Sunday, January 16, 2011

The Silent Hill Movie that never was - Shutter Island

Personally I think Shutter Island was DiCaprio's best movie last year. Better than Inception. (And it should go without saying but there are spoilers to the ending of both Shutter Island and Silent Hill 2 in here!)

Shutter Island is a classical psychological horror movie that is simply a pleasure to watch. Starting out in line with a tradition from the crime and mystery genre - an investigation taking place in an isolated sphere, thus limiting the possibilites and culprits - it quickly becomes clear that this will be no ordinary criminal investigation.

DiCaprio's character, U.S. marshal Teddy Daniels, is asked to investigate the disappearance of a female patient from a mental hospital located on an island. As the investigation continues he is faced with unhelpful hospital staff and a resurgence of his own war trauma. We, as viewers, first start to be suspicious of everyone on the island, then of the marshal himself.

The thing that pleased me the most in the movie were parallels that I could see between the plot and also the visual design of Shutter Island and Silent Hill 2. Some passages are very similar in overall style and development.

We start by entering a foggy and cold world. A mysterious and vaguely dangerous place. But Shutter Island continues to have its world inhabitated by people. Even if they are unhelpful or downright hostile there is no direct sense of isolation. In Silent Hill 2 you spend most of your time alone, only sometimes coming across a handful of people that are wandering the town as well, but never meeting more than one person at a time.

Then the imagery of movie and videogame crisscrosses again when we enter the prison world. Both Shutter Island and Silent Hill 2 contain a prison sphere, which signifies physically by the descent into the hidden and deep and visually with the darkness and ugliness, the travel of the protagonists into the abyss of their own souls and coming face to face with their own monstrosity down there. But yet, they are unable to believe and it is only during the final moments of the movie or videogame that they are able to face their past.

Two different interpreations of the end of Shutter Island - Daniels choosing to revert back into his delusions because he can not cope with his past and Daniels pretending to revert back into his delusions because he hopes to find oblivion in the impending lobotomy - correspond to two different endings to the videogame: James leaving the town together with the manifestation of his own delusion, Maria, her cough at the end signifying that there can be no happy ending; and James deciding to commit suicide because he can not live with what he has done.

I don't think there ever will be a good movie adaption of Silent Hill 2. But I don't belong to the people who claim videogames like this are unfilmable. Shutter Island shows us what could have been a perfect movie quite like Silent Hill 2. It is not impossible to do it. People just need to realise the essence of it. Silent Hill 2 draws on a number of works by David Lynch, among them Blue Velvet and Twin Peaks and these came from the medium film to begin with. So creating a movie that is true to the essence of Silent Hill 2 should not be impossible at all.

On the other hand, when people think of (survival horror) videogame movies, they think of Resident Evil and Uwe Boll and Silent Hill 2 couldn't be further from those sorts. So for the time being I am completely content with pretending that Shutter Island was in fact Silent Hill 2 The Movie.

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