Shutter Island- Politics and Mental Instability

Upon recently re-watching Shutter Island, I found myself shocked that I had completely forgotten this scene existed. In this, Teddy is introduced to Dr. Naehring by Dr. Cawley. The two passive aggressively snipe at each other until Teddy blows up at Naehring’s refusal to share files. The most interesting part about this is the intercuts between their exchange of words and Teddy’s flashbacks to Nazi Germany. I found this particularly interesting. It was fascinating for me to see that here we have another example of politics and powers tying into mental instability under this lens of “good guy, bad guy”. Andrew’s illness allows him to become Teddy, who perceives the psychologists as powerful men with a sinister secret. At this point in the film he is the innocent protagonist and we see a shot of him kicking a gun out of a Nazi officer’s hand and letting him die. This political connection directs the audience towards aligning their sympathies with Teddy in the scene. Likewise in The Manchurian Candidate, mental illness or mind control is associated with “good” and “bad” political factions as well. Every time Raymond is under hypnosis, he is a pawn for the sadistic Communists and is therefore “on their team” for the duration of his trance. We can also look at the similarities of Raymond being recognized as a decorated war hero while Teddy is a US martial. In the end, it is Raymond’s power hungry mother who is the villain and Teddy is actually a mentally unstable murderer who was given a final chance by his psychologists. Both are defeated by themselves. Andrew, unable to live with his guilt, gives himself up to be lobotomized and Raymond turns his rifle upon himself after sniping his mother and Senator Iselin.

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