Mysterious Glitches in Shutter Island


Did he do that on purpose? I’m still wondering, and looking around on the internet hasn’t offered much of an answer. I’m talking about Shutter Island, and whether or not the use of greenscreen was purely artistic or more of a practical choice.

It’s not unusual for film and TV drama these days to use a lot of greenscreen, the technology has become very good, and the practical and economical benefits can be quite tempting. Just take a look at this montage on But Shutter Island has an unusual amount of, dare I say, seemingly unnecessary greenscreen-shots for a big budget period drama from one of the biggest names in modern film.

The first and most obvious example is the opening scene on the boat. I can understand why Scorsese would shoot it in a studio for practical reasons (although I’ve seen this done a lot better!). Or the scene in the car after Leo has met with Solando. It’s easier to control, and the actors can concentrate on the dialogue. But why do it in a perfectly normal hallway in a location you’ve already shot lots of pictures in? If you start looking for it, you will find a lot of shots that will get you wondering. And sometimes it almost feels poorly executed on purpose. By the way, did you notice when Chuck hands the woman they are interviewing a glass of water, and they cut to a closeup of her lifting the glass, there’s not actually a glass in her hand? It’s empty! There are small glitches like this throughout.

The visual style of the film, with it’s unconventional angles and abrupt movements, combined with the sometimes disturbing use of sound and music, is all part of giving the impression that there’s something horribly wrong. Which there is, as Scorsese masterfully lies, then lies again, spinning a web so thick with doubt and suspicion that you don’t anticipate the final twist at all as it hits you in the face (unless you read the book of course).

So here’s the theory: What if the glitches and the sometimes poor, sometimes just weird greenscreen is part of Scorseses plan to deceive? I really have to see the film again soon to try and find a pattern to this, but it sort of fits. As I was thinking about it, I also started thinking how the regular audience members, most likely blind to these technical aspects, would react. And it might actually be a very subtle, but effective trick. On a conscious level you can’t really tell that there’s anything wrong with the picture (and you most likely don’t consciously question it), but your subconsciousness will have it’s doubts. And then it all starts adding up.

How did you feel when you watched the movie? Am I just rambling, or has Scorsese employed these technical and logical glitches on purpose? I’m anxious to hear if anyone else had a similar experience.