Visual storytelling in Shutter Island

Shutter Island (2010)
Shutter Island (2010)

Andrew Laeddis (Leonardo DiCaprio) is a patient at Shutter Island. He can’t deal with the traumatic reality in his life (death of his children and wife), so he creates an imaginary world, in which he is a federal Marshal Teddy Daniels.

When you see the movie for the first time, you are led to believe, that Teddy Daniels is a real person, only to find out later, that he is actually the missing patient 67. But if you watch the movie again, you’ll notice, that there are clues throughout the whole movie, that the world of Teddy Daniels is imaginary. Let’s take a look at one example.

Shutter Island (2010)
Shutter Island (2010)

When Teddy interviews Mrs. Kearns, she pretends to drink from a glass of water.

Shutter Island (2010)
Shutter Island (2010)

In the next shot, she puts down the glass of water, but now its a real glass. Notice, that in the previous shot, the glass was in her right hand, while in this shot, the glass is in her left hand.

Shutter Island (2010)
Shutter Island (2010)

After a while, she leaves. Now, if you look closely, you’ll see that there is a water in the glass, which wasn’t there before. (I highly doubt, that this was an editing mistake.)


I’m going to write more about visual storytelling in Shutter Island and extend this article as soon as possible! To stay updated about future write ups (to other articles as well),  you can follow the blog on Facebook.

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8 thoughts on “Visual storytelling in Shutter Island

  1. Hey nicely spotted. I would love to read more about this film when you have the time. I have seen it a few times and I noticed a few little hints that the world was going crazy around him but have by no means got it all figured out. Cheers Andrew

    1. Thanks Andrew! I noticed the thing with glass, when I watched it for the second time. I always do a research before I post something on the blog, so I searched for some other hints and clues… And in this case, there were so many interesting articles scattered all around the internet written about this topic. So I plan to read it all and transform it then into examples of cinematic storytelling (but after the state exams :/).

  2. I think it’s all about perspective. So, my theory is… ‘Chuck’ did brought the glass of water for the lady. (1) After that, we see in the guys perspective. They saw that the lady drank with her empty hand. She didn’t pick up the glass. (2) Then, we see from the lady perspective which she saw the empty glass and thought that she has finished the drink. (3) Last, we see from the third person angle which shows there was still the glass of water on the table.

    So, I think, the film wants to show us that the lady has her own imagination through the visual storytelling. Which I think super cool!

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