June 07, 2010
Coming Together of the Greats
End credits roll. I’m the last person to leave the theatre. Making my way through the empty corridors of this old mall that has lost its sheen, I’m looking for a toilet. Arrowheads guide me, through a maze of shops, reminiscent of that shopping complex beside West End Cinema in Pune, whose name I fail to recollect. There is a man holding the gate of the toilet open for me. There are no urinals in there, only cabinets with commodes. I take a while to choose one, considering the floor is wet. The cabinet I choose is, as I discover later, wetter. I relieve myself and emerge out of the cabinet to find urinals right in front of me. I am scared – of this place, of the staff, of the people around me. I make sure I escape before they trap me.
Outside, the city prepares itself for the rains, a mid-day sun playing with the pre-monsoon drizzle. I take an auto-rickshaw and reach home. Switch on my laptop, and start typing these words. I am not sleep deprived, nor starved. But I feel delirious. Nothing makes much sense. Everything seems unreal. It’s as if I’m stoned. Well, I am. A movie has just turned me crazy.
David Lynch does this often. But there is always a sense of unbelievability in his films. His cinema keeps reminding you of its unreality. You feel shaken, cerebrally charged to solve the puzzle the film has been, dazed and confused, but you are never as affected as a truly emotional, heart-wrenching film can be. Even among Lynch’s films the most affecting is 'The Elephant Man', which is of a different league than his other surreal classics, which I have loved, but which have failed to make me feel the way I do right now.
The first half of 'Shutter Island' is classic Hitchcockian. It is in the second half that things actually start turning insane. Real and unreal don’t make much sense any more and you are left solving a puzzle that perhaps never existed. Perhaps, because you can never be sure. The film ends with a shot of an imposing lighthouse – that guides you to nowhere. But in spite of an open end, and all its abstractions, 'Shutter Island' is more intuitive than cerebral; it plays more with the sub-conscious than with the conscious mind. You feel exhausted – because you have internalized the conflict of the film. The director has done what Hitchcock did – played psychological games with your mind. He has used the illusion of cinema without making it obvious, unlike Lynch. And then he has delivered the master stroke by maintaining the ambiguity. You can always expect a master like Martin Scorsese to do something like this.
Want a high? Go for Shutter Island. There is a lot that we can talk about later. For me, this film has just begun.