Saturday, March 27, 2010

Shutter Island

Susan Sontag's commentary on the centenary of the cinema declared it to be in "ignominious, irreversible decline". "The hunt for more dramatic ... images," writes Sontag, "drives the photographic enterprise, and is part of the normality of a culture in which shock has become a leading stimulus of consumption and a source of value .... The image as shock and the image as cliche are two aspects of the same presence" She added that "the commercial cinema has settled for a policy of bloated, derivative film-making...every film that hopes to reach the highest possible audience is designed as some kind of remake". This isn't really altogether fair, in the context of Martin Scorsese's "Shutter Island". Part Gothic horror and part noir-thriller, we are taken on a spectacular, imaginative ride through the psychology of delusion. DiCaprio's character, Teddy, regards everything around him with suspicion, as he attempts to penetrate the real purpose of the maximum security facility in the title. Slipping in and out of reality, the character's increasingly disturbing paranoia seems grimly trying to hold on to normality in spite of monolithic apparent certainties which surround him. Acting talent is impressively abundant, superb design from Dante Ferretti, wonderfully original lighting by Robert Richardson, and Sandy Powell's costumes are 1950s surreal. Movie buffs will have plenty to say about Scorsese's allusions - the metaphor that America is slipping into a state of permanent delusion is not lost - but diCaprio's performance is the best I have seen this year. The image is of the Lighthouse, Shutter Island's Room 101, where hopeless cases undergo frontal lobotomies.

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