Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Spoilerific Thoughts on 'Shutter Island' and the Noetic Effects of Sin

I have recently read the novel Shutter Island, by Dennis Lehane. The new Scorsese film is based on Lehane's novel, but as I understand it, the movie follows the book pretty closely.

I'm warning you all, right now. The rest of this post is PURE spoiler. It assumes you've either seen the movie, read the book, or that you never intend to see/read either. Read further at your own peril!

The entire story of Shutter Island is really one of a man who is self-deceived. Teddy has been deceived for the entire story because the truth is too horrible for him to possibly live with. In the case of Teddy, the truth is that his wife murdered his three children, and after she murdered them, he killed her. For Teddy, the truth about reality is far too painful for him to live with. Therefore, he has constructed a tremendously elaborate narrative which permits him to be the hero of his life story rather than as the villain which he, in reality, is. Throughout the story, he is searching the island for Andrew Laeddis (a man he mistakenly believes to have killed his wife) so that he can kill him out of revenge for his wife's death. Teddy eventually comes to the painful truth that he actually is Andrew Laeddis, and he is the man who killed his wife after all.

I find the entire story to be a fascinating allegory of mankind's suppression of the knowledge of God. About self-deception. About the painfulness of the truth about us as humanity. You see, like Teddy, we are not the hero of the story; we are the villains. We are the antagonists working against the grain of the universe. We are the ones who rebelled, we are the ones who bear the tremendous weight of evil and sin from the Fall.

This is a painful truth; the existentialists, the poets, the scientists, and the scholars have constructed a new and elaborate narrative which allows humanity to suppress the truth of our villainy. The new narrative tells every person that they are the hero of their life's story, that they are not the enemy, that this morality which we appear to be born with is something of an illusion. The new narrative says that God is bad, man is good, and that by the help of science and politicians, we can create the eden which God failed to secure in the Beginning.

So mankind knows the truth - that we're the enemy. We know that we're the bad guy and not the good guy in the Story of the universe. However, this is far too painful to come to terms with. So now we are deluged with false religions, philosophies, tales of humanity's exploits of greatness, of the failure and badness of God - all of which reinforce this delusion; because the truth is far too painful to embrace. If mankind were to wake up, to stop deluding themselves and realize the truth about themselves in its fullness - well, I am tempted to say they would fall to the ground frozen in terror and never stop weeping for their guilt and for the crimes they have committed.

Now, I am sure that Dennis Lehane never intended this tale of a deluded U.S. Marshall to be seen for anything more than a thrilling exploration of one man's painful journey towards the truth. This should be obvious. But it does not take a great deal of effort, in my opinion, if you possess a robust Christian worldview, to see the allegory.

[Oh yeah, and I forgot to mention - Bruce Willis is dead like, the WHOLE movie in The Sixth Sense.]


  1. Adam,

    This is a good review!

    One point of the movie that was the most explicit happened when Teddy and the Warden have a heart-to-heart on the jeep ride back to the ward. The warden says, "God is violence." He adds something about how God uses us to play out his violence for him.

    The best solution for such a universe is to deceive yourself until death.

  2. In the book, the warden tells him that we're only doing what God does. He says that we are violent because we want to emulate God and be just like Him. He struck me as an unstable freak, however. He's probably that way in the movie, too.

  3. I was about to write this same review this morning. I saw the film last night and said it's a great example of Romans 1 - but I figured I'd read your post that I previously skipped over first.

  4. Just imagine if we both wrote the same blog based on Shutter Island. It would have been more embarrassing than showing up at a social event wearing the same cardigans!


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