Detour Shutter Island If You Can

I was warned about Shutter Island. I should have heeded the warnings. I didn’t listen. It is a really horrible, from many standpoints, movie. The movie diverges from reality from the start, and it never manages to pick it up again. Scorsese and company may have studied asylums and mental hospitals, but if they did, their studies were seriously lacking in substance.

This is the kind of story I have to contrast with a truly revolutionary perspective such as that which is presented in a story such as One Flew Over A Cuckoo’s Nest. Shutter Island, needless to say, is no One Flew Over A Cuckoo’s Nest. Shutter Island is a movie for people who have no sympathy for people who find themselves in the unfortunate situation of being imprisoned in a mental hospital, much less those who find themselves confined to a facility for the criminally insane. The de-humanized individual would be stripped of his or her humanity forever if Scorsese, lights cameras action speaking louder than words, had his way.

We get here a would-be psychoanalysis movie, only the movie is supposed to represent a failure of psychoanalysis. Psychiatry and its boot lickers have never in history been more ass kissed than they are in this Martin Scorsese film. Fiction that is not based on so much as a shred of reality is not good fiction, and Shutter Island is not good fiction. It preys on people’s worst fears about the labeled ‘mentally ill’, and it caters to the worst remedies ever developed for people who are somehow perceived as being somehow different from everybody else.

The protagonist in this movie is suffering from much guilt. Let me give it away. He killed his wife after she killed their children. Get it. The protagonist doesn’t get it. He would prefer to the end of the movie to evade his guilt by continuing to live in the world of his fantasies. He therefore must be the most dangerous man in the institution. Whoa! Right there, I’m going, “wait a minute”. You’re walking down a hallway in an ex-civil war era fort, past cells containing naked human beings, and they think this character is going to escape from one of those cells? He was a U.S. Marshal. Right and Fuzzy Wuzzy was a bear. Whatever he was doesn’t matter when he is a ‘patient’ in a facility for the criminally insane.

Did he escape from a cell? The illusion at the beginning of the movie is that he was sent in to investigate the escape of a female patient. This kind of mystery is the mystery of an illusionist. You’re going to fuck somebody, you hold all the cards, and therefore somebody is fucked. He certainly didn’t make it off the island, and if one cell couldn’t do it, another would. He wasn’t the person holding all the cards; he was the person who was fucked. Raped is the more appropriate term to use in this instance. Franz Kafka did it better, and Franz Kafka had some sympathy for the under dog.

Nothing about the use of psychiatric drugs in this movie rang true. Leo DiCaprio’s hands shook, and this was supposed to be an effect of withdrawal from Thorazine. The shakes don’t begin with the cessation of drug use, says someone who has been on these drugs, the shakes begin with the introduction of the drug. None of the actors playing patients looked like they were under the influence of any of these powerful psychiatric drugs. This is barely scratching the surface when it comes to penetrating all the lies, the misconceptions, the myths, and the half-truths about mental hospitals and institutional treatment that abound in this movie. The setting was real, sure, but everything else was baloney.

At the end of the movie the protagonist, pegged so dangerous, is being led off to receive a trans-orbital lobotomy, and he asks, “Is it better to live as a monster, or to die as a good man?” I automatically thought of all the people who had received lobotomies who had never killed anybody! I imagine it’s better to be in a great movie rather than one that should have died on the drawing boards. How this kind of statement reflects upon the attending physician you tell me? I would think poorly of him, too, but hey, we’re not in the real world, remember. We’re in the NAMI world of improving family members by damaging their brains. I felt the movie was an insult everybody who had ever done real time in a mental hospital, and not only that, it was also an insult to the intelligence of its viewers.

My suspicions have been aroused. If this kind of thing is the best we are to expect from Scorcese in the future then he is on my hit list. I’m watching everything he does from here on out with an eye to dissecting the kind of vulgar group think he betrays in this one. Scenes from WWII are thrown into this movie rather gratuitously, and I’m wondering how much of a fascist sympathizer he really is. We can certainly do better than to prey to worst aspects of a herd mentality, and in this instance anyway, Martin Scorcese hasn’t done any better than to do just that.

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