9 comments on “The Truth About Shutter Island–Teddy Daniels or Andrew Laeddis?

  1. Just a couple things, I think the movie is really aimed at being either or, there’s sufficient evidence for both. And one thing about Laeddis’ appearance. His left eye is messed up. In the movie they talk about the transorbital lobotomy being an regular solution to insanity. Guess which eye a Transorbital Lobotomy goes through?

    • Good point. But does that mean that Teddy/Andrew has already been lobotomized then? If he’s projecting an image of himself that includes the damage done to his eye, then that would imply that he knows he will have, or already has had the procedure done. Perhaps the move is a post-lobotomy memory that Teddy has of his last moments before they got him, after the failed re-hab experiment…

  2. Just watched this movie and appreciated your post. One of the only posts that actually follows the logic of the movie! I do have one alternative explanation for point number 11 under “insane” however. Rachel Solondo could still have been made up by the doctors even if Teddy was sane. The doctors on the island knew about Teddy’s intention to investigate them well before he came to the island. They could have researched his past, fabricated the existence of a dangerous escaped patient, and assumed that Teddy would take the case because of his preexisting interest (which he did). Also, if they made her up for the purposes of luring Teddy to the island, why not name give her a name that’s an anagram of his dead wife? It makes their job of driving him to insanity that much easier.

    However, I still tend to side with you too that he was insane. For me one of the strongest pieces of evidence is still number 4 under “insane” If Teddy was sane, they still (I maintain) could have made up Rachel Solondo knowing what they knew about his past, but if he was sane that also means that a man named Andrew Laeddis really did exist, and really did burn the house down with his wife inside. Someone with an anagram of your own name kills your spouse? Yikes.

    • Yeah, on the whole it seems he was crazy. I feel like the ambiguity wasn’t even intentional…but it should have been. I like to imagine how much of a mind-fuck the movie could have been if they had gone all the way with it, made each possibility seem equally likely. As it is, I feel it’s a stretch, though not impossible, to argue for Teddy’s sanity.

  3. The whole story confuses me. But I have one question in my mind. If Teddy was really a marshal and came to the Island in query of missing patient / prisoner, how these words about this patient / prisoner Rachel Solando gone out of the island ! Can anyone explain this?

  4. Thank you for this list, which was helpful in thinking through the film’s complexities. What is apparent is the deliberately ambiguous nature of the narrative, wherein we are not sure whether our protagonist, which is a stand in for our own psyche, is a hero being tricked into insanity by demons or a broken man being given one last chance at redemption. This equivocation has two key purposes, it seems to me: 1) it establishes an extremely unsettling tone, an aura of genuine creepiness and confusion, which is what I believe was Scorsese’s ultimate goal. (The cognitive effect of the film is practically to make us question our own sanity, since we are put in Teddy’s shoes and not given the context to know whether or not he (we) is crazy or not.) 2) The film intends this tone as a kind of emotional reckoning with the moral failures of America. American inability to prevent the holocaust or treat the insane humanely is emphasized, and explicitly linked to Teddy’s alcoholism, inattentiveness, violent rashness, and denial, since in Teddy’s dreams/hallucinations the Holocaust victims are intermingled with his own doomed family and frequent comparisons of concentrations camps are made to Shutter Island. The implication in the end is that Teddy’s inability to take moral accountability for what he’d done and failed not to do doomed his psyche, regardless of which reality was true. Given the language of cinema on display in the film, I believe Teddy to be basically a stand in for the collective American moral identity which is destabilized through an examination of two fundamental questions related to the self: 1) am I sane? and 2) am I good? The question uttered at the end, of whether it is better to live a monster or die a good person, is really an unanswerable question posed for each audience member, with the strong suggestion that to become monstrous in mind or deed is a fate worse than death. This is why I think the film has a great power – it makes us meddle with its ideas in order to understand fundamentally the plot, but in doing so we are forced to contemplate our own relation to sanity and morality, especially as it relates to America’s moments of supreme guilt. The dream sequences are the most powerful in the film because they convey the emotions of this complex self negotiation in a way better than sane language or plot can.

    In short, I would say the film’s ultimate goal is to dramatize as a horror film what Freud called “moral anxiety”, the fear that we are not living up to our own best principles, and the crisis of self created when we can no longer sanely claim to be the moral person we thought we were. The evocation of this moral anxiety in the audience does not require a neat plot; in fact it requires an ambiguous plot, which explains for me the deliberately equivocal structure of the film.

  5. I’ve been having this argument back and forth in my head for a while now, and I think I’m finally ready to come to a decision. I think he is insane. I’m surprised no one has touched on his past in war. Maybe thats what sparked it all. He mentions how he’s seen so Mich death, and that it wasn’t warfare but murder. Also the flashback to the little girl lying in the pile of dead bodies saying he should have saved them. Thats enough to mess someone up mentally I’m sure. I also think the explanation at the end about how his wife murdered their children in the lake I’d true. When he hallucinates to him carrying the young girl who says she’s dead and why didn’t he save her and he says I tried but by the time I got there it was too late. All of that I’m sure lead to his mental breakdown which eventually landed him in ashcliff. It makes much more sense. And maybe the argument of why would they let their mosmost dangerous patient have free reign.. keep on mind he was being medicated. The cigarettes, the migraine pills.. think about it. And what better time to let him play this fantasy out but during a hurricane where there’s no where he can go.

  6. Thanks for the post, first of all it’s definitely one of the best movies of all times, its obviously a tribute to Hitchcock and after I googled this there are other posts referred to it, about the sanity or insanity of Ted I think there are a lot of scenes which states he is insane, of course there glitches here and there in the story which is totally expectable , considering the complex story of the film.

  7. “In my opinion, the best and most compelling evidence [that] Teddy is INsane is the very nature of his fears–that the island is staffed by Nazis, that they are doing experiments, that Teddy is a heroic marshal and everyone is on on a big conspiracy against him–are just the sort of delusions many types of mental patients have”

    Is that really evidence of delusion, though? It depends on how wide-spread this conspiracy might actually go. How do we know for sure that we’re not being lied to, and that in fact, the “delusions” of the “insane”, aren’t completely accurate (or more accurate then not), and that those involved in propping up this facade are those same individuals who carry weight in psychiatric and media organizations?

    IF, there really were some conspiracy, to control people’s minds, and IF there were experiments being commenced with this purpose in mind, at facilities like Shutter Island, powerful and well connected people would certainly be behind it, or at least involved.

    Remember, powerful people stay in power by controlling public opinion, this is why 90% of what we hear in the media and political debates is rhetoric and propaganda. Now wouldn’t it be convenient, if you could convince a majority of the population that certain things “just don’t happen”, because that would be “crazy” (despite the fact that it happens all the time and we have plenty of historical evidence of it happening).

    Even more convenient, if you could label anyone who believes in such possibilities “insane”, perhaps even using drugs, hypnosis and manipulation to convince them that they, themselves are insane, and attach a stigma to such individuals and their beliefs, negatively reinforcing such beliefs, and the retaliatory behaviors which such beliefs might lead to.

    Even if someone did catch on, they might just keep quiet about it, or even propagate the scheme, in order to save their own skin, and maybe even profit.

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