To what extent is what we call reality real?
How are we sure that sleeping is not the reality, and when we wake up we were dreaming?
What makes you think you are sane and those in the mental facilities are unstable?
Is it because they are in the minority?
What if they are the only sane ones and we are all mad?
Are your brain knots tweaking yet? Well they should, because that is what Shutter Island did to me. It challenged conventional ideas and achieved its aim excellently.
Actually, as an academic, your constant task is to challenge and criticize conventions and not just accept them as truth simply because it is widely accepted as so. But with this movie, I was caught off guard. And as soon I watched it, I tried to make sense of it in terms of academic theories. Call me geeky if you like 🙂 I wasn’t about to leave my brain hanging in a bowl. It had to make sense, and make sense FAST.
The academic school of thought that best captures this movie to me Postmodernism. But before then, let me give you a summary of the movie (as I watched it).
The whole film shows you the world through the eyes of a ‘mad man’. You are actually sort of on his side as he plays out his ‘I am a detective’ reality, and at the end you join him in grappling with reality that he is actually a mental patient in this facility, and is not at all better than the other unstable people he has been questioning. At some point, you start feeling like you the viewer are mad as well.
Andrew was a U.S Marshall. His wife murdered his 3 children, and he murdered her too. However his mind could not cope with the reality of what had happened and what he had done, so he set up an alter-ego for himself.
His alter-ego rewrote reality in his mind, making him the hero. Hence, Andrew (now Edward, an anagram for his name) started on this journey to find an Andrew (himself) and avenge the death of his wife. He did not even remember he had kids. The facility took the experiment of allowing him run his fantasy as it were for 2 days in the hope that at the end of it all, he would be able to grasp reality and become ‘healed’. I won’t spoil the fun for you to tell you how it ended …
But the thing to take away is this: he was not a sane man, however through out the movie we were convinced he was the sane living among the insane as a detective. I for one at some point started to look at even the doctors and nurses as insane because of their behaviour. So you can see that the so-called insane actually think we are the ones not really sane. Beat that? But fear not, there have been brave attempts at constructing a category for this kind of media text. Only that it is not a category per say, I call it chaos. It is Postmodernism.
Postmodernism symbolises a paradigm shift. Naturally, a shift from the modern world to a postmodern one. It has always been a difficult term to define, but in the spirit of SHUTTER ISLAND I will describe it as it relates to the movie.
This is a difficult nut to crack, because frankly, I want to spare you a long lecture, yet keep you from getting confused.
Postmodern “thinking is that the world is seen as a much more complex and uncertain place. Reality is no longer fixed or determined. All truth within a postmodern context is relative to one’s viewpoint or stance. The world is a representation. In other words, it is a fiction created from a specific point of view only, and not a final truth. This is an uncomfortable viewpoint for many people and there is a much misunderstanding about this idea of postmodernism.” Simply put, it is an attempt to think beyond the confines of the past. In Postmodernism, anything is possible.
Good examples of postmodern movies are The Matrix, What the Bleep Do We Know, Being John Malkovich… basically, postmodern movies often ask questions about what is real.
From my understanding, Shutter Island just made this list. Postmodernism has no boundaries, no order, no right or wrong, it just is!
For the first time on this blog, I may have succeded in confusing you. However, that is not my intention, it is just the nature of Postmodernis. Perhaps, in the near future, I will explore it some more. In the mean time, try and watch the movie Shutter Island and share your thoughts with me on WHAT IS REAL?
See ya in November (in a few hours)