The Shutter Island Mystery: A Visual Analysis (and explanation of the ending)

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 of the movie?

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
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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
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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).

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
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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
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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
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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
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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
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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
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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
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Water obfuscates Teddy’s vision.
Shutter Island - Rainy Car Window
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Water distorts images.
Running ink
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Water distorts this image too.

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
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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
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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
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Shutter Island - Last occurrence of the lighthouse
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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
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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.

173 comments
nalk
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. 

TwerkedTruth
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.


TwerkedTruth 

TwerkedTruth
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

savsandhu63
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. 

dani
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.

Clay4
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...

babs12560
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!

Sankalp
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!

ki
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.

Ted
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 "USS Sheehan (DE-541), a United States Navy destroyer escort launched in 1943 but never completed"

Bhaskar Saikia
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"

Tim
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?

Just suggesting hehe
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

Andrew
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 :-)

CALenore
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 :)

Laeddis
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.

Royston
Royston

This is my interpretation slightly diff from yours. 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. Firstly, 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 perfectly And 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? This 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. The 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. The story about Rachel killing and drowning her three children was some information they drill deeply into terry brain by one of the patient Breene. 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 There 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 You 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) Everything 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 And 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. "Is 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. And 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. And 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 The 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.

Food For Thought
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.

Empress
Empress

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

dave
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

Jack
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.

George
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.

passerby
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)

Justin
Justin

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

LUZU
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.

keenlearner
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.

gary vonick
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.

Molly McGuire
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!

Mike
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!!!

Patrick Day
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.

Austin
Austin

ABOUT THE LIGHTHOUSE IMAGE 1 !!!!!!! 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.

MeMe
MeMe

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

savsandhu63
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)

wistfulwriter
wistfulwriter moderator

@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!

babs12560
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 quit thinking about it!

wistfulwriter
wistfulwriter moderator

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

wistfulwriter
wistfulwriter moderator

@Ted Thanks for that, very insightful stuff!

wistfulwriter
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.

Jack
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.

wistfulwriter
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.

Swordsman920
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
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!

Macalla Artis
Macalla Artis

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.

wistfulwriter
wistfulwriter

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

wistfulwriter
wistfulwriter moderator

@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. 

Justin
Justin

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