There are so many hidden clues in Shutter Island you probably didn’t notice, so when you now go to re-watch it, prepare for your mind to be blown.
Shutter Island, directed by Martin Scorsese and starring Leonardo DiCaprio, already feels like a mind boggle. It leaves you questioning your whole life’s existence and in a state of gobsmacked silence straight after the closing credits.
However, 10 years since its release, the internet has revealed the full extent of it’s sorcery, by unveiling all of the hidden clues you probably barely even noticed along the way.
The clues all make more sense a second time round, so you’ll definitely want to go and re-watch the film and tick them all off as you go. Look no further if you haven’t seen it, as with the identification of clues comes massive spoilers.
From nervous guards to Teddy’s dreaming, there are many small clues that foreshadow the ending of the film and make it less of a complete and utter shock.
The internet has pointed out that Deputy US Marshal Edward ‘Teddy’ Daniels, played by Leonardo DiCaprio, has looser fitting detective clothes on, which could suggest that he has recently lost weight, perhaps from being on the Island. Moreover, Teddy hasn’t exactly packed for a trip away, his lack of luggage suggesting he is not really on a trip away at all, but maybe returning home.
Towards the start of the film, the guards give Teddy and his partner Chuck icy stares. This would at first appear to suggest they simply don’t like Teddy and Chuck due to their status as Marshals, and that they don’t want the pair poking their nose into whatever dodgy business they have going on at Ashecliffe Hospital.
However, the guards are not nervous because they are concealing anything, but because they are wary of Teddy, due to his status as a patient at the hospital. The deputy warden even acknowledges the guard’s nervousness but fails to give an explanation as to what has caused their anxiety.
Teddy Never Lights His Own Cigarette
More proof that Teddy is actually a patient of the island himself, is how he never lights his own cigarette. Patients of mental institutions are not allowed to have their own matches or lighters and subsequently Teddy has to rely on his partner when he fancies a smoke.
The Lazy Search Party
Teddy has come to the island in search of a missing patient named Rachel Solando. However, Solando turns out to not be a real person, but a figure Teddy made up to go along with his US Marshal character.
The guards play along with the search due to the set-up being a role-play experiment for Teddy as a patient, but their search party for Solando is a pretty lazy attempt. If you look closely into the shots at what the guards are doing, they are pretty much standing around and doing nothing. On one hand, it could be because the guards do not care about the missing patient, but the more likely explanation is because they simply know she does not exist.
The Interviewees in the ‘Investigation’
Many of the clues are over before you know it. Such as the awkwardness of all the staff and patients when Teddy and Chuck interview them. When Teddy brings up Dr. Sheehan, the interviewees become awkward, some even agitated, and they try to avoid Teddy’s gaze; this is because they know something Teddy does not – his partner Chuck is the real Dr. Sheehan.
The ending reveals that ‘Chuck’ is actually Teddy’s doctor, Dr. Sheehan. Sheehan tells Teddy they have been enacting a role play in which he has pretended to be ‘Chuck’ so to keep a close watch on him.
When Teddy and Chuck first arrive on the island, they have to give up their firearms before being allowed into the hospital. While Teddy smoothly relinquishes his, Chuck fumbles with his own, which is noticed by everyone including Teddy. Chuck’s position as a doctor, rather than an officer, would mean he is unfamiliar with handling guns, which explains his lack of smoothness when handing it in.
At different points throughout the film, the audience are given flashes into Teddy’s nightmares, which rotate around Teddy’s dead wife, Dolores. While many of Teddy’s dreams support his story that Dolores died in an apartment fire, started by a pyromaniac called Andrew Laeddis, one of his earlier dreams sheds light on what really occurred.
It shows Teddy embracing Dolores before her abdomen begins to bleed and then gush blood. This depiction of her death aligns more closely with the true event. Where Teddy, aka Andrew Laeddis, shot his wife after finding her by the lake having drowned their children. The shot of blood mixing with water foreshadows the big reveal later in the film.
The Rule of Four
In his search for missing patient Rachel Solando, Teddy only has one clue to go on, a message reading, ‘The Rule of Four. Who is 67?’
While Teddy is unable to figure out the cryptic note, one of the hospital doctors comments on the clue as if amused, ‘The Rule of Four. I love that.’
The comment seems off-hand at first, however it reveals that all of the staff are aware of the role-play occurring before them. ‘The Rule of Four’ refers to the anagrams used in the experiment – Edward Daniels is an anagram of Andrew Laeddis and Rachel Solando is an anagram of Dolores Chanal.
The Patient Document for Andrew Laeddis
Until the very end of the film, Teddy genuinely believes he is Deputy US Marshal Edward ‘Teddy’ Daniels, as opposed to patient Andrew Laeddis, thinking instead that Andrew Laeddis is a different patient at the hospital. While, unsurprisingly, Teddy cannot find Laeddis, Chuck claims to find Laeddis’s hospital documentation, which would prove his existence at the hospital.
Despite this revelation, Teddy does not want to look at the documentation. This would suggest that, on a subconscious level, Teddy knows the documents are his. Subsequently, viewing the documents would shatter the fantasy, in which he plays the role of a Marshal.
Dr Naerhing’s Observations of ‘Teddy’
Dr Naerhing foresight of Teddy having ‘outstanding defence mechanisms’, being a man of violence and having issues with alcohol, all suggest Dr Naerhing has met Teddy before and even knows him well. This correlates with Teddy being patient Andrew Laeddis and having received therapy sessions from Dr Naerhing.
The Drive with the Warden
At the end of the film, Teddy bumps into the Warden and is driven back to the hospital. The Warden, a suspicious and stern figure, discusses the nature of violence. He states his opinion that nothing is more natural to a man than violence.
This conversation, if read further into, is the closest comment made towards Teddy that hints at his true status as a patient. The Warden insinuates that he knows Teddy is extremely violent and voices his doubts surrounding the roleplaying experiment.
Other clues the internet has been quick to point out are ones such as Teddy’s fear of water while on the ferry, the guards waiting on the edge of the cliff, as if actors on standby, for when the ferry docks.
Rachel’s psychosis story also mirrors Andrew’s, and there are men’s shoes in Rachel’s closet, which suggests that Teddy, aka Andrew, is actually the patient in that room. Also, Dr. Sheehan being allowed to leave on holiday despite there being a patient ‘missing’ confirms there is no patient missing at all.
If your mind, like mine, still can’t quite process all of these clues, then clear your schedule for the night so you can spend an evening re-watching Shutter Island; to pause and play it and step into Teddy’s shoes, to try to figure out what the hell is actually going on.
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