Shutter Island Movie Meaning & Plot Summary

Marshal Teddy Daniels and his partner show up at Ashcliffe Psychiatric Hospital, investigating the mysterious story of one of the patients. The hospital is not in vain located on the island: its mentally ill patients are extremely dangerous and have already harmed others. Teddy will have to get to the bottom of the truth, but he understands that it will not be easy. The patient he’s looking for seems to have vanished from her room. But this is where the riddles only begin: the marshal finds himself in the very epicenter of the intricacies and intrigues that reign on the island.

But is everything really as it seems to the main character?

The film intrigues and captures attention from the first minutes. The meaning of the film “Shutter Island” is not revealed immediately, but closer to the end. Let’s take a step-by-step look at what the movie Shutter Island is about.

Analysis of the film “Shutter Island”

I apologize in advance to anyone who sees hidden secrets or deeper meaning in the film. All the conspiracy theories that Shutter Island is some kind of secret government agency are simply not true.

DiCaprio’s character, Andrew Laddis (a.k.a. Patient 67), is a mentally ill Shutter Island inmate who the doctors are trying to rehabilitate. Teddy thinks he’s exploring the island, but he’s actually caught up in a twisted role-playing game designed by Dr. Cowley and Teddy’s partner Chuck, who is actually Teddy’s main psychiatrist, the “missing” Dr. Sheehan.

Cowley and Sheehan are more sympathetic doctors who believe that through therapy and compassion, Andrew Laddis’ madness can be cured. On the other hand, Dr. Naring and the warden believe that guys like Andrew are too unstable and violent for a therapeutic solution.

A role play on the island was held to give Dr. Cowley and Dr. Sheehan one last chance to prove the effectiveness of their technique. They must prove that Andrew Leddis can be pulled out of his “Teddy Daniels” fantasy and be able to accept reality: his wife Dolores was mentally ill and killed their children, and it was he, Andrew, who killed her in revenge. Andrew feels guilty because he has known about his wife’s insanity for a long time. But due to his own drinking and post-traumatic stress issues after World War II, Andrew did not recognize the extent of her problems, and it cost him his children.

Guilt and resentment led Andrew to invent a side personality in which he is still a war hero and federal marshal named Teddy Daniels. Because he is smart, he comes up with an intricate mental narrative in which he cannot (or does not want to) solve the main mystery: that he is the same patient 67.

Explanation of the ending of the movie “Shutter Island”

The film’s ending seems ambiguous to many, but again, it was pretty clear cut for me. Teddy realizes that he is really Andrew Laddis. He is smart, which can be seen the next day. When Dr. Sheehan sits on the steps with him, Andrew knows that the doctors are watching him. The thing is, his guilt and pain are still so heavy that he knows he can’t live with them. Instead of living with all the pain, he decides to pretend to be Teddy Daniels to let them lobotomize him and finally be free of his burden.

At the end of the film, he says the phrase: “Which is worse: to die as a man or to live as a monster?”, making the viewer wonder if the hero is really insane or pretending to be?

Exposing the conspiracy theory

Different people perceive the same things in all sorts of ways, but you must have concrete evidence from the source material to support your theory. Here is a list of examples that confirm that Teddy Daniels was sane at the end of the film and deceived the doctors.

As the movie begins, Teddy is on a boat sailing towards the island. The cabin that Teddy is in has handcuffs, which are restrictions on prisoners being brought to the island. It was in them that, with a high probability, Teddy was kept before the start of the experiment. As for the fact that Teddy doesn’t remember anything before he got on the ship, that’s most likely a small hole in the movie.At the lighthouse, Dr. Cowley tells Andrew that he is hallucinating and feeling trembling in his body due to the drugs he is taking. But in fact, the opposite is true, the cigarettes and pills that Teddy takes throughout the film are intended to rid him of hallucinations. Coley and Sheehan stop giving Andrew medication during the experiment to help him break through to reality. Throughout the film, Teddy has increasingly vivid hallucinations, his drugs were supposed to suppress the psychosis, not increase it. The drug withdrawal is what drives him crazy in the film.Fire is a symbol of Andrew’s madness. If you look closely, every time Teddy is near the fire, he experiences some kind of hallucination. The matches he lights from time to time, the fire in the cave with Dr. Solando, the fire from the explosion of Dr. Cowley’s car. Fire is a symbol of the gyro’s fantasy world, and water (the opposite of fire) is a symbol of the reality that happened to him. His wife drowns her children in water, and it is the water that makes Andrew so upset, restless, and sick throughout the film. The cave scene with “Dr. Solando” is not real – and therefore her whole story about Shutter Island being a secret government mind control laboratory is also not real.The whole “government mind control operation” is a fantasy by Andry Laddis. She allows him to explain to himself over and over again why he is on the island and allows him to demonize doctors and staff as threats or conspirators. The purpose of Dr. Cowley and Dr. Sheehan’s role-playing game is to let Andrew see how impossible and absurd his conspiracy theory is, allowing him to explore it to the end. That’s why Dr. Sheehan provokes Andrew’s wild theories. He wants Andrew to act out his fantasies until he sees that it’s absurd.The character George Noyce is the guy who knew Teddy in custody. Noyce was a criminal who ended up on the island and fed Andrew’s fantasies. One day, Noyce called “Teddy” by the name of Leddis, causing a psychotic outburst, for which Andrew beat him up. It was this attack that caused Dr. Naering and Guardian to goad Laddis into a lobotomy, causing Dr. Cowley and Dr. Sheehan to create an RPG as a last attempt to cure Laddis.

Rule #4 and Patient #67


Rule number 4 has to do with the anagram names that Andrew comes up with for his fantasy world. “Edward Daniels” is an anagram of “Andrew Laddis” and “Rachel Solando” is an anagram of “Dolores Chanal”, the maiden name of Andrew’s dead wife. For anagrams to work, use English names. Regarding Patient 67: Andrew Laddis is Patient 67. Teddy Daniels will never be able to find Patient 67, and while he is looking for him, he will not be able to return to reality.

Rachel Solando is just a play. Rachel Laddis is the name of Andrew’s dead daughter. His daughter is the same little girl who appears in his Holocaust dreams and says that he had to save her. His daughter represents the truth – she is the one thing that Andrew cannot deny or forget. Dr. Cowley’s nurse, Rachel Solando, is part of a therapy technique that causes Andrew to remember his real wife. If you watch that scene again, you’ll see that Coley’s idea almost worked, but not quite. Andrew’s brain just can’t handle the load.

Latest confirmation from the filmmakers

The main actors and the director talked for a very long time about how difficult it was to shoot the island of the damned. The problem was that when they started making the film, they realized that on first viewing, audiences must believe that Dr. Cowley and Shutter Island could be something sinister. But on re-watching, you should realize that everyone around Teddy is role-playing and trying to keep his fantasy alive, even though many employees and guards are not happy about it.

After watching the movie for the second time and knowing how it ends, I have to say that Scorsese and the cast did a great job. It’s all too obvious that the other characters know that Teddy is crazy, and here are a few clues to help you see it for yourself:

Look at the guards throughout the movie. They can get very irritable when “Teddy” is around, and grip their weapons a little tighter. This is especially observed at the very beginning, when the “Marshals” come to the island. This is because the guards know that Teddy is crazy and they are not happy with the role play experiment. It’s also because they’re not thrilled about finding Rachel Solando, who doesn’t exist.Pay attention to the interview with the staff. When Teddy and Chuck interview the nurses and orderlies, it’s easy to see how ridiculous the staff see it all. One nurse makes an ironic joke because she is talking to a crazy man dressed as a police officer. In this scene, the employees aren’t too into role-playing either, and Dr. Sheehan/Chuck pushes them to answer Teddy’s questions.When Teddy is interviewing Mrs. Kearns, she writes “run” on a piece of paper that Teddy slips because she knows he has the ability to escape while they’re doing this whole experiment.The creepy lady at the beginning of the movie is waving at Teddy because she knows him, knows he’s playing a game and she’s been ordered not to mess it up. She’s a crazy lady enjoying the game, that’s all.

At the end of the day, Shutter Island is a pretty obvious movie if you watch it carefully. I understand that the reality where Teddy is crazy may not be as funny as some of the conspiracy theories, but the evidence is there throughout the movie. Still, isn’t it funny when a movie sparks so much controversy and discussion and imagination?

Meaning of the movie Shutter Island

The point of the film “Shutter Island” is mainly that it is easier for a person to believe in the most ridiculous fiction than to accept the bitter truth.

The solution is shocking and confusing in the first minutes. According to Dr. Cowley, Marshal Teddy Daniels is not and never was, but there is a patient of the Ashcliff Hospital, Andrew Laddis. In the past, he lived with his wife Dolores and three children. Dolores was mentally ill and once drowned all her children. Returning home, Andrew found them dead. Out of desperation, he killed his wife, whom he loved very much. Andrew was unable to accept reality and cope with the guilt of the death of his family, so his brain created a new identity of the marshal and his confused history in an attempt to forget the unbearable truth.

He spent several years in the hospital, but the treatment did not help. Laddis was a violent patient, and he was about to get a lobotomy. However, Dr. Cowley and doctor Lester Sheen decide to give Laddis another chance to deal with the madness. He is allowed to feel like Marshal Teddy Daniels and play the role he invented to the end in order to independently get to the truth and realize the illogicality of his ideas.

He is taken out of the hospital on a ship, and then he returns there on the same ship for his investigation. He gets used to the role of a marshal, conducts interrogations, looks for evidence. All the staff and patients of the psychiatric hospital take part in the experiment, playing along with someone who was recently locked in one of the wards. Some are quite skeptical, but the game continues until the final.

At the lighthouse, Dr. Cowley explains to the imaginary marshal all the oddities that he has encountered lately. Nightmares and hallucinations are not the result of taking substances sprinkled by Teddy’s ill-wishers, but rather the result of refusing the medications that he took during the treatment period. The disappeared patient has never been in the hospital, it’s just a game of the sick mind of the protagonist. It is not easy to believe Dr. Cowley’s story, and it is too hard for Laddis to accept this truth, because madness protected him from terrible memories and feelings of guilt for the death of loved ones.

Andrew knew about his wife’s illness, but did not attach much importance to it. As a result, his children died at the hands of an insane mother. The loss of the family he loved so much tears apart Laddis’s soul, and the unbearable pain of realizing his own responsibility drives him crazy. He blames himself for leaving the children with the sick Dolores, for not helping her cope with a serious illness. But he cannot change the past, and the present becomes an unbearable burden. Andrew’s mind cuts the events of reality and sews a fabric of cunning fiction to hide under it the feeling of guilt in what happened.

Andrew Laddis cannot accept the truth, and therefore does not want to know it. He blindly believes in his role as marshal to the end, but still he has to give it up.

The meaning of the ending of the movie Shutter Island

After watching, many viewers are left with the question: was Andrew able to defeat the madness?

The ending of the film leaves no doubt about the success of the experiment. Yes, Laddis is taken away for a lobotomy, as if to confirm the victory of the disease over his mind. But Andrew’s parting phrase to his doctor suggests otherwise: “Which is better: to live as a monster or die as a man?”

He makes his choice and voluntarily goes for a lobotomy, continuing to play the role of a marshal, although he no longer believes in it. He understood the truth, but he was unable to accept it. For him, guilt in the death of his wife and children makes him a monster, and he refuses to live with this burden.

The doctor understands what the patient’s words mean, but releases him for surgery. He cannot stand in the way of his choice to die human. The truth, discovered in the experiment, fell on Andrew’s shoulders too heavy.

The meaning of the ending lies precisely in the last question of the protagonist “to live as a monster or die as a man”, but everyone makes the choice himself. And the choice of Andrew Laddis is quite understandable – to die as a man, because there is no strength to live as a monster.

Shutter Island: Is It Deep or Dumb? (Leonardo DiCaprio)

Write in the comments your assumptions and theories about what the film Shutter Island is about and what its meaning is. We look forward to waiting!

Add a comment