Can someone explain Shutter Island?

Ok I just finished watching Shutter Island, what I want to know is if Leonardo Dicaprio's character was really an insane patient and the whole movie was him being insane? Or was he really sane and the people on the Island convinced him at the end he was really insane and he could not do anything about it because he had no power, but there really was a conspiracy of scientists testing on the patients?

7 Answers

  • 1 decade ago
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    DiCaprio's character was not a Marshall(in the present), he was a patient at the hospital. DiCaprio's character (Teddy, the Marshall), was in reality Andrew Laeddis. A man whose wife drowned their three children in the lake. To cope with the horror of his wife killing their children(and the fact he did not get her help before), and in turn then killing his wife, he created an elaborate fantasy where he was a Marshall investigating a conspiracy on Shutter Island, and has been living this fantasy for 2 years.

    Dr. Cawley was allowing Laeddis to live out his fantasy world as a means to get him to come to terms with his delusion(as he ended up doing in the light house). "Chuck" was actually Laeddis psychologist, and was keeping an eye on him as he lived out this fantasy. Dr. Cawley and Dr. Sheehan(Andrew/Teddy's psychologist) were more modern thinkers when it came to psychology. They believed that you could make a breakthrough with patients through therapy, and at the time this is set(the 50's), more unconventional methods(allowing Andrew/Teddy to realize that he was living in a fantasy). Dr. Naehring and the warden were more old school and believed they should be treating patients with lobotomies, etc. they also had not qualms with chaining patients in C to the floor during the storm despite Dr. Cawley concern that they would all drown if the building flooded.

    If you rewatch the movie you will notice many instances where they try to get DiCaprio's character to realize that his fantasy is not reality. Listen to the story of the woman they are supposedly looking for(Rachel), much of her back story is a parallel to what his wife had done. Her life in the institution is similar to "Teddy's" delusions, she lives in a fantasy, she has assigned everyone roles in this fantasy, etc. Also, while re-watching you can notice subtle clues that everything "Teddy" is doing is a set up. Some examples - When he talks with the staff, the one nurse cracks jokes(she is obviously not used to dealing with a patient as if they were in charge). She also jokes about nothing being normal in a psychiatric ward(ie- a patient questioning them as if they were a Marshall). Also when she is asked about Dr. Shehan, she looks over at "Chuck"(who in reality is Shehan). Another example is when "Teddy" is interviewing other patients. The first man talks about drowning children, and the woman being horrible and "Teddy" gets very disturbed. The second interview with the woman also has clues. Every time she mentions Dr. Shehan it cuts to "chuck".

    Long story short, DiCaprio's character was a patient of the hospital for two years. They were trying to get his to realize his delusion. He finally comes back to reality in the lighthouse.

    In the end he has come to terms with his delusion. His last words to Sheehan say it all, "Is it better to live as a monster or die as a good man?" He receives the lobotomy b/c he would rather live in blissful ignorance(not knowing what he did), and when he died he would essentially be a good man, b/c he would not remember what he had done.

  • 1 decade ago

    Shutter Island was quite a tricky one but that is what makes it so good. Martin Scorsese is a modern genius.

    Dicaprio's character was an insane person and his "friend" (the other marshall) was the doctor and the whole film is basically them role playing through Dicaprio's alter ego.

  • 1 decade ago

    He as actually insane. He had his own made up little world, because he didn't want to face the reality that his wife killed his kids, and he killed his wife. So the whole staff decided to play along with it all and make a whole big story out of it. At the end, he finally realized what he had done, and what his wife had done, but only for a little bit, because soon after he went back to his made up world. Hope this helps!

  • 1 decade ago

    DIcaprio's character was really an insane patient. He remembers what he did, and at the end acts like he thinks he is the detective. He does this so he will be taken to the lighthouse and killed.

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  • Anonymous
    1 decade ago

    Ben Kingsley's character the head honcho of the psychiatric facility let Leo explore the island in his little fantasy world i.e. Leo thinking he is a detective and etc. His partner was actually his personal psychiatrist assigned to Leo. At the end Leo realized this was all fake and in his head and he knew about the memories of his wife killing their children. Since Leo knew this, he decided to keep along with the charade because he knew he would be lobotomized. He wanted to be lobotomized so he doesn't remember the harsh memories of his wife. *whew that was a lot*

  • Anonymous
    1 decade ago

    Yes he is really insane. He used to be a cop, and his wife was insane. The wife then killed their children, and he in turn killed her. He refused to believe that his wife killed his children and that he killed his wife. So he started his own fantasy world. He made a new name for him and his wife, and in his fantasy world his wife "died" and he never had children. He makes himself a hero in his fantasy world to make up for what he did. He makes up a story where he is a cop and he's gone to shutter island to investigate on a girl who went missing and killed her children (this is the girl who represents his wife, she does really exist, but she's not really crazy, and didn't kill her children). He goes to Shutter Island to investigate this, but also to kill the man who killed his wife. Although it was him he refuses to believe it, this is why he has made a whole new name for himself, and the guy he is looking for has his old name. All of the staff on Shutter Island to one mass roleplay to help him realize that his fantasy is just that... A fantasy. He realizes the truth at the end, but the next morning forgets it all again and returns to his old fantasy. This is really confusing but I hope you understand it!

  • 6 years ago

    extremely tough subject. research with google or bing. that will will help!

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