink from it, she somehow emptied it, Teddy would have noticed anything unsual.
    Q.Was it a hallucination of Teddy?
    A.Maybe, but improbable. Thaere was no reaction or any sign from Teddy that he saw her drinking from nothing. Maybe he thought she was mad and let her play along, but improbable as I stated before, no reaction from Teddy.
    Some you theorize, water signified obscurity, reality, etc. Well, I am not here to express my opinions on the significance of water in this film. Maybe like the Alcohol, a hint for us audience that there was no “water” in that scene.

  • EvanderTangiiti

    – Teddy was a U.S Marshall
    – He did have 3 kids
    – No apartment was burnt
    – Rachel Salondo is not a patient.

    Teddy Daniels a former U.S marshall couldn’t bare to take the realisation of the drowning of his kids. This is evident as when ‘water’ is seen throughout the film, Teddy doesn’t feel okay. (e.g starting scene where he’s sea sick, headaches and hallucinations from the rain). 

    Water isn’t the only evidence that made me suspicious of this idea. I found it interesting how Teddy mentions he couldn’t save them (his children) which makes me believe that this is the cause of his guilt because he was once a big hero U.S marshall but couldn’t seem to save his 3 children from his insane wife which also makes me believe his children did exist. 

    I do not believe there was a burning apartment because if you notice throughout the film, when fire is present in the scene this is often when Teddy is hallucinating. Scenes like where we see Dr. Cawley near his fire depicting him as an evil character, the cave scene with what we think is Rachel Salondo, Ward C where we talk to what we think is Andrew Laeddis and obviously the burning apartment. When we hear Teddy Daniels speak about how “the smoke got her” first, I think the ‘smoke’ is a representation of stress from Teddy’s past and not being there for Dolores and the kids. this was too much for Dolores so the stress or “smoke” is what got her (made her snap) and she killed her kids, drowning them.

  • PCanter

    I really enjoyed your analysis of the movie.  I think you made a thorough examination of events and It helped me a great deal.  For myself; this is one of those films that are a real mind bender and ultimately I simply allow my mind to be bent instead of trying to make complete sense out of the whole film- beginning to end.  I liked the film and will watch it many more times I’m sure.  Thanks again for your time and effort in explaining your views.


  • Mingggggggg

    @TwerkedTruth But it was explained directly. It’s about the anagrams. Dolores Chanal – Rachel Solando and Edward Daniels – Andrew Laeddis. It is explained quickly but it is explained. Watch it again and you’ll se. It’s in the lighthouse.

  • ashley

    @insomnis My guess about the BandAid on the temple. It covered a small lesion, where an experimental electroconvulsive shock therapy “ECT” electrode was used. The jolt that can stabilize the mood of a frenzied mental patient will usually erase some memories, as well. This fits with the motives of the Men of Science, who needed an effective “reset button” on the occasions of The Subject’s repeated relapses into 
    delusions. Edward/Andrew character suffered Migraine? Shock treatments cause brain swelling, and headaches. 
    Insomnis, we relished your Food for Thought. It is no mystery that Writers and Directors often “make it up as they go along”. Then, they hoot with loony laughter, as we The Audience try to interpret their convoluted plots. Bewildered, in the Scorcese Maze. L.O.L.

  • jsttestng

    Here’s another interpretation of what REALly happened.

    1. There really is a doctor Rachel on Shutter Island and she really did went missing… tried to escape because she knew too much of their secret experiments. 

    2. The others (especially Dr. Cawley) is anxious to find and bring her back in fear that she might try to blow the whistle on what they are doing on the island.

    3. They need someone to help them find Rachel, which would be Teddy, who is in fact patient #67.

    4. Rachel and Teddy or Andrew actually met BEFORE, they even escaped togther (of course not shown in the movie), so that part about Teddy having a conversation with  Rachel in a cave of the cliff is NOT JUST his imagination or hallucination but an actual piece of his memory. (She addressed him as Marshall because Andrew keeps thinking he is a Marshall, so if Rachel is actually a doctor who had a conversation with him, she would know that.)

    5. Andrew or Teddy got captured after their escape, but they still couldn’t find Rachel, so they NEED Andrew to roleplay as Teddy and try to find where she is.  (Since they escaped together, he must have some memory of the incident.)

    6. After Teddy tells about his conversation with Dr. Rachel at the cave, they know where she is and is able to locate her. So now “Teddy” has served his function, and there is no need for him anymore, so they sedate him and try to make him go back to be patient #67.

    7. Apparently, Andrew refuse to let go of the identity of Teddy and would rather die for it. THE END.

  • jsttestng

    I have a question for you since you butchered the scene where Ted had a conversation with Dr. Rachel in a cave, and you say it’s just in his mind.

    “Dr. Rachel told him that it takes 36-48 hours for psychotropic drugs to take effect and make him pliable for them to control. The first sign will be tremors in his hands, which he already has.”

    Is this kind of specialized field knowledge an ordinary mental patient or a U.S. Marshall capable of fantasizing?

    And another question, if you are a SANE person and just discover that your body already show signs of being drugged, would you stay in the cave and wait for the drug effect to wear off or would you immediately return to the cluthes of those who drugged you?

  • jsttestng I’m cleaning up your comment for you.

  • lg92

    The gun that they tell Teddy is his is actually Chuck’s (remember the holster?) Why lie and tell Teddy it is his gun when it’s Chuck? Answer: they’re further trying to destabilize his mind. You’re wrong on some points. He was a Marshall and not a pyromaniac. He was completely sane when he was lured to the island.

  • WernerMarinus

    Lainamermaid smog dude

  • WernerMarinus

    Lainamermaid smog dude No trick of the eyes: i paused en reviewed the scene a couple of times to make sure that what I saw the first time was true: no glass indeed!

  • WernerMarinus

    About the Mahler music playing in several scenes:
    1) the piece of music that was playing is an early, UNFINISHED work of Mahler.
    2) It’s the only piece of Mahler without a voice in it (a voiceless piece, let’s say)
    3) There’s some confusion when the music is first introduced: is it Brahms? No, it’s Mahler.  According to Wikipedia ( ) this quartet piece was at one time performed in the house af a Austrian doctor, who was a friend of … Brahms. This doctor, Theodor Billroth, was the one to introduce the white doctor’s coat.
    4) Mahlers’s music was banded under Nazi regime.  Why would the camp commandant listen to forbidden music?

    About the Rachel-character in the cave:
    1) how could she survive? Reexamine her clothing: not exactly something you would put on during nights spent outside
    2) how did she make a fire?
    3) at the end of the conversation she says she’s leaving, she has to keep moving around? How does she leave: is there a second entry/exit besides the one Teddy used to get into the cave?  Why would she leave anyway: she’s has shelter for the night and fire. Outside of the cave, she has none of that
    It reminds me a bit of the opening scenes of “The Lord of The Flies”: the main character, who is dead but we don’t know that yet, makes mistakes against logical thinking (“guano is insoluble”) but in his imagination this is no problem…

    About Chuck/Doctor Sheehan
    1) when the “marshals” have to hand over their weapons to the guards: look how clumsy Chuck is in taking of his holster
    2) during the after-storm scene, Teddy and Chuck go into the forbidden ward where Teddy has a fight with one of the “crazy” inmates/prisoner and almost kills him.  Chuck comes to the rescue, but immediately disappears again with the guard when they escort the inmate/prisoner away for further examination. What kind of “partner” would leave his pal alone, in a moment/setting/scenery like this???
    3) his “dead body” at the bottom of the rocks: it’s not real, it’s probably bird shit (or guano, see above). Anyway, it’s an imaginary corpse, just like “Chuck” is imaginary

    I saw the film last night on my hard disk/digital tv recorder. I praise myself I didn’t hit the “erase” button after viewing it, as I usually do with recorded programs… A second (third, …) viewing seems mandatory!

  • Kian Stenbolt

    Crazy how few people really got the movie..

  • Kian Stenbolt
  • jkr1997

    Noone really gets it.
    He was a war veteran who returned from the war and became a pyro who burnt down his apartment and wife, he never had kids. The kids are ones he saw in the concentration camp.

    The whole game was that they were trying to plant false memories into his head. They said the wife drowned the kids and he shot her, his name is Andrew Laeddis etcetc.
    In reality his real name is Teddy but he creates the U.S Marshall fiction to cope with his dark side (pyro) that he calls Andrew Laeddis. Watch when he lights the matches etc.

    Not many people actually follow the whole mission of the institute to plant false memories and the drugs.

  • ChristopherHindefjord

    Just some thoughts:
    How do we know that 36-48 hours actually is true, and not something that he made up by himself?!
    How long a drug takes to have an effect could have been told to him earlier, like when he first was admitted (it’s not unheard of that doctors etc tells the patient how long it will take before they feel the effects)
    Drugs tend to start working rather quickly (just think about when they sedate someone), and at least within an hour.
    But the time it takes for certain drugs to wear off is longer and could easily be 36-48 hours..
    Drugs that are supposed to make people calmer/more pliable tends to make muscles etc more relaxed, whilst tremors often is a symptom of withdraw… Again, pointing to that he actually is coming off the drugs (and not as “Dr. Rachel” said, that he’s feeling the effects).
    And yes, the sane thing to do would probably be to wait in the cave…

  • jsttestng

    wistfulwriter jsttestng Okay.

  • jsttestng

    @Kian Stenbolt So do tell us your clever analysis. ;)

  • jsttestng

    jkr1997 “Not many people actually follow the whole mission of the institute to plant false memories and the drugs.” Really? Maybe we can take that even a step further then? I heard an analysis that stated that this movie ITSELF is a test or experiment of mind manipulation ON the audience. See how easy it is to change people’s belief by switching the identity of the MC (main character) from a US Marshall into a mental patient through the Lighthouse scene? (people are first led to believe he is a US Marshall Teddy, then later introduced him as Andrew Laeddis who burned and set fire to his house, then we are told by the “doctor” that he ACTUALLY drowned his and children). This movie is clearly a trap to lead us to believe that the MC MUST be one of the 4 combinations of characters introduced in the movie (war veteran,  Andrew LaeddisFIRE, Teddy, Us MarshallWATER). We are basically being sealed in the four corners of the castle when they introduced the “rule of 4.” 

    Seriously, now how about I say ALL of the characters introduced in the movie are false memories, and the MC actually is NONE of the 4 crisscross types of characters. While the whole TRUTH of exactly who is the MC appears to be stuck in MUD, there is one hint about the truth given in the cemetery scene when Chuck said “when you are looking into them, maybe they are also looking into you?” Clearly, TRUTH is in the eyes of the beholder. 

    And I’ll introduce an even more bizarre speculation, and that is perhaps the MC actually was a “missing doctor” they refer to as “Rachel” who tried to disclose their operation done on the island, and tried to escape on the ferry, but was himself being brainwashed into thinking he is someone else, and everything in his memory are false implants. 

    Then, in the end scene, where they take them for the lobotomy surgery, instead of actually cutting his brain, they would wipe away all his memories again and plant other false memories… an endless loop of repetition.

  • Craycrayley

    George Noyce was the one calling Laeddis therefore meaning he knew Teddy Daniels/Andrew Laeddis was there. He was literally calling out his name (but how did he know he was there?? Is this part of the role play??) and Teddy/Andrew followed his voice. I think George knew what exactly was going on, he kept telling Teddy/Andrew the truth but Teddy refused to accept it. 
    Noyce kept telling Teddy to “let her go” (let his wife Dolores go) because Noyce knew that Teddy created a constructive reality that would make him seem like he didn’t kill his wife and kids instead blamed Andrew Laeddis (himself) and made up a story that his wife died in an apartment fire.
    George Noyce knew that this whole thing was an experiment and he was right, I strongly believe that Noyce knew everything and he was a part of the experiment himself. Still not sure how he got back to Ashecliffe because of Laeddis… (Maybe Laeddis told them that Noyce stabbed three men, I dunno…) I actually wished they would elaborate on his character though (George Noyce)…

  • serious man

    There is an incredible amount of symbolism and imagery in this film that makes it impossible to fully accept the version of events outlined within the film. I will outline a few key moments:

    1) In his first vision, Teddy sees Dolores in their apartment. However, look out the window and you see the lake where she supposedly drowned their children. This can be interpreted in a number of ways. One, she did burn down their apartment, he did move them to the lake house, and she did murder the children, and his memories are sort of jumbled together in this vision. Two, considering that no children are present in the apartment, it could mean that the false memory of the lake is on the outside as the apartment burns down around him, symbolizing that they are destroying his real memories and replacing them with new ones. In this scene, we not only see her burning but also see the blood appear in the spot where he supposedly shot her. Two very different memories are fighting against one another in this scene.

    2) Cawley mentions that Teddy’s crime was terrible, and says he is one of their most dangerous patients. Given what we know, this makes little sense. He shot his wife out of emotional anguish. Although this is a terribly tragic crime, it does not fit the bill of being terrible like burning down one’s apartment with the family inside. Teddy did not shoot her out of malice, but rather to set her free. It is strange that Cawley categorizes this as terrible.

    3) There is a scene where lightning is flashing and Teddy is struck with another migraine. Cawley sits him down and feeds him some pills. In this scene (and it took me damn near 10 viewings to catch this, and I haven’t seen it mentioned anywhere else) there is a statue of a little boy playing a wind-pipe just behind Cawley and illuminated by the flashing lightning. Why is this important? Think about the Pied Piper, who, in folklore, led rats out of a town. When the townspeople didn’t pay him, he started luring their children away.

    The Pied Piper and Cawley have much in common. Cawley came into psychology with the hopes of helping other people, of using his powers to guide them in the right direction. But other methods such as drugs and lobotomy were still sought over his methods. Although he was against using psychotropic drugs, he caved in. His intentions changed and he became a villain who felt it was better to tell a patient a lie rather than let him accept the monstrous truth. He still accepted, although grudgingly, the use of barbaric practices that did nothing to help, and newer practices (drugs) that essentially carried the same effect.

    There is also more importance to this symbol. Think about the rats. Noyce tells Teddy that he’s “a rat in a maze.” Cawley is leading him into his eventual destination (the lighthouse) through a carefully calculated series of events. Teddy is just like one of the many rats (that he envisions at the bottom of the bluffs) being duped into following his masters (the doctors of Shutter Island). After seeing the Pied Piper statue, the rat imagery made much more sense. It seemed so weird and out of place–and is one scene many viewers will use to argue that Teddy is Andrew Laeddis. 

    4) I have watched this movie several times. I have flip-flopped and created new theories. I catch new things every time. But one thing has remained consistent: I do not believe Teddy had children. I do not believe the kids in his visions were his own. In his visions, he has a strong connection to Dolores and immense love. With the little girl, he expresses guilt, but not an emotional, fatherly connection. I fully believe he saw a little girl”s corpse at the concentration camp, but not the girl we see. Cawley has shown Teddy the picture (from the lighthouse scene) of that little girl over and over again (in the past, not in the movie), which is why her face appears in the camp and swaps places with the real girl Teddy saw (and we never see). In the first vision, she is wrapped up with who Teddy believes is Rachel Solondo. Why? Because he has seen fake Rachel’s picture and incorporated it into his own memory. The images and words they have been telling him are creeping into his mind, forever changing his perspective of events. This supports the false memory theory.

    It’s not even worth mentioning his relationship to the boys because it doesn’t exist. There is zero connection. They are false memories–he has been told over and over again that he had a girl and two boys. Since his mind is fumbling between these alternating realities/memories/visions, his mind eventually concludes that the girl from the pictures was his daughter.  The reason he has a connection to her is because he felt guilty once he saw her corpse.

    5) To reiterate, I’ll take you to the lake scene. When he pulls the girl out of the water, he tries to resuscitate her. He does not do this for the boys. He wishes he could have saved that girl from the concentration camp (who he has associated with his false daughter). That’s why, in this new, false memory, he tries desperately to save her and not the boys. They are side characters. They may have actually existed (how else did Cawley obtain the pictures of their corpses, after all?), but they are not his sons. They are two boys Cawley is trying to convince Teddy belonged to him. Why else does Dolores never mention children? 

    6) The scene where he sees scar-faced Laeddis is very telling. Throughout the film up to that point, he heard all about how Rachel Solondo murdered her three children, dressed them up, and ate dinner with them like it was normal. This image incorporates itself into his visions because throughout the past several months/years, they have been working to convince Teddy that his wife killed their three kids. Rachel plays the part of his wife in this scene but is covered in blood. The doctors’ version of events have become Teddy’s reality–she cut up the kids, not drowned them. This shows the power of suggestion. It also means that they could have tried different versions of events in the past that never stuck. The doctors have been suggesting narratives all along–ones that closely resemble the false narrative they’re leading him to accept. He carries his “daughter,” who is covered in blood (which makes no sense if his repressed memory is one of her drowning), and talks about how he wishes he could have saved her. 

    Another thing to think about. Is it possible that the fake Rachel Solondo was used to create a completely false memory where she was his wife instead of Dolores? When he initially sees her picture, he pauses for a moment as if he recognizes her. It’s because they have tried this before. But they realized something–Teddy’s connection to Dolores. This new experiment could have been to see if they could permanently alter his memory of his one true love. Since they had tried and failed to convince him that Rachel was his wife in the past, they then superimposed those same memories on Dolores. Twisting those memories could lead to him accepting the false reality seeing as he had such a strong emotional connection to Dolores. And that’s why fake Rachel creeped into his visions. Because that reality had been suggested to him prior. Although it didn’t stick, it wasn’t totally wiped from his mind.

    There is so muhc more, but I’ve written enough. Let me know what you think.

    • Chetan Anand

      I’m really impressed with your hypotheses. I’m doing a term paper on shutter island. Can I use your theories?? Also if there’s anything else would you like to help me??

  • Avz

    There is a detail that I havent seen mentioned anywhere:
    When Teddy returns from the cave where he met Dr Rachel he asks Dr Cawley: “Where is my partner?” and he replies “What partner? You came alone to the island” (or something like that, probably the line is not exactly that, but thats the idea).
    That doesnt make much sense: Chuck was not an alucination and Dr Cawley knew it. He was not trying to make Teddy remember the “truth” (like he does latter in the lighthouse scene), but actually trying to confuse Teddy. So, in the official perspective that states that the doctors are nice people trying to treat Teddy and make him accept the truth that is kind of controversial.

    • Fuck you

      That is so fucking obvious, it just means that his trip with Chuck is not his first. As revealed at the end they made a breakthrough identical to this 9 months ago. He came to the island (for the first time) alone. MORON

      • Chelsea Nolan

        To the comment complaining of the previous comment saying it was “obvious ” and calling the person a Moron-why are you so angry and why take your own angers out on a discussion? Like why be so mean ?

  • em12345

    Avz I found this strange too, although I can really justify it from both perspectives in my mind:

    1. accepting the doctors’ lakehouse narrative: In this portion of the film, Dr. Cawley seems to be attempting to bring Teddy back to his complete reality. He is perhaps putting aside the charade altogether and instead speaking of the first time Teddy came to the island, as not an investigator with a partner but an admitted patient.

    2. rejecting the lakehouse narrative: It is interesting to note that after this exchange about him not having a partner, Cawley says, “Tell me again about your partner,” and Teddy says, “What partner?”, perhaps indicating how quickly he accepts what he is told. That would make him the perfect subject for a brainwashing experiment.

  • Avz

    em12345 Avz good points!

  • Peter

    The film is made to show that we create reality ourselves, any reality we wish.

  • Cpanda

    My take of the film is that Teddy’s (or Andrew’s) guilt from the war which led him to drink, driving his wife to go crazy and kill the kids. The smoke and fire story is a metaphor of this. “Andrew Laeddis lit the match that caused the fire that killed my wife”.

  • Alejandro Suavita Gonzalez

    Hi, very interesting analysis. Just wanted to point out that when Teddy didn’t recognize a loaded gun from a toy one, you could also establish that he was never a soldier either, as soldiers have proper weapon training, not only with rifles, and would recognize pistol from toy. Further more, it could also be theory that if he is indeed fighting that he is a killer from the start, then he might also be using the war story to somehow justify himself as a hero. (So he tries to overpower his feeling of guilt with being a war veteran).

    I’ve also just thought about this, and it might be interesting to hear what people think. But in the name SHUTTER island, could the word shutter being used as a camera term? Do concepts of aperture and speed play a role into finding what is the truth? Light or darkness? Doesn’t the shutter control the viewing of a picture, giving different perspective of what is really outside of the camera?

  • Guy

    Great thoughts in this article. Regarding your unanswered questions at the end, I have theories:

    Record player: music is often times used to elicit many different emotions, thus making an excellent tool for programming Teddy. This could be why it continues to play and manifest in his visions.

    I believe this is as simple as the film needing the viewer to know that it is truly Teddy that is the pyro and fire serves a large purpose in his life, especially since in the end, it killed his wife.

    Certainly not in all cases, but in many cases, water extinguishes fire. For this reason, it is the pyro’s weakness. So throughout the film, it is important for the viewer to see that Teddy is always held back by water. This is a great tool for the doctors to use against him, and he may nearly prefer/accept this weakness as it was fire that killed his wife.

  • DoctorWho

    Thank you for your intellectually stimulating analysis, Wistful Writer. It was a pleasure to read.

    I thought I’d contribute to the conversation by questioning the validity of Teddy’s memories of the war. In Teddy’s memory of the American liberation of a concentration camp, we see American soldiers walking through the gate under the infamous ribbon-like sign “Arbeit macht frei” (“Work sets you free” in German).

    Teddy then proceeds to tell the story of the liberation of the Dachau concentration camp. However, that ribbon-like sign appeared on the entrance of Auschwitz, not Dachau. In fact, the entrance gate in Dachau also bore the words “Arbeit macht frei”, but the sign looked different. A quick Google search will confirm my words.

    So this historical inconsistency warrants the following questions. Did Scorsese swap the signs (I assume the change was intentional because it is too obvious to be a mistake) only because the Auschwitz sign is the more recognizable one and therefore enhances the idea of the place being a concentration camp in the general population? Or did Scorsese do it to highlight the idea that Teddy’s knowledge of the Dachau concentration camp is a fictional construct that is based on fragmentary information and not a firsthand account?

    Furthermore, during the final confrontation at the lighthouse, Dr. Cawley says something odd. He says (I paraphrase from memory): “You were at Dachau but you never killed any soldiers.” What is the significance of Teddy murdering the Nazi soldiers vs Teddy not murdering the soldiers? I have to think about this some more.

    Lastly, it seems that a lot of Teddy’s recalling of the war is triggered by the doctors, either by Dr. Cawley telling him about Dachau or by Dr. Naehring listening to Mahler. Could we interpret this as the doctors trying to vet (or fabricate altogether) Teddy’ memories of the war? Could their deception extend beyond the story of Rachel Solando? If so, the only seemingly indisputable assumption about Teddy’s true identity, the fact that he is a WWII veteran, is now being tested.

    Something to think about…

  • Andrew Laeddis (fuck you)

    As much as you flaunt a wildly misplaced vocabulary, there is almost no intellectual backing to your analysis. Your thesis of Teddy Daniels’s identity directly contradicts the statements put forth by Martin Scorsese in multiple interviews. You didn’t think it suspicious that Edwards Daniels and Rachel Solando are on the same side of the drawing board? Even after you made a definitive statement about Rachel’s existence, you couldn’t put two and two together to realise that Laeddis is real, and Daniels a delusional construct? This undermines the entirety of your analysis. You often make wild accusations, simultaneously any contradictory evidence. Another example of which is the water motif. Water stimulates discovery. It pushes him to seek shelter, if highlights the written “RUN”, but in very few ways does it entrap him. It also walks a fine line between reality and delusion, being prominent in both flashbacks and on the island. Also, and I really can’t be bothered to go into depth about it, but the reality proposed at the end is in fact that, reality. Besides no substantiation, there is no reason (provided by you or self-evident) that would suggest that this reality would benefit anyone as opposed to the “real truth” that you have put forward.

    • Rachel Solondo

      Hey this guy is right!

  • Jordan Rubin

    Interesting point I would like to add. The number 3 seems to be a pattern here. Teddy/Andrew supposedly had 3 children. Rachel Solondo killed her 3 children. And George Noyce killed 3 men while in college. Not sure what to hypothesize from this, but it’s just something else interesting I noticed

  • Stef

    The rain is just the symbol of the confusion surrounding him. And it disappears right after Rachel tells him in her cave that he has no friend, that he is being drugged. Clarity begins, Teddy stops the drugs, no more storm…

    Moreover, constant reminders about WWII, when Teddy killed so many people, can’t be put aside. All the movie is about a man who needs to create a lie about his past, so he can move on despite his horrible and criminal past. The murder of his wife is a parabolic image of the people he killed or murdered during the war.
    God loves violence, as it is said, but every man cannot stand it. So here’s the point: in a war, there are no good ones or bad ones. Every fighter is a criminal and a murderer. When they come back, we tell stories about them being good ones, fighting the bad ones, so everybody can move on. But some don’t believe this lie.