Shutter Island
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A Note Regarding Spoilers

The following FAQ entries may contain spoilers. Only the biggest ones (if any) will be covered with spoiler tags. Spoiler tags have been used sparingly in order to make the page more readable.

For detailed information about the amounts and types of (a) sex and nudity, (b) violence and gore, (c) profanity, (d) alcohol, drugs, and smoking, and (e) frightening and intense scenes in this movie, consult the IMDb Parents Guide for this movie. The Parents Guide for Shutter Island can be found here.

U.S. Marshal Teddy Daniels (Leonardo DiCaprio) and his partner Marshal Chuck Aule (Mark Ruffalo) arrive at Shutter Island to investigate the escape of Rachel Solando, a criminally insane patient who has mysteriously escaped from Ashecliffe Prison, the only facility on the island. During their investigation, Teddy and Chuck encounter hints that there may be something sinister taking place on the island.

Yes. Shutter Island is a 2003 novel by American author Dennis Lehane. The novel was adapted for the movie by screenwriters Laeta Kalogridis and Steven Knight.

Dr Cawley (Ben Kingsley) explains that the "Law of 4" refers to the fact that two names are anagrams. They are: (1) Dolores Chanal (Andrew's wife's maiden name) rearranged to Rachel Solando and (2) Andrew Laeddis rearranged to Edward Daniels.

Who is the 67th patient?

Dr Cawley states that Shutter Island contains 66 patients (24 in Ward C and 42 in Wards A and B). However, Rachel Solando's letter suggests there is a 67th patient. Teddy eventually learns that the 67th patient is Andrew Laeddis.

Who is Andrew Laeddis?

Teddy explains that Andrew Laeddis (Elias Koteas) is the apartment maintenance man who set the building on fire that killed his wife and three other people.

Because the doctors say that Andrew was an ex-marshal with extensive training in combat, stealth, and operations. He was able to kill with one blow, and he was known to have attacked staff and patients alike. Some viewers doubt the existence of Andrew Laeddis beyond the dream character seen in the film and believe there is no justification in the movie that the protagonist is psychotically violent and that this is a lie told by the island authorities to manipulate the protagonist with guilt.

Although it wasn't addressed in the movie, it was addressed in the book. The files Teddy received were not the actual patient files. They were just thumbnail sketches from Cawley's own memory and provided by Cawley himself.

Some viewers conclude that Bridget Kearns (Robin Bartlett) was trying to warn Teddy to get off the island. Others think that she was made to do it so that Teddy's case about something bad happening on Shutter Island would become even stronger.

It is unknown. When Teddy comes back from the cave where he sees Rachel Solando (Patricia Clarkson) , Mrs Kearns and Peter Breene (Christopher Denham) can be seen walking with medical personnel, suggesting that they faked being patients in order to give Teddy clues about what was really happening on the island. They may also have been high ranking cooperative patients that were used by the doctors in the role-play/brainwashing. They both appear highly anxious after the meeting.

Perhaps, but George Noyce (Jackie Earle Haley) was also a plant, as were Kearns and Breene. Alternately, he was an unwitting pawn who was told things that the authorities knew he would pass on to Teddy or that the encounter was an accident that just happened to advance the "role-play" to the lighthouse. Teddy explains to Chuck that, when he started investigating Ashecliffe, no one would talk about the prison until he found Noyce who used to be a patient there before he was given life at Dedham Prison. From Noyce, Teddy gained insights into what was actually going on at Ashecliffe. Chuck suggests that they go to Ward C to look for Laeddis. It is unknown whether the encounter with Noyce was planned although it advanced the "role-play" to the lighthouse in a way similar to Chuck in the mausoleum and Cave Rachel by feeding Teddy suspicions about experiments and the lighthouse which are later used against Teddy. Cawley has a transcript of Teddy's conversation with Noyce. This may mean that Noyce was scripted, but it could also be evidence of extensive surveillance on the island where people are constantly being monitored.

Teddy has two migraines, the cause of which is not explained in the movie. The first one is just after arriving on the ferry. He sees a photo of Rachel Solando, and it reminds him of the prisoners he saw at Dachau. Teddy blames that migraine on being seasick. The second migraine occurs just after he meets Rachel Solando (Emily Mortimer), who has been found safe and sound) and witnesses her freaking out and calling him Jim. They were also in the middle of a hurricane, and lightning is flashing fiercely. Migraines are known to be triggered by, among other things, stress and by glare such as off the water or during lightning storms. Other possibilities are that he's being slipped drugs in his food or in his cigarettes or has been subjected to electroconvulsive treatment.

Teddy suspected that they were experimenting on human minds, much in the same way that the Nazis used their prisoners. In his investigation of Ashecliffe, Teddy learned that the prison was being funded by the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC) and that the chief of staff has ties to the Office of Strategic Services (OSS), both intelligence agencies formed to gather information about subversive activities.

In 1954, the year in which this movie takes place, psychiatric medicine was in flux between psychosurgery (brain surgery, such as lobotomies) and psychopharmacology (mind-controlling drugs) to sedate and/or correct mental or behavioral abnormalities. Cawley says that he was trying a radical approach (for its time) of listening to his patients and attempting to help them work out their problems.

Teddy thinks he sees Chuck's body lying in the water at the bottom of the cliff. According to the novel, however, when Teddy was trying to climb down to rescue Chuck, Chuck was actually frozen under the lip of the cliff, a foot away from Teddy but Teddy didn't see Chuck. Some possible explanations for Teddy seeing Chuck's body only at the bottom of the cliff, depending upon how the viewer interprets the movie, are: 1) Most likely, Teddy's eyes were playing tricks on him. He saw the reflection of something that he mistook for Chuck. This is common and not a hallucination. It is called an illusion. 2) a body (or a person pretending to be a body) was planted there by the doctors who were trying to throw Teddy off the track of what was really happening on the island, 3) Teddy was having a delusion, perhaps fueled by drugs or the lack thereof), or 4) Teddy was himself mentally unstable.

Chuck dropped it. The book explains it in more detail. Chuck had acquired Andrew's intake form to show to Teddy. As Chuck was pulling it out of his pocket, it blew away and became wedged between a rock and a tendril of roots. Chuck then began climbing down the cliff to retrieve it. When Teddy thought he saw Chuck's body lying in the water below and tried to climb down to help, he found the intake form.

This is a question that is open for the audience to decide. Some believe that the Rachel Solando in the cave was real; others believe that she was a figment of Teddy's imagination. It is possible that he fabricated the Rachel Solando in the cave, because what she says was everything he wanted to hear, which gives him a reason to find everyone suspicious on Shutter Island. Another suggestion that the Rachel in the cave wasn't real is how she refers to Teddy as "Marshal" throughout their conversation, even though she would have no clue that U.S. Marshals were coming to the island. Because she functions in the story as a way to advance Teddy to the lighthouse, she may be part of the role-play.

What is a lobotomy?

Lobotomy is a surgical procedure in which the neural connections at the front of the brain are severed. It originally involved cutting holes through the cranium on both sides of the forehead and then inserting a knife into the holes and sliding it around to cut the connections, but later the connections were destroyed by electrically heated probes. The procedure was introduced in 1888 but didn't become commonly employed until the 1940s and 1950s. Lobotomy was primarily used in cases of mania, dementia, and insanity because it rendered the patient passive and controllable.

How does the movie end?

Teddy climbs out to the lighthouse looking to help Chuck but finds nothing resembling an operating room. On the top floor, he is greeted by Dr Cawley who asks him about his hallucinations.Teddy accuses him of putting neuroleptics in his food and drink, having learned this from Dr Solando when he found her in the cave. Cawley says that Rachel Solando does not exist and that Teddy's delusions are much more severe than he thought, denies dosing him with neuroleptics, and further explains that the tremors are due to his withdrawal from chlorpromazine, a drug that they have been giving him as a patient at Ashecliffe for the past two years. He goes on to explain that Teddy is actually Andrew Laeddis, the 67th patient and one of the most dangerous patients they have because of his delusions and his violence towards the staff and the other patients coupled with his previous training as a U.S. marshall. In fact, Cawley has been warned that, if he cannot cure Andrew of his delusions, the Board of Overseers will have Andrew lobotomized. Chuck, safe and sound, suddenly enters the room and introduces himself as Dr Sheehan. Andrew's primary physician. Cawley and Sheehan explain that they constructed this elaborate role-play with hopes of awakening in Andrew the knowledge that it was his manic depressive wife Dolores (Michelle Williams) who set their apartment on fire and then drowned their three children in a fit of insanity. Andrew goes for his gun and finds that it's nothing more than a toy. In a flashback, he remembers the drowning and how he killed Dolores after she begged him to set her free. The knowledge causes him to fall to the floor unconscious. He awakens in a ward bed with Cawley, Sheehan, and the nurse who role-played Rachel Solando standing around him. Teddy lucidly remembers his life as Andrew Laeddis. Cawley and Sheehan hope that they have finally made a breakthrough. The next day, however, Andrew/Teddy confides to Chuck that they have to get off the island because whatever is going on there is bad. Sheehan indicates to Cawley that Andrew has again regressed into his delusions. Teddy muses about whether it would be worse to live as a monster or to die as a good man. Andrew slowly gets up and is led away by Dr Naehring, the warden (Ted Levine), and two orderlies holding surgical instruments. In the final scene, the lighthouse looms ominously.

His last words are : "Which would be worse: to live as a monster or to die as a good man?", are open to interpretation. Some think he was indicating that he was possibly faking his sudden regress, knowing that this would result with him being lobotomized. This is perhaps because he does not want to risk repeating the cycle, does not want to live with his memories, or realizes that he is a monster and, as he agreed earlier with Dr Naehring (Max von Sydow), "when you see a monster, you must stop it." Other interpretations include: (1) he is asking Sheehan whether it's better to live like him, implying that the doctors are monsters, or to die as a good man, or (2) he is wondering whether he could live as a man made monster, likening himself to the Golem or Frankenstein's monster created by the doctors, or whether he could die as a good man who 'blows the lid off' Ashecliff.

Those who have both read the book and seen the movie say that the movie closely follows the book, but it leaves out some revealing details. For example, the book gives more detail about Teddy's upbringing, explaining that his father was a fisherman who died on the ocean and that Teddy has always had a problem with seasickness, which provides insight into Teddy's illness on the ferry to Shutter Island. In the book, the code found in Rachel's room was longer and more complicated, and Teddy finds other encrypted clues as he explores the island, which he is able to decipher because of his training as a U.S. Marshal. At one point in the book, Teddy and Chuck suspect that Rachel fled with Dr Sheehan because they were in love. Teddy's dream of Rachel and her kids is longer and much more violent than in the movie, and Teddy was walking in the empty town of Hull instead of the Dachau prison camp. In the book, Cawley has a friendly conversation with Teddy in which Cawley talks about a girl in France he once loved but who died suddenly. Towards the end of the book, Teddy tries to escape from the island when he believes that Chuck is dead, but they were guarding the ferry, so he heads over to the lighthouse to rescue Chuck instead. Andrew doesn't come to sanity in the lighthouse. After the lighthouse discussion, Andrew was escorted to Ward C and was given a sleep injection. He wakes up completely sane in the middle of the night. Finally, the last line of the movie is not the last line of the book. The last lines of the book are: Teddy: "I don't know, Chuck. You think they're onto us?" Chuck: "Nah. We're too smart for that." Teddy: "Yeah. We are, aren't we?"

Viewers of Shutter Island most often come away with two different interpretations of the story: (1) Teddy was being psychologically manipulated by the doctors so that he couldn't reveal the real face of Shutter Island, or (2) Teddy was himself a patient on the island and the doctors were trying to help him. There is evidence to support both points-of-view. For example, evidence to support Teddy being set up by the doctors includes (1) the doctors produced nothing to show that Teddy was a patient at the hospital except for an intake form that could easily have been faked, (2) it was never explained where Teddy was before he got on the ferry, and (3) Peter Breene, Mrs. Kearns, and the other Rachel Solando were obviously coached to lie. A fourth incident (present in the book but not the movie) was Teddy finding clues, such as piles of stones, that he thinks were placed there by Rachel Solando to warn him. Evidence to support that Teddy was a patient at Ashecliffe includes (1) Teddy found no evidence of any mind experiments when he searched the lighthouse, (2) Cawley and Sheehan seemed to know what Teddy was going to do and actually used words from Teddy's dreams, such as "Why are you all wet, baby?", (3) the names for Rachel Solando and Andrew Laeddis are anagrams for Dolores and Teddy, (4) the three children in Teddy's dreams were the same children in the pictures he was shown by Dr Cawley and (5) after Teddy's fight at ward C and before he lights a match, someone called him "Laeddis". A sixth incident (present in the book but not the movie) was a cryptogram discovered by Teddy that, when decoded, led to the message YOU ARE HIM.

At the end of the movie when Dr. Cawley shows the pictures of the children to "Andrew", he refers to them as Simon, Henry and Rachel. In the book they are Edward, Daniel, and Rachel. Edward was the oldest and Rachel was the youngest. Some viewers have suggested that the pictures are not real and that the reason Teddy is emotionally moved only by the girl is that she reminds him of a real dead child he saw at Dachau.

The music?

Lontano for Orchestra (1967) - Berliner Philharmoniker & Jonathan Nott: Opening Credits

Fog Tropes - John Adams & Orchestra of St. Lukes: The journey to Shutter Island

Symphony No. 3: Passacaglia - Allegro Moderato - Antonio Wit & National Polish Radio Symphony: Used as main theme and is heard through out the entire movie.

Music for Marcel Duchamp - Philipp Vandre: Teddy meets Dr. Cawley and investigates Rachel's room.

Hommage John Cage - Nam June Paik: Teddy's first WWII flashback. Also heard in Teddy's nightmare.

Quattro Pezzi (su una Nota Sola): I. - - Johannes Kalitzke, Peter Rundel & Vienna Radio Symphony Orchestra: Teddy and the guards investigate the beach.

Rothko Chapel 2 - UC Berkeley Chamber Chorus: Teddy interrogates the staff.

Quartet for Piano and Strings in A Minor - Prazak Quartet: The music heard in the civil manor and causes Teddy to have a flashback, scored to this piece

Lontano - Claudio Abbado & Wiener Philharmoniker: Teddy and Chuck talk about the case, and Teddy falls asleep.

Cry - Johnnie Ray: Heard briefly in the beginning of Teddy's dream.

On the Nature of Daylight - Max Richter: Played in Teddy's dream. Later heard in his nightmare and also in his conversation with George Noyce.

Uaxuctum: The Legend of the Mayan City Which They Themselves Destroyed for Religious Reasons - 3rd Movement: Teddy and Chuck on the cemetery.

Lizard Point - Brian Eno: Teddy tells Chuck about George Noyce. Teddy explores Block C.

Christian Zeal and Activity - John Adams, Edo de Waart & San Francisco Symphony: Teddy is taken to bed and sees The Warden

Root of an Unfocus - Boris Berman: Teddy's nightmare begins.

Fragor - Tim Hodgkinson: Heard in Block C when Teddy chases the patient.

Pacific Sirens - Cleveland Chamber Symphony: Teddy tries to rescue Chuck on the beach

Four Hymns: II. For Cello and Double Bass: Teddy meets The Warden.

Prelude - The Bay - Ingram Marshall: Teddy blow up the car.

2 Etudes: Harmonies - Hans-Ola Ericsson: Teddy runs around in the lighthouse.

This Bitter Earth / On the Nature of Daylight - Max Richter & Dinah Washington: Third song in End Credits

Page last updated by bj_kuehl, 3 weeks ago
Top 5 Contributors: Sabsi_123, J2M1L3, bj_kuehl, AgentSniff, glennturner

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