Movie Discussion

The movie I chose to discuss is Shutter Island. This movie was directed by Martin Scorsese and was released in 2010. This movie stars Leonardo DiCaprio as “Teddy Daniels”, a US marshal and former World War Two veteran. Teddy is sent to Shutter Island to find a patient that has gone missing. The story takes place in 1954 and was pretty historically accurate as far as the care and conditions of the mental asylum.

Something that stood out was when Teddy asked Dr. John Cawley about the type of treatment conducted on Shutter Island. John Cawley replies that there are two schools of thought in psychiatry: the “old school” and the new school”. The doctor then goes on to explain how the old school is focused more on caretaking explaining the use of unethical surgeries like lobotomies. This was true of American asylums in the decades prior to the 1950s. As the lobotomy had been used during the 1930s. The doctor also tells Teddy that the new school focused on humane treatment, medicine, and curing. Which translates as the 1950s saw an increase in the search for medicinally based treatment. Most significant was the creation of Thorazine or Chlorpromazine, the first antipsychotic. Which is mentioned countless times throughout the movie and was seen as the best drug at the time. 

The asylum itself is accurate. First is that the asylum was placed on an island away from the city. This was common for asylums as they had developed an “out of sight out of mind” idea. Another scene shows patients sleeping quarters which were just a giant room filled with beds. This is subtle yet shows the issues of overcrowding that overtook asylums in the early 1900s. At the beginning of the movie Teddy sees a lobotomized patient. The appearances are over exaggerated however, it shows the effects that asylums had on the physical body. Another example of this is when we meet George Noyce who is extremely skinny and beat up. 

The effect of past trauma is something that is touched upon. It is mentioned to Teddy when he discusses his past. Linking current behaviors to those experiences which is something the Freud’s Psychoanalysis touched upon. The focus is mostly PTSD  is discussed in Shutter Island. Teddy having liberated Dachau is plagued by nightmares and flashes of the horrors that he had seen there. The doctor’s reactions to it made sense during the time. John Cawley referred to one of these flashes as a migraine and urged Teddy to take an aspirin. This lines up with knowledge at the time as after World War Two as the term PTSD did not exist and there was little understanding of it.  

While the story is fictional, many of the small details are not. Whether it be the philosophy of American psychologists or the physical building this movie fits what we have learned. As it stands the movie offers real information in an extremely entertaining way. 8.5/10.


Psycho War Clip

“Dr Cawley Psychotherapy War – Shutter Island (2010) – Movie Clip HD Scene.” YouTube, May 9, 2020.

Who are you clip


Sarapampuriportfolio. “Movie ‘Shutter Island’ (2010) – Review – Blog of Sara Pampuri.” Sara Pampuri, January 24, 2021.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *