“I do the best I can with every movie I make”, was the answer given by Mr Scorsese after being called the “Greatest Living Director” at the Shutter Island Press Conference in London — pretty modest I would say. Martin Scorsese is and always will be the one of the greatest directors to ever hit the film industry. With his career spanning nearly 50 years, he has made some of the most beloved cinematic masterpieces ever created, this includes Goodfellas, Taxi Driver and Raging Bull, finally winning his overdue Best Director Academy Award in 2007 with The Departed, and now he takes on the psychological thriller, Shutter Island.
Some people questioned the film due to the move of it’s release date. Often people say that his best is in his past but they are wrong. Scorsese’s new film, shows that he is still a force to be reckoned with, and there are no signs of conventionality or flabbiness to be seen anywhere in this film. He chose this material because it was…
…the vocabulary of cinemas past and the nature of Gothic literature that opened the door. It was enticing, I didn’t know how to tell the story without utilizing that vocabulary.
The references are noticeable, the site of Gothic mansions, abandoned churches and graveyards, foreboding trees and forests, deep dark caves and cliffs, the twists and turns of a very complex thriller, the use of brooding music to emphasize the overall tone of the film and dealing with psychological fears of the leading character.
The mood and tone of the picture and the atmosphere was in my head, it’s in my blood in a way. Once I decided to make the film, I have to find my way into that mood to choose, select, emphasize moments and sound and ultimately thats when I call in my collaborators.
This is one of the very few films that Scorsese has very used an original score, as most of his scores consist of Rolling Stones’ “Gimme Shelter” or music from a particular period. Scorsese brought in composer Robbie Robertson to help create the moody score, which most consists of modern symphonic music he still did it in his own way. The score for this film “turned into an experiment and [Robertson] would send me Cd’s of different sounds” and then Scorsese was able to sync in the music to the film.
As much as I admired film scores, you know how much I have collected each film score, Bernard Herrmann who I was lucky to work with, I was extremely lucky to work with Elmer Bernstein and Howard Shore. But I always imagined films with my own score because I didn’t come from that world or period of film making.
Much like Jimmy Stewart in Alfred Hitchcock’s Vertigo, Leonardo DiCaprio’s takes on the role of a tortured detective who will do anything to solve a murder. There are many echoes back to Hitchcock’s classic, both films show their leading character’s battling their own demons and haunted past, in order to solve a mystery. Both films embrace the psychological horror and violence, which makes his characters so compelling to watch. Vertigo has a special place in the director’s heart, as “it’s a film that I am obsessed with, it was a film I didn’t understand when I was 15, but it was one I kept revisiting“. He even has his own 35mm technicolor print of the film, which he screens regularly and is involved in its restoration.
Stewart’s performance in that film is an ultimate performance, as he realizes in the last 15 minutes of the picture, that gesture of his, as he loses her for the second time. You know, it is just an extraordinary thing.
Any cinephiles, film geek or critic will tell you when you’re watching a Martin Scorsese film, his films are always filmed with various references from the Golden Age of Hollywood. There are a number of influences on this film, Shock Corridor, Crossfire, Laura, I Walked With A Zombie, Out Of The Past, Let There Be Light and The Battle. but Scorsese never lets his influences take over the film.
Sam Fuller’s Shock Corridor can only be conjured as a mantra because Shock Corridor is a classic work of art. It comes for the unique experience of Sam Fuller. There is always an element of Shock Corridor hovering over the picture, but never specifically because it’s in me, so it’s a part of me.
Shutter Island is a film that is so full of life, it’s truly like watching masters at work. The use of the steadicam, tracking shots, close-ups etc are used to full effect, to enhance the overall visual impact of the film. His boyish enthusiasm directing this film is so infectious and we are swept along for a very complex ride, giving no easy solutions, and introducing complex characters that do not give way to general conventions. He is the gatekeeper to mature and intelligent film making.
If you have not seen any of Martin Scorsese’s films, then shame on you. But if you want to start, Shutter Island, is a great introduction to the immense Scorsese back catalogue and will show you want it takes to make a film great.
Check out our interview with Leonardo DiCaprio where he talks about his acting career and working with the great Scorsese.