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Martin Scorsese on Shutter Island

Published February 15, 2010 in Movie Interviews
By Fred Topel | Images property of Paramount Pictures
Shutter Island Poster Shutter Island
You know you can count on Martin Scorsese to deliver on any movie. Shutter Island, the trippy horror movie about a ‘50s mental institution, draws on Scorsese’s strength as a visual artist. Even he defers to other experts to create the mood of the scary piece.

Scorsese on Lockdown With Shutter Island


“The music is interesting,” Scorsese said. “The music is modern symphonic music that Robbie Robertson and I had an idea to try to create a score from modern symphonic music rather than get a composer in. You can still get a great score but if you want to do something different and more in tone and mood, so he sent me maybe 20 hours over a period of three months and modern symphonic music and being dazzled. If the subconscious of Teddy sees that island, you see that island foreboding, that’s what he hears, that’s what I tell him. I say lets go for it, that’s very, push it on that level, that music.”

Visually, Scorsese couldn’t avoid his own personal influences. “There’s no doubt the cubism is in the framing and the cutting and the story structure. We had just been doing too a documentary on cubism in cinema, on the influence in cinema of Picasso and so it’s certainly in my head, but again I saw the imagery and there’s no doubt about it. I’ve said before, if you had a mansion built in the 19th century and you have an exterior and it’s nighttime and storming and rain and the camera’s tracking down and going down on it, it immediately brings to mind an image from gothic thrillers, 19th century literature and the turn of the century and the 20th century German expressionism. So the idea was to try to touch upon that, to say yes, this is the reference but there’s something else going on. But this was the set and so it’s always been a balancing act to sort of have our cake and eat it too in a way of dealing with the references to visual style that reflect and meaning, it becomes certain meanings automatically, without losing the emotional impact of the picture which is really very primal, a very primal internal struggle.”



Actors had a lot to do with Scorsese’s latest vision too. Star Leonardo DiCaprio received the brunt of the pressure. “He’s very brave so I kept pushing and saying, ‘Why don’t we go here?’ and he’ll go off someplace else and I’m saying, ‘Why don’t you come back over here? Could you come back and try again this way?’ And there were a couple of times too, there were a few pictures where he suddenly said, ‘I don’t know where I am or what I’m doing,’ and I said, ‘That’s okay, let’s try again.’ What that was, I guess, I didn’t know this but I think it’s an issue of wiping the slate clean and just getting all the thinking out of the way and just dealing with his raw, primal emotions. I think that’s what happened and its amazing how it comes together. It’s exciting.”

It is the actor and director’s fourth film together, a magic that really started to happen on their second. “By the second picture, The Aviator where particularly in a scene where he was sort of stuck in the screening room for 12 days and nights we were shooting, and he’s stuck in the screening room alone talking to himself and I felt that we were finding things in a way. I just thought it would be a collaboration that’s worth pursuing because we work and pretty much agree on pretty much what we want to do. I also know that if I ask for something I seem to get it and get more.”

Shutter Island opens to theaters on February 19th.

For the trailer, posters and more movie info, go to the Shutter Island Movie Page.

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Compiled By (Sources)
Fred Topel
Sources: Images property of Paramount Pictures
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