Symbolism in Shutter Island.

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Sam Collins Film Essay:

2012 question: Analyse how symbols are used to present an idea or ideas in a film

Shutter Island by legendary American director Martin Scorsese is an elaborate labyrinth of a film. It's ever changing plot line and deeply emotional scenes make it compulsory viewing for any avid film goer. Scorsese has constructed this intricately woven film by using various film techniques the most significant of which is symbols. In the film symbols are used to present many different ideas to the audience. Scorsese who is a modern film icon constantly uses symbolism throughout his films to convey subtle ideas to the audience without them knowing. Three different motifs or symbols are used in the film to achieve this result. Water is firstly used to present the idea reality or truth; while fire is used to represent the idea of Teddy's' fantasy. ward "C" is used the film is used to represent the idea of Teddy's mental instability to the audience. These symbols are used throughout the film but primarily in three, firstly water in the opening scene. Fire is used in the scene where Teddy supposedly finds Solando and Ward C in the scene where Teddy is exploring the anoles to find Laeddis' cell. These symbols in combination create a very profound cinematic involvement for the audience and makes Shutter Island, a modern classic.

The story begins on a steamboat heading towards the ominously secluded Ashecliffe mental hospital off the Boston, Massachusetts shore in 1954. On the boat the protagonist, a US Marshall Teddy Daniels and his new partner Chuck. The hospital is not just an asylum however, it is actually a prison for the criminally insane and Teddy and Chuck have been assigned to find a dangerous patient, Rachel Solando who has escaped from the prison. As the marshals delve deeper into the case, both their own and the hospital's true motives are revealed. Teddy while searching for Solando is actually trying to find Andrew Laeddis, a patient of the hospital who set fire to his house which killed his wife. As the story climaxes Teddy discovers the man he is searching for is actually himself, he is Andrew Laeddis. Teddy as it is revealed actually killed his wife after he found she had murdered his three children. He came up with the fantasy, to deal with the guilt and pain he feels.

Firstly the symbol of water has been used by Scorsese to present the idea of truth or reality to the audience. Water has been used to do this partly due to it's physical characteristics. Water is clear in appearance, which translates to it being translucent. This conveys to the audience that it is reality, it is not hiding anything or distorting it either. In the opening scene we see the boat approaching the island, and cut to Teddy, in the bathroom throwing up due to sea sickness. In this scene dialogue and a panning shot are used to show waters symbolism. Whilst in the bathroom Teddy tries to calm his sea sickness by stating, " It's just water...oh but its a whole lotta water". Scorsese then cuts out of the boat and we see the vessel and the island are fully surrounded by water. Teddy as we can see with the close up to his face is physically upset by the sea and even comments to himself to " pull yourself together". This parallels his mental state. Teddy is comfortable with his fantasy reality, it presents him as the hero and he can stomach this. The truth appears to be physically repulsing him, it seems as though it us virus attacking his false reality and he cannot handle what it means. The panning shot highlights the island and boat surrounded by water or reality. This means there is no escaping the truth for Teddy and eventually he will discover it. When Teddy gets on the island we discover he will not be " leaving" until he realises what he has done. The volume of the water shown presents the idea that it is a lot for Teddy to mentally accept what he has done. He cannot just accept the whole truth straight away, as it...
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