Interview: Laeta Kalogridis Talks Shutter Island — "The book is a very complicated emotional rollercoaster, and I wanted to try to convey that as much as possible "
Wed, 17 Feb 2010 07:51:57
Martin Scorsese Videos
In order to keep up with Martin Scorsese and Dennis Lehane as a writer, you've got have a pen that's dipped in blood…
Shutter Island screenwriter and executive producer Laeta Kalogridis definitely didn't shy away from the darkest aspects of Lehane's original text in her script for the film. In fact, she's the architect of the perfect Lehane adaptation—maintaining the original work's most unsettling moments, while heightening the unease at all the right times. She keeps Lehane's original vision in tact, but manages to bring it to life visually in a vibrant and visceral fashion. It's easily the best film of the past year and a new masterpiece for Scorsese. Kalogridis shows sympathy for Shutter protagonist Teddy Daniels, while flawlessly building a true vision of hell around him with her vision of the eponymous island. And, oh yes, there is blood…
Laeta Kalogridis sat down with ARTISTdirect.com editor and Dolor author Rick Florino to talk about bringing Shutter Island to the big screen, Greek furies attacking, working with Martin Scorsese and one "bloody" good sequence that sticks with her.
How do you feel like you extracted the darkness from the original text and translated it into a visual story?
Well, I think the obvious thing to say is that Marty, Bob and the actors are far more responsible for making it a visual story than I am [Laughs]. Although, in terms of the narrative—the architectural plans for a movie that the script is—a lot of it was honestly about trying to recreate the emotional ride that I got from the reading the book. It was less about how can this be an exact recreation of the text and more about how can it be an exact as possible recreation of the emotion of reading the text? That book is a very complicated emotional rollercoaster, and I wanted to try to convey that as much as possible.
You tap into the feelings inherent in the book more than the actual events.
That's the intent. In a perfect world, I think that's what you want to try to do.
That comes through in the film's dream sequences. How did you interpret those?
Well, there are a lot of dreams and a lot of nightmares in the book—obviously far more than you could possibly ever put into a movie [Laughs]. It became a question of taking common elements from Teddy's past and then re-interpreting them through the lens of his subconscious. I'm using the bones of the dreams that Dennis had put in the book. I was asking, "Where did the dreams occur? What were the biggest moments in them that I really loved and how could I interpolate that with a more scaled-down and direct version of Teddy's dilemma?" The book is much longer. A lot more is going on. It takes place over more days. If one can imagine, there's more back story. There are many more flashbacks. I needed to combine elements of Teddy's most traumatic memories, which is one of the reasons there's a conflation between Dachau and Teddy's wife Dolores. There's also a conflation between Dolores's prodding Teddy about Andrew Laeddis and why he's there. It's much more direct than what's in the book. Honestly, a lot of it was, how do you get across that sense of disorientation? Teddy's so disoriented. As the story progresses, he's becoming more and more unmoored. You want his subconscious to be talking to him. You want his past to be haunting him more and more. A lot of it was deciding what the images and characters are that best fit into that dynamic.
The element of psychological horror becomes very tangible because Teddy's constantly grappling with the past and these dreams. He creates this supernatural element that heightens the terror.
Yes, it is like he's walking around with ghosts of his own making, and they won't let him go.
Everyone does that to a degree.
Greek people especially believe very strongly, on some kind of genetic level, that the furies haunt you in life. When certain things are bad enough, there's a curse to some lives. For me, Teddy embodies that sense of inescapable fate. The Greek myths are about furies that pursue you who can't get away from. I think they hound men to madness, and they feel appropriate in this context.
Your exploration of insanity, especially during the interview sequences, is very poignant. The people on Shutter Island aren't very different from the rest of the world, and that makes the movie so unsettling and unnerving.
That, to me, is a huge part of what I want people to take away from the film. I want the audience to have a real sense of empathy for people that we normally think of as being so different from us and so "other" that we don't even regard them as rational. They aren't that different and they aren't that "other."
Shutter Island feels like a classic Dario Argento film because of that.
Thank you! For me, the second time viewing the film is more fun because you can sink into the experience in a different way.
There are so many nuances to the film. You handled the integration of the WWII flashbacks much differently than the book.
Yes, although I think the emotion that Teddy felt was what I was after. I'm hoping that it feels the same as the emotion that he felt about what happened. In the book, he's straight-up PTSD guy. What happened in Dachau completely informed his ability or inability to function in "normal" society. The Dachau massacre was real. The goal was to get the intensity of it across and the life-changing aspect of it. Even though he did what most people would consider to be the right thing—there was no right thing that you could really do in that scenario.
Well, as a writer you really connect the emotional thread from start to finish.
I think if that doesn't work, the rest of it doesn't work. It doesn't matter how many clever narrative tricks you can employ to make a plot hold together, if you're not really in there emotionally with the lead character. It doesn't make any difference. Then it becomes very pretty and intricate. It's nice to look at in an emotionalist way, but you're not really drawn in. The brooding sense of the book was fascinating and sense of something inside you and outside you that's going to erupt or explode. Somehow, I think the complexity of classical music captured that for me.
Did you have a favorite moment in the film?
The whole thing is such an incredibly satisfying experience for me on every level, it's hard to pick one moment. When Rachel Solando is standing there in one of Teddy's dreams covered in blood, I really liked that [Laughs].
Check out Rick Florino's new novel Dolor available now for FREE here…