Shutter Island Opening Analysis
Shutter Island Opening (Set Up) AnalysisRyan Gooderham
Analysis of Opening
Shutter Island - SettingFrom the opening, we find out that Teddy Daniels (main character) and his assistant are going to Shutter Island, to investigate a missing prisoner. Once we are introduced to the island, we find out that its a very creepy place, as we see the prisoners everywhere and the mysterious lunatic block. We know that we are going to the island through what the characters say and we are shown the island in the range of shots in the opening (quite a few high angle shots are used, making the island seem very grand and spooky, and showing the characters as very small and insignificant).
Shutter Island - CharactersFrom the set up, we find out a lot about the characters. We obviously dont find out everything about them, (as there is a lot to be discovered about Teddy) but a lot is revealed to us. For example, Teddy in the opening is shown to be very afraid of water. His water phobia is highlighted in the opening scene and we later find out that this is because he killed his wife by drowning her- hence the fear of water. We also find out that he lost his wife, though from the opening all we know is that he thinks that she was killed in a fire. Something else that seems odd about Teddy in the opening is the fact that he looks in his pocket for his cigarettes, but cant find them. Later in the film it becomes clear, that he obviously wouldnt have cigarettes as a prisoner, but from the start we dont see this. For another example, we start to think that Teddys assistant, Chuck, may not be who he says he is. This is because we are told that he is a police officer, although he struggles to properly remove his gun from its holster. This suggests to us that he is perhaps not who he says he is, as a police officer should be able to do that fairly easily.
Shutter Island - RelationshipsFrom the set up, we learn that although Teddy Daniels is supposedly a trained police Marshall, he seems to slightly not know what hes doing. However, Chuck very clearly shows that Teddy is in charge, as he calls him Boss, showing us that Teddy is in a position of higher power. We also learn from the set up that Teddy and Chuck are going to the island to assist with the case of a missing prisoner. This is crucially important, as, by the end of the film, we find out that Teddy is in fact the missing prisoner and everything was faked to try and get him to remember that he killed his wife. As said before, the fact that he had a fear of water, and that Chuck couldnt easily get his gun out suggested to us from the start that something was not wholly right with the situation.
Shutter Island - WorldThe world of Shutter Island is presented in the opening as a fairly secure, yet slightly dangerous place. This is because in the opening, we are shown the heavy security protocols that people have to go through to get in and out of the island. We are also shown shots of the barbed wire lining the edge of the confinement area, highlighting how secure the prison is. However, the aura of danger is shown through the fact that a prisoner has supposedly escaped, and this makes us think that the island is not in fact as safe as we thought. Another thing that unnerves us in the opening is the red herring, the old woman who puts her finger up to her lips. Although she is not important, we feel very spooked by her and this makes us think that the island is very creepy and spooky.
Shutter Island - ConflictsA key conflict in the opening that is key later in the film is Teddys inner conflict. The conflict that he feels, being unsure of the water and unnerved by the island comes through later in the film when we find out more about him (i.e. we discover that he is a prisoner and drowned his wife). Another key event that we think to be important is the old woman who puts her fingers to her lips. At this specific moment in the opening, the sound goes silent, and our focus is on this creepy old woman, telling Teddy to be quiet. This is a red herring, but at this point we think that she is going to be key to the narrative and is trying to suggest something (when really she just recognises Teddy and is telling him not so say anything).
How does the opening fit with the codes and conventions of thriller films?High & Low angle shots high shows movement and low creates a dangerous, powerful feelingMind games / mystery woman puts her finger to her lips (red herring)Dull colours gives a dull feelingCharacter type COP Marshall (Teddy)Deadlines Captain says there is a storm comingPrinciple of concealment main character is actually a criminalSilence when woman puts her finger to her lips: builds tensionExaggerated sound creaky gate and jangling handcuffsExtreme close-up On grave-like sign, and marshall badge highlight their importanceDeep music when the island appears: builds tensionFlashbacks make the audience thinkForeshadowing emphasis on Teddys fear of water (after he drowned his wife)Slow, non diegetic music builds tension and heightens the mood
Analysis of the opening sequence How does the opening use the codes and conventions of thriller films?
Chiaroscuro big contrast between the dark background and the light textDark coloured background like low key lighting element of mystery
Close up shot we can clearly see his face and also we can see out of the window hes looking throughContrast again between light and dark colours really dark around the edges but bright in the centre
Colour manipulation sky and sea are very dull along with the dull coats and dull hatsAlso at this point we are drip fed plot building information (e.g. Teddy cant find his cigarettes and is afraid of the water)Deadlines the captain says that there is a storm coming and they must leave before the stormWe also see a flashback at this point to a point where Teddy thinks about his wife
Pan in shot creates the feeling as though we are going into the island ourselvesHigh angle shot we see from above + the camera tracks the carAlso at this point there is some diegetic music to help build the mood
Low angle shot makes the gates look very big and menacingFairly dull colours used again
Over the shoulder shot we can see both Chuck and TeddyPolice & guards typical characters in Thriller filmsPrinciple of concealment Teddy has no idea really what the truth is (that he is in fact a prisoner)
Close up shot we clearly see Chuck fumbling to get the gun out of his pocketMarshall typical character of thriller film as he is in the police force
Contrasting colours bright, colourful flowers contrast with the dull, dark clothing worn by the prisonerMaking the audience work the audience really start to wonder whats going on at this point
Red herring this woman really isnt important to the plot at all, although we are made to think this because this moment is marked so clearly by the silence and slow paceSilence used very well here to mark what appears to be a key moment in the story
Making the audience work the audience really start to wonder even more whats going on at this pointPrinciple of concealment Teddy has no idea who that woman was or why she was doing what she did