Two Mind Twisters
Posted July 24, 2010on:
I saw two movies over the week (both twice), bound together by more than the fact that Leonardo, that ladies darling, starred in both – Shutter Island and Inception. The central premise of both movies was to question our sense of “real”, though approached from different directions – if your senses are your only guide to what is real, what if the senses are wrong.
What if everything is my delusion?
Shutter Island has a riveting, tense and almost electric atmosphere that grips you from the very first scene. An ominous music thunders in the background as the ship holding the lead men approaches the dock of Shutter island. I was reminded immediately of the foreboding aura of Hitchcock and Billy Wilder movies of the era this movie is set in – The Birds, Double Indemnity, Sunset Boulevard etc. Everything in the setting adds to this crisp atmosphere – the sea and its sounds, the waves breaking against the rocks, the gloomy skies, the lighhouse, the gothic buildings, and the greenery that pervades the place. I was somehow reminded of Tintin, which i read a lot as a kid.
The tension of the movie is writ large on the face of Leonardo, which only grows as the movie proceeds. Leonardo is Teddy, a federal agent, who along with his partner Chuck is investigating the dissapearence of one of the inmates of the mental asylum housed on Shutter Island. Teddy is covertly investigating Naziesque secret mind experiments on inmates in the mental asylum. But as it turns out, the whole story is a fantastic delusion of Leonardo, who is himself an inmate of the asylum, and the proceedings an attempt to cure him. But this is revealed only gradually, as what starts as a crime thriller ends with a psychlogical twist. As the plot proceeds, we ourselves start wondering about Leonardo’s sanity, but are unsure till the very end when the revelation is made. I did not feel the movie was a very deep commentary on madness, for the movie has the somewhat naive depiction of insanity similar to the Beautiful Mind of insane people simply seeing a few extra people who do not exist. The surreal, volatile nature of madness is not captured very well. But I dont think that was ever the intent of the movie, which was more a riveting story adhering to its own internal logic. It however does leave you a little shaky, questioning your own sense of reality.
What if this is all my dream?
Inception was a more Matrixesque approach to reality-questioning, and i found slightly less memorable than Shutter Island. The subject dealt with is not insanity, but the subconscious. The protagonists use a new technique to enter dreams and steal, or even plant ideas (isnt the concept of planting ideas in the mind reminiscent of the subtle technique of suggstion in psychotheraphy, using which the knots of the subconscious are undone). The idea is to plant an idea in the mind of the heir of a corporate empire that will result in the breaking of that empire. The plan is to enter into the dream within dream within dream of the person, and plant the idea deep into his subconscious. The plot is ingenious, and it takes a lot of concentration on the part of the audience to keep up. Even after seeing it twice with subtitles, I could understand only about 90%, and participated in extensive discussions on what was really going on. The movie touches upon a lot of concepts of psychology – projections, the subconscious, the Jungian collective unconscious perhaps, though it isnt particularly interested in delving too deeply into them. It also briefly touches upon the Solaris question of the limitation of how well we can know someone – people are always bundles of behaviors for us, rather than us ever intimately knowing the source of those behaviors – the self (i can never imagine you with all your perfections, imperfections). Another question the movie touches upon slightly more is the distinction between dreams and reality. If dreams are vivid enough, what is reality and what is a dream? Again you leave the hall with your sense of the real slightly shaken.