Textual Analysis 9: ‘Shutter Island’ Opening Title Sequence


‘Shutter Island’  is a 2010 American neo-noir psychological thriller film. It was directed by Martin Scorsese. It was also based on the 2003 novel ‘Shutter Island’ written by Dennis Lehane.

Martin Scorsese is also the director of the crime thriller film ‘The Departed’, which I did a film review on. He is another director that I will be inspired by when it comes to the main task due to his apparent experience and success in thriller films.

In 1954, two U.S. Marshals – Edward “Teddy” Daniels and his new partner, Chuck Aule – travel to the Ashecliffe Hospital for the criminally insane on Shutter Island located in Boston Harbor. They are investigating the disappearance of patient Rachel Solando, who was incarcerated for drowning her three children.

Plot summary from- https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shutter_Island_(film)


The Title Sequence

This YouTube video happens to have analysis on it, but does not stay on screen for very long at all. Below I will analyse the sequence in further detail.

At the start of the sequence the viewer is presented with an shot of a damp and dark looking corridor. The low key lighting mixed with the sharp, eerie music and the “blood red credits” builds a lot of tension and enigma in the audience in only the first shot.

There is suddenly a quick cut to an edit of a spiralling staircase. This creates a sense of unease and enigma in the audience as the edit disorientates them.

This is followed by another cut to a gate of some sort in a dimly lit room. The cooperation of rain and the music adds to the morbid, dark scene, building suspense in the audience as they are wondering what will appear next.

The following shot is a close up of a hand, keeping the identity of the person hidden, which is a very conventional mechanism used in thriller films regarding the antagonist.

The audience then hears a large crash in the non-diegetic music, with a shot of a gate. This shot starts off as quite wide then zooms into to become of a close up, and makes the audience feel as if they are entering the gates, adding suspense as they don’t know where they are headed.

The sequence then dims to black before cutting to the next shot which is a close up shot of a room. The audience do not know what room they are in, creating unease in them, and with the addition of flames signifies even more danger.

The sequence then cuts to a close up shot of a gun, with a foot stepping on it, and the identity still being hid. This creates suspense in the audience as they see a character they don’t know is in possession of a murder weapon.

A couple of shots after show a dark room with handcuffs and chains. This gives the audiences clues to the crime genre of the film, also backed up by the shot of gates earlier.

The music takes a deep dramatic twist when the dark room is momentarily lit by the spark of a match. This use of editing creates a lot of suspense in the audience.

The sequence then cuts to a more long, establishing shot, moving away from the close ups. It is of what appears to be of a deserted island, linking to the idea of crime, as in a prison you are isolated.

The audience is then presented with the title in big, bold, blood red text. The text zooms towards the audience, grasping their attention by making them feel as if they have been sucked into the film itself.

Many thanks to- https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCEwlu8nn3FhBob3lJuTgPLg


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