Tuesday, 9 March 2010

Welcome to the Mad House...

When the big twist came at the end of The Sixth Sense a situation arose that could have gone either way. We as the audience had to reassess the previous minutes in a different context and we would either have been impressed or disappointed. The Sixth Sense wasn’t as inventive as it liked to think, but it was fine. Still, the perils having these big twists are obvious. If they don’t deliver the film weakens. I’d heard some responses to Shutter Island and the people who had read the book in particular seemed tepid. The ending was as good as it could have it been, they said, but… and so it went. The story of Shutter Island depends more on the twist than the actual film does, and watching it I realised just how much Scorsese was trying to underplay the twist. If Shutter Island is to succeed it needs to work well prior to the twist and the thing about Shutter Island is I think it works too well before the twist. I can’t blame Scorsese, and I can’t blame DiCaprio and I certainly won’t blame Kalogridis. It’s Lehane’s issue because the twist is his story. But I didn't respond as I should have to the twist. Annoyed is too heightened a word to use, but ScorCaprio work so hard making the first ¾ so good that when the twist comes my stomach lurches. It’s here I understand the claims of being too faithful to the novel. After such a jolt I wished the film would end as DiCaprio laid the four bodies out on the riverbank – oversaturation never helped anyone. 
         
It’s in this was that Shutter Island reminds me of The Road – a film with exceptional acting and direction but which never coalesces to be a perfect film. If Shutter Island is really similar to any film though it’s Veronika Decides to Die. In fact the similarities are so strong in some ways I wonder if the author Paulo Coehlo was inspired by Lehane. Like DiCaprio, Sarah Michelle Gellar finds herself in a mental institution and like Shutter Island the film depends on that twist. Of course Emily Young is no Scorsese and Veronika Decides to Die is not as certain of itself as Shutter Island but it is a good film and I fear that upon its US release it will be examined from the perspective of how believable the ending is. It’s something the film can’t avoid and what works so potently doesn’t always translate to good cinema. Veronika Decides to die isn't groundbreaking cinema, but it’s good filmmaking and any chance at seeing Michelle Gellar grow as an actress is something I appreciate.
Neither Shutter Island nor Veronika Decides to Die is perfect but they both manage to be satisfying character studies both centring on mental institutions. They are both good pieces of film anchored by the performances of their leads. We shouldn’t blame them for what they can’t control. It’s not their fault their original writers were fanatical about that final twist.
    
Veronika Decides to Die: B–
Shutter Island: B

3 comments:

Mike Lippert said...

Warning, my comment contains spoilers. I'm going to keep this brief because I still have another post on Shutter Island somewhere in me. Why I think the twist at the end of the Sixth Sense worked is because A) the Sixth Sense was created as a kind of film that, if you took away the ghosts, for the most part you'd still be left with a pretty good straight drama and B) you could work you're way back through the film and actually see the signs that the twist is in fact coming and not just jumping out of the blue for effect. The problem with Shutter Island, is, and you are right, there really couldn't be another ending, that when you work back through the entire story, some of the things that happen leading up to the twist are kind of improbable. When I left the Sixth Sense I fully believed that twist possible because I looked back and could see it coming and the film is even richer of subsequent viewings because of it. With Shutter Island I was left thinking, jesus, these are pretty eleborate measures being taken to cure on patient. It just didn't seem realistic, which, as you said, you can't fault the film for because the problem is the book's problem. Good review though. I look forward to seeing the other one you mention here as well.

Andrew: Encore Entertainment said...

I read this very interesting piece over at IMDB. It changed my entire perspective. READ IT.

Simon said...

When was Veronika even released? I've been wanting to see it since reading the book...