Leonardo DiCaprio plays a cop whose sanity is wavering in “Shutter Island.” A thriller whose filming proved to be difficult for Martin Scorsese, who deals through the film with painful themes that he knows only too well.
Shutter Island: The mysterious island
After the meeting on Gangs of New York then confirmation with Airman and Infiltrators, Martin Scorsese and Leonardo DiCaprio reunite on Shutter Island. Adapted from the eponymous book by Dennis Lehane, this thriller released in 2010 begins on a ferry off Boston.
Marshals Teddy Daniels (Leonardo DiCaprio) and Chuck Aule (Mark Ruffalo) travel to a remote island mental hospital to investigate the disappearance of patient Rachel Solando. As soon as he arrives, Teddy is invaded by macabre memories of the Second World War and the horror of the Dachau camp. He also experiences hallucinations and believes he sees his dead wife, Dolores (Michelle Williams).
Fighting against his trauma and violent headaches, the policeman is quick to reveal the real reason for his coming to his partner: to find Andrew Laeddis (Elias Koteas), an arsonist responsible for the death of his wife. As his migraines intensify, he begins to doubt the intentions of the staff led by Dr. John Crawley (Ben Kingsley) and the true nature of this establishment from which he cannot escape.
Max von Sydow, Emily Mortimer, Patricia Clarkson, Ted Levine, Jackie Earle Haley, and John Carroll Lynch complete the prestigious cast of Shutter Island. A movie with an anxiety-provoking and gloomy atmosphere with which Martin Scorsese tackles paranoia, the slide towards madness, confinement, and guilt, recurring themes in his cinema already studied in Taxi Driver, Raging Bull, La Valse des puppets, After Hours, or At open tomb.
A painful shoot for Martin Scorsese
When it came out, Shutter Island stands out as a critical and commercial success. Harvesting over $294.8 million at the global box office, the feature film then became the biggest success of Martin Scorsese’s career, since dethroned by The Wolf of Wall Street and its $392 million in revenue.
A box whose director, unfortunately, cannot fully enjoy, deeply marked by the trying shooting of his film. In the book Scorsese by Scorsese by Michael Henry Wilson published in 2011 and quoted in the biography Martin Scorsese – The Infiltrator by Régis Dubois, the filmmaker says as follows:
The whole project was a strangely traumatic experience. (…) It was like a whirlwind that sucked me in a little more each day, a vortex of pain. The actors were perfect, everyone did their best, but working day in and day out in this abandoned asylum became very disturbing. And when I came back from filming, I felt like I was at an emotional or psychological impasse. It even affected me physically. I couldn’t get out of my room in the morning: I couldn’t go through the door. My heart was beating too fast. It was an unprecedented form of depression that lasted about three months.
The claw of the past
If Martin Scorsese saw the production of Shutter Island is because it brings it back to certain complicated periods of his life. Years earlier, in the late 70s and early 80s, the director descended into paranoia. A paranoia coming according to him from New York marked by poverty and crime where he grew up. Interviewed by Richard Schickel, the filmmaker explains on this subject:
I have never taken hallucinogenic drugs, but it happened more than once in the 70s, to be absolutely convinced to perceive something which, was not there. The phenomenon reached its peak during raging bull. I want to talk about my paranoia. (…) I think that part of my paranoia came from the universe where I grew up.
The former child with asthma condemned to spend most of his time at home because of his crises, Martin Scorsese continues about the notions of confinement and claustrophobia evoked in Shutter Island :
As a child, when I looked out the window in the morning, sometimes the light was great, but sometimes it was dull and grimy. I was discovering life through the fire escape. In other words, what people consider to be dark images corresponds to the atmosphere in which I grew up. It was my reality.