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Shutter Island by Martin Scorsese

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How does Martin Scorsese create anxiously and uncertainty by using sound and cinematography in the opening scene of Shutter Island?

The sequence that I have chosen (opening scene) is the build up of the expedition to the mental asylum that the two marshals are going to locate a missing person.

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From the start of the beginning scene Scorsese uses cinematography and mise-en-scène, straight away. The boat comes mysteriously through the mist, it seems dark, gloomy and depressive. (As you can see in screen grab 1) you straight away as the audience feel anxious and curious to where the boat could be heading.

Scorsese uses the mist to disorientate the audience, the mist has a sense of looming fear over the boat and this mimics how the audience is feeling. Scorsese is mirroring the audience’s feelings in the microelements that he uses. As the audience you feel as if your view is obscured and that makes you automatically panicked, the shot is taken as if someone is standing in front of the boat filming it coming towards him or her as in a handheld camera, as if they are waiting for the boat to reach a certain point and watching.

This adds urgency and a sense of anticipation. Scorsese uses cinematography to make you as the audiences feel uneasy and nervous to what’s happening, the mist instantly gives the film and scene a sense of mystery and horror. The mist sets the color of the scene everything remains grey, dark and gloomy as if the life has been bled out of the colors, you don’t see color until the boat becomes closer and you meet the characters; when you meet the characters you discover that Teddy Daniels had lost a huge part of his life I think Scorsese tries to mirror this in the way he weather and surroundings are set, by the way the colors have drained to leave Everything dark and dismal. Although something still doesn’t seem right. Nothing is ever clear throughout the film there’s always a sense of things being hidden, as if the director is trying to make the audience find things, and play the part as the detective. Scorsese did this to make the audience feel as if they can connect with the main character Teddy Daniels because he’s on the island investigating a missing person. The mist obscures the mind and makes the audience feel as if there are more things they should be looking out for; this makes everything feel a lot tenser.

Screen grab 1

The way Scorsese films the wide shots behind the boat is powerful; you feel as if the boat is lost and you’re not sure where to exactly focus. You are straight away disturbed thinking where the boat is and were it is going, this sense of confusion is one of the main themes of the film and this introduces the audience to this early. The color of the boat coming through the mist is plain and intriguing the same as the mist. It’s dull and depressive straight away. The boat instantly has a ghostly feel, you wonder if the boat is real or an illusion, it automatically makes the audience interested and seizes there attention into the film making the opening scene powerful.

The sound of the boat as it gradually comes through the mist humming an unnatural noise automatically makes the audience tense, and agitated. The music is low and deep it has the sense of someone screaming; the music gives of a scary and profound feeling straight away right at the beginning of the film. This makes you feel as if you are in the film and you cant get out of a situation a main theme of the film is being trapped this is shown in the score. The score slows down; it’s a general sound in the background that’s building, and the horns of the boat get louder its sounds as if something is drilling/humming. This builds the pressure. The sounds are ominous, its as if a threat to the audience if the boat keeps moving. As the more powerful sounds develop you feel as if something is warning you to not go further. Scorsese uses a similar score in Hugo the scene were his dad and his story is explained, this scene is full of emotion and shows that Hugo’s father will never return, the sounds slowly build up as if his life is forming in the song and then the notes completely collapse. Scorsese does this because it keeps the audience alert and focused but still wondering where the boat is going. The sounds feel as if they are hollow screams from a unnatural place as if people are trapped below the boat. This makes the audience feel as if they are on edge. The sounds are very unnerving. The score in the background is the horns of the boat and the sea hitting against the sides. The image becomes clearer of the boat, straightaway this builds tension and suspense in the audience.

When you see the first person in the film, it’s the main character Teddy Daniels. Daniels is being sick whilst on the boat; the camera expresses this. The shot is taken from above his head to make it look like something has a greater power over him when you see him hunched over the toilet the shot is taken from a high angle to show this. The camera then gets the shot of him in the mirror it this automatically shows the weakness and vulnerability that he is holding. I think this is also there to represent the two life’s that Daniels has experienced. His face looks gaunt, tired and slightly scared this automatically makes the audience panic they like to have someone to be seen as a hero, and resilient. Leonardo Dicaprio is prone to play the heroic lead role in the films that he works with for example Scorsese’s The departed, dicaprio plays the part of a undercover state cop. Django unchained he plays the leader and owner of the he most notorious plantation in all of Mississippi. Teddy has a plaster on his head and I think this firstly makes the viewers wonder why; Scorsese could have deliberately put it there to show the flaws that Teddy has. Scorsese makes this the first shot that you see because it channels the ideas of the viewers all into one and makes them understand, the major flaws of his character are instantly exposed.

The shot that is profile and close up that captures teddy Daniels looking out the window (screen grab 2) is getting again the point over of the vastness of the sea and how defenseless, isolated and incapable teddy is. The largeness compared to him is mesmerizing. You feel as if something is always has power over him, and that he doesn’t really know. As if a spy is always watching his moves. It’s also creepy and unnerving for the audience because the reality hits you that they are completely alone. Scorsese does this by making Teddy and the window look small and the sea is filmed to look enormous around him. Scorsese does this by getting a close up of his face and then the unfocused background. By having the background unfocused you worry as a viewer you like to know what’s around the characters.

This overall gives a feeling of vulnerability Scorsese also manages to do this in his film Hugo which he filmed in 3D the boy in the film looses family and has to care for himself he seems lost for parts and it has a general overall vulnerable feel. The buildings tower over the character Hugo he always seems small and timid. When Hugo’s father was alive the shots were warm, and when he passed away the colors that Scorsese films turn cold. Exactly the same as teddy Daniels in this film, when he has the flashbacks to his wife. This is a general theme that Scorsese relates in a lot of his films especially Cape Fear, when Scorsese shows Leigh Bowden the mother looking out the window when she suspects someone is outside she looks through the shutters and you feel uneasy because her view looks obstructed. In Cape Fear the family always seems to feel as if they are getting watched by there stalker this film has exactly same feeling the way Scorsese uses high angle shots over Daniels. Scorsese Knows when to do the right shots and angles or just let the scene breath. The characters seem vulnerable and lonely. He manages always to create a sense of tension. There are tense moments in reality and her imaginary perspective exactly the same to shutter island and the way teddy Daniels has flashbacks the warm life he had with his wife.

Screen grab 2

The sounds in the background have a man made feel to them it makes you feel as the audience that someone is trying to get at teddy Daniels it creates a general feeling of unease and paranoia for the audience they cant even imagine what’s coming. There are chains clanging against each other, this is hyper diegetic sound. Which you later discover are handcuffs, they are obstructing his way, as if they were a constraint like they are meant to represent he shouldn’t be going somewhere. The small windows surrounding Daniels emphases the entrapment. The sense of isolation and his character being trapped and caged is a scary mix. This again makes you feel trapped as the viewers it makes you want to try and get out of the situation. When Teddy walks further down the boat; the camera creates a 360 degrees circle around him as if they were using a handheld camera circling him expresses this. It shows the disorientation that he is feeling. Creating a feeling as if you were watching him on the other side of the boat. It films him walking towards the camera and then takes a shot from behind. He is behind a cage door, it’s as if he’s confined and being watched.

The camera filming from the other side of the cage door shows this, it makes you judge the character automatically because you as the viewer feel as if you are in control. You see the other Marshall in front of the cage unrestricted. He looks strong and unflustered by the boat. When the camera films Marshall you see him as if he is powerful he looks as if he is power but when the camera goes on to teddy Daniels it looks as if the vast background is over-powering him. When Martin Scorsese films Daniels with the other marshal the background doesn’t seem to be as breathtaking and overwhelming. You feel as if when he is with the other marshal he is safe and secure this is done by filming above the two characters waist, This gives them stature and power, they are closer so you can only see them closely and the sky.

The boat seems to be as if things are made up of bars and cold metals, exactly the same as a prison, again the sense of entrapment is settling in with a drear grey/blue color that makes the audience feel, cold, depressed, dismal and its ands if you already no there’s not a whole lot of happiness to the story of the film. When Chuck and Daniels are talking the diegetic sound of them talking is awkward and that’s exactly how the audience feel. They don’t know each other so they are in exactly the same position as the audience this makes them feel more at ease. The audience feel that its hard to work them out and they have a great sense of mystery. It makes it hard to trust Chuck and wonder if he even is a Marshall, which we discover later on in the film he, isn’t what he’s made out to be. Scorsese wanted to show the awkwardness through the conversation to show Daniels awkward personality, and maybe to make the viewers wonders were he got it. The viewers also don’t know what’s happening and where the boat is going so all these things relate.

When Daniels has flashbacks to his old life with his wife it seems warm and soft music playing in the background. which is a juxtapose to the music we hear when the boat comes through the mist. This non-diegetic music is warm and free; it makes you see the differences between Daniels live now and then the contrast between them is huge. Automatically this small clip lifts the mood of the film and gives the audience a slight bit of hope. It’s huge juxtaposition to the other filming because they are so dissimilar. It’s a perfect family atmosphere, they smile and joke and that makes you feel
instantaneously happy as the audience. It’s not as earnest as the boat scene. When it goes back to reality it has a close up of just the water that is hitting the boat side its as if the camera goes back to reality. The camera at this point represents Daniels mind.. This makes it clear that something bad has happened and that it’s a dream with the huge amounts of dissimilarity to what’s happening now to him.

When the boat starts to reach the island, Scorsese defines the point of control that the island has over the marshals by filming the huge island with the vast sea around. The score in the background seems to get louder, with a faster pace the film jumps as it approaches the island and you feel as the audience you are getting pushed in even though you really don’t want to. you are also made to feel intrigued, to find out what’s on the island I think the score inspires these thoughts that the viewers have by building suspense. The island seems to overtake the shot because the score gets louder and emphasizes the importance of the island; it also stands out in the shot as you can see in (screen grab 3) its dark and ominous you feel scared to go closer its oppressive. The cage that I referenced to earlier on the boat door is open in the background, which makes you feel as if Teddy Daniels is free, and not as much pressure if focused on him.

Screen grab 3

When the boat is nearing the dock the camera looks as if it’s getting pushed and as the audiences you feel exactly the same and that you cant leave the situation. When the boat reaches the dock and the characters are greeted, the score in the background is still tense and overwhelming for the audience. There Is natural sounds of the sea yet there are eerie unnatural sounds building in the background creating a huge unnerving contrast. The island isn’t the most welcoming place the colours are still bland and seem as if they are merging together. Its uncomfortable for them because they, are always surrounded every angle that Martin Scorsese films, there is someone behind them. They have guns and are wearing guard uniforms this makes you feel on edge and worried to be them. You automatically wonder were they are going and who with and make you wonder why they are being watched in such detail? The feeling of the on edge staff of the island completely mirrors the way the viewers are feeling at this point. One of the main themes of the film is being trapped. The Film has a huge unnerving feeling of claustrophobia. There are non-diegetic sounds and diegetic with speech, music and natural sounds . The vastness of the sea is also behind them, really emphasizing the loneliness and the looming thoughts of them being on the island.

When they start the journey to the mental asylum the camera zooms on from the sea to inland this makes the truck look small and defenseless. Also making you feel like there’s no going back they do this by making it fast and heavily edited. It feels as if someone is holding the camera above the truck and following it like they are watching over the shots taken from a high angle shot. The truck seems small and exposed the way Scorsese shoots it. The truck represents Daniels it looks vulnerable. When the camera finally reaches the truck it films the truck from above it this has the effect that you are watching over chuck and Daniels. The close up of the sign of the cemetery is a negative feeling overall Scorsese would have done this close up to show one of the looming possibilities of being on the island for the two Marshalls. You are automatically worried and cautious why they showed it. You wonder who could end up there; or what is there. There is no happiness around as you can see on close ups of Daniels face, and the bland colors around. (As you can see in screen grab 4) as they are driving with the trees blurred in the background makes you feel the speed that they are going and the way they film upwards on the buildings makes you feel as the audience small and vulnerable its filmed from underneath Daniels and from behind as if he was getting pushed and pulled into a situation.

Scorsese catches the truck as they are driving towards the asylum, by filming slightly above the truck so you still remember the greater power. Scorsese also films in front of the truck so it would be coming towards him, this shot makes you feel as if something is pulling you in and not letting you go back. Scorsese films from behind the barred wire. This again shows you the power that is overtaking him and makes him look weak. You feel as if the two characters are imprisoned and aren’t going to get out of the situation.

The vast background makes you feel lost, disoriented (as you can see in screen grab 4 and 5). There is always entrapment in the foreground. There is no diegetic sound at this point, which makes the seen so much more awkward and uncomfortable for the audience. The only non-diegetic sound is about the “electrified perimeter”, its serious though not light and warm. This makes you realize the seriousness of being on the island and you start to panic.

Screen grab 4

Chuck and Daniels wear plain clothes with dull colors, this makes them Blend in and seem uninteresting. Again you feel as if the colors are being sucked out of the scene, it looks lifeless and oppressive. The only thing that is different is the tie that Daniel wears, it relates back to the flash back that I earlier made reference to, its interesting and different, and gives you a suggestion to his past, the tie uses the color yellow and green. Yellow is a warm color that relates back to life with his wife you automatically feel upset and repentant for Daniels because you know he lost the love of his life. It’s as if the tie is the only scrap of happiness he has left in his life. Chuck wears plain clothes because you don’t know much about his past so it’s simple and dreary because we don’t know much about him. This makes you uncomfortable you worry that he could be a traitor.

Screen grab 5

When they drive up to the gates it feels as if the score in the background is getting heavier, and clunkier. The gates are suddenly towering over the truck, the diegetic sound of the gates opening is creepy and represents the sound of a prison door shutting. The road to the final gate is small and thin you feel claustrophobic and trapped the music finally stops as the enter the final gate showing that maybe some form of there life and being free has stopped. As they drive in the gates its as if the camera is sitting on the truck filming as if it is pulling you in and there is no way of ever going back to normal life.

Overall martin Scorsese succeeds by making the audience feels anxious and uncertain in Shutter Island, by making the characters look vulnerable and lost which creates an uneasy, foreboding atmosphere. Scorsese succeeds in making the a audience feel emotion for the characters especially Daniels and feel depressed that he cant have his life with his wife. Scorsese creates the elements of sympathy that are needed to connect with the story. Scorsese makes the opening scene feel intriguing and gripping and makes the viewers want to find out what else happens in the movie, making them automatically glued to the plot and keen to watch more.

Cite this Shutter Island by Martin Scorsese

Shutter Island by Martin Scorsese. (2016, Jul 04). Retrieved from https://graduateway.com/ahutter-island/

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