Shutter Island - The Diagnosis

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					Phillip Rivas

Mrs. Allotta


May 4, 2011

                             “The Diagnosis of Shutter Island”

       The motion picture film Shutter Island, directed by Martin Scorsese, is a suspense

thriller starring Leonardo DiCaprio. The movie is about a man named Edward Daniels,

who is a U.S. Marshal that is investigating the disappearance of a dangerous psychiatric

patient named Rachel Solando from a psychiatric treatment facility known as Ashecliffe,

located on Shutter Island. This investigation leads him to discover many secret things

about the island and also leads to him learning many truths about himself. This movie

also portrays psychiatric illnesses in its characters, such as schizophrenia; after watching

this movie and understanding it, the audience can have a better understanding of

psychosis and what mentally ill patients experience.

       The movie begins with the main character, Edward Daniels, and his assistant

Chuck Aule taking a ferry to the island; while on the boat, Edward admits that the water

in the ocean repulses him. The two men arrive at Shutter Island and enter Ashecliffe,

which is a large facility meant to treat violent psychologically ill patients; they are both

going to the facility in order to investigate the disappearance of Rachel Solando—a

violent patient that drowned her three children in a lake. The facility is composed of three

buildings: Ward A, the men’s ward; Ward B, the women’s ward; and Ward C, the

building that houses the most dangerous patients. Dr. John Cawley, Ashecliffe’s head

psychiatrist, gives the men a brief overlook of the island and explains a few things about
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it. The two men attempt to investigate the facility but have difficulties doing so due to the

facility’s protocol and the lack of cooperation from the board of directors. During the first

night, Edward has a dream in which his wife explains to him that Rachel is still on the

island and that Andrew Laeddis, the arsonist responsible for the death of his wife, is also

an inhabitant of the island. Edward reveals to his partner that his true purpose for coming

to the island is to find out what is really taking place there, to uncover the conspiracy

behind it, and to reveal it to the rest of the world; a former patient from Ashecliffe named

George Noyce had told Edward that the island’s authorities were using patients in

experiments involving the brain.

       The next day, the investigators hear from Dr. Cawley that Rachel Solando has

been found. Edward suffers from migraines throughout the movie accompanied by

hypersensitivity to light, and these symptoms seem to worsen after he meets Rachel in

person. He then sets out to find Andrew Laeddis, which eventually leads him to Ward C.

He encounters George Noyce there, and Noyce tells him that the entire investigation is a

lie and that Edward is being set up by the authorities at Ashecliffe. Edward decides to go

to the lighthouse, which is supposedly where all of the experiments are taking place;

Chuck decides that the journey is too dangerous, and the two part ways. Edward fails to

reach the lighthouse due to the high tide, and he eventually discovers a cave in the side of

the island in which he finds the real Rachel Solando; she informs him that the authorities

have been keeping him drugged during his entire stay on the island by using aspirin,

food, drinks, and even cigarettes. She also tells him that the patients are being used in an
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experiment to turn humans into emotionless puppets for the purpose of war; this confirms

his suspicions of the conspiracy that he had been trying to uncover.

       When Edward returns to the main facility, Dr. Cawley tells him that he did not

come with a partner and that Chuck does not exist; he becomes very suspicious and starts

to believe that his partner had been captured. He eventually makes his way to the

lighthouse, but surprisingly, there are no grotesque experiments being conducted inside

like he expected. When he reaches the top floor, he finds Dr. Cawley sitting at a desk and

waiting for him to arrive. The entire plot is then flipped upside down when the doctor

tells him that Edward Daniels is an anagram for Andrew Laeddis and that Edward is

actually Andrew Laeddis. He had been a patient at Ashecliffe for two years, and his main

psychiatrist was actually the person he believed to be his partner; his name is revealed to

be Dr. Sheehan, the person who was supposedly the psychiatrist of Rachel Solando. The

“real” Rachel Solando that Andrew met in the cave was actually a hallucination that

projected his own beliefs to him. It is also revealed that Rachel Solando is an anagram for

Dolores Chanal—Andrew’s wife that supposedly had died in a fire. Dolores was a manic

depressive that drowned their three children in the lake behind their house, and Andrew

killed her because of it; this is why Andrew was sent to Ashecliffe in the first place. The

authorities had wanted to perform a lobotomy (brain surgery) on him, but they had faith

that he could overcome the delusions on his own. The entire investigation and every

event that had led up to this point were simply lies orchestrated by the people at the

island in order to help him come back to reality; they believed that his failure to uncover

this “conspiracy” would result in him accepting the truth. During his time on the island,
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Laeddis had realized the truth multiple times, but each time he was showing signs of

improvement, he regressed back into his delusional fantasy. In the lighthouse, he finally

accepts the truth once again; however, at the movie’s end, he regresses back into his

delusions and submits himself to be lobotomized.

       It is apparent that Andrew Laeddis had a psychological illness. His migraines,

hypersensitivity to light, hallucinations, delusions, and shakiness are all symptoms of a

mental illness, and this illness seems to be the paranoia type of schizophrenia. Symptoms

of schizophrenia include incoherence, disturbances of affect, deterioration in normal

movement, decline in previous levels of functioning, and diverted attention. Sufferers of

schizophrenia usually have lost contact with reality and have extreme difficulty with

handling daily life processes. A paranoid schizophrenic mostly experiences delusions;

two types of these delusions are grandeur and persecution. Delusions of grandeur are

delusions in which the schizophrenic believes that he or she is extraordinarily special,

such as being God or being the President of the United States. Delusions of persecution

are delusions that cause a person to be paranoid of their surroundings, such as always

being watched or being targeted for assassination. The symptoms of the different types of

schizophrenia can interweave with each other, and sometimes a person may exhibit

symptoms from every type.

       Andrew Laeddis appears to have had schizophrenia; his delusion of grandeur was

his belief that he was still a U.S. Marshal trying to uncover a conspiracy in order to save

lives. He also had hallucinations such as his dead wife appearing in front of him or

Rachel Solando explaining things to him in a cave. His mental disorder could have been
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caused by the extreme trauma of his duties in the military and also the trauma of his own

wife killing his children, which in turn, caused him to kill her. One cause of

schizophrenia development is the occurrence of bad family experiences, which is what

Andrew experienced. The movie does a fine job at showing what it is like to have

schizophrenia; the audience may think that they understand the movie completely right

before the ending, and that is when they realize that everything that they thought was true

really was not. The hallucination in the cave seemed very real, and the plot seemingly

made sense; one may realize that schizophrenic delusions can be very real like they were

in this movie.

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