The dark side of the human soul is familiar terrain for Martin Scorsese. But when he first read the script for “Shutter Island,” it took him to such unexpected places he stayed up well past his bedtime to finish it.
“I didn’t know anything about the story,” he says, “and I started reading it at about 10:30 at night and I needed to go to bed because I had to get up early the next day. I found I could not put the script down and was constantly surprised by the different levels of the story.”
Set in 1954, “Shutter Island” is a psychological thriller that stars Leonardo DiCaprio (who is fast becoming John Wayne to Scorsese’s John Ford) as U.S. Marshal Teddy Daniels, who goes to a hospital for the criminally insane to investigate the disappearance of a patient. What follows from the time the boat docks is a creepy, serpentine tale that combines edge-of-your-seat storytelling with the director’s visual virtuosity.
“This is the type of picture I like to watch,” Scorsese explains, “the kind of story I like to read. Over the years, I think I’ve stayed away from certain kinds of pictures that emulate the style that I find nurturing in a way, but these are the kinds of films I go back to and view repeatedly. I’ve always been drawn to this sort of story. What’s interesting to me is how the story keeps changing, and the reality of what’s happening keeps changing, and how up until the very final scene, it’s all about how the truth is perceived.”
DiCaprio says “Shutter Island” was the type of picture that best showcases the director’s brilliance.
“He’s a master filmmaker,” he says, “and he knows how to navigate the human mind and portray things about the human condition. But he lets the actors really dictate what he puts up on the screen.”
Like all of his films, “Shutter Island” comes down to character for Scorsese.
“More than the way the story is told or the setting for me, it’s really about what happens to the character of Teddy,” he says, “which I found to be very moving. That was the emotional connection.”