Monday, February 22, 2010

God is a Spider

The Voice of the Ancient Bard

Youth of delight come hither:
And see the opening morn,
Image of truth new born.
Doubt is fled & clouds of reason.
Dark disputes & artful teazing.
Folly is an endless maze,
Tangled roots perplex her ways,
How many have fallen there!
They stumble over bones of the dead;
And feel they know not what but care;
And wish to lead others when they should be led.

-William Blake

The best moment in Shutter Island is when Max von Sydow (!) turns to Leonardo DiCaprio and asks, "Do you believe in God?"

There's really no reason for von Sydow to say this in terms of Shutter Island's plot and nothing in the immediate context suggests its being said.  It may be in the novel, but I don't remember it.  I believe it's there simply to evoke Bergman.

I really loved seeing von Sydow in this.  Shutter Island would make a great double feature with Through a Glass Darkly.  Maybe I'm seeing Bergman everywhere, but Shutter Island plays out like pulp Bergman.

Other than that, my enjoyment was weakened by familiarity with the source text.  A lot of the joy of the story is being taken along for a dark ride.  The adaptation is as faithful as these things get.  I'm sure you know it by now if you've been reading lots of reviews.  SPOILER.  This story depends on a twist at the end.  Not knowing that allows for suspension of disbelief.  Knowing that there is a twist, what the twist is, and when it's coming makes lots of the premise seem silly.  On the positive side, it also allows one to enjoy subtle and not so subtle acting choices early on that play into the end.  I liked Ruffalo here.

There is earned emotion at the end; I think that Scorsese presents every dream/memory/hallucination just right and it pays off.  This is quite the accomplishment in the current wasteland of trite flashbacks.

I'm not sure if Justin McDonald made the final cut.  My best guess is that that's his body glimpsed out in the street through a window while a Nazi officer is struggling to die inside.  I'll try to get in touch with him and find out.

Finally, seriously, Bergman.  I listened to Edelstein's negative review on Fresh Air and he lists certain noir films that are visually referenced.  I need to rewatch Shutter Island more closely, but I'm sure Through a Glass Darkly is there.  There's a reference to insects crawling in a skull (spiders aren't insects.  Yes they are.  No they are not.  Yes they are.  I don't care.  Scary little creatures that are terrible to look at) for goodness' sake.  It's there in the script.  I'd guess it's there visually somewhere.  

Probably not.  But, I want to believe so.

God is a Spider.


I wrote all of the above Saturday.  Today is Monday and, Brandon, I just read your review this morning.  Good stuff.  We're definitely on the same page here.  I'm also glad to hear that you took my advice.  I had been afraid that too many reviews might have given you too many spoilers.  

Did you get my phone message Friday night?

The last thing I wanted to say is that I enjoyed being out in a crowd.  This is the first time in a long time that I've been to an opening night show.  Watching the trailer for Sorcerer's Apprentice was awesome because sharing a hearty guffaw with about a dozen other persons when Nicholas Cage is revealed as the action hero... That is priceless.    

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