We watched Shutter Island last night. A fan of both Scorcese and DiCaprio, I was looking forward to seeing this film. There were warning signs that I might be disappointed-- not only did it receive lukewarm reviews and earn a lackluster box office, but the producers postponed its release from Oscar contention time to late February. Still, I was hopeful.
Sadly, I found the movie to be a foggy, gray mess. A main character is agitated by confusing experiences-- this main theme of the relationship between identity, reality, and perception has been more handily addressed in many movies, for example The Sixth Sense, Blade Runner, and The Matrix.
Tonight we had dinner with a close family member who has Alzheimer's Disease. His grasp on the present becomes more and more tenuous each time we meet. At 86, he is well cared for and generally happy, although he is confused and agitated sometimes. It's hard to know how to react: should we be bothered by how he jumbles the past and present, upset at how he asks the same things over and over again, disturbed that he forgets what has recently occurred? Or should we simply try to make him as comfortable with his perceptions as possible?
In those movies, it is the revelation and subsequent understanding of the discrepancy between reality and their own perception that is devastating to the people caught in that situation. In both Shutter Island and The Matrix, characters make the choice to remain delusional rather than to face the bleakness of their "real" lives.
Maybe reality is a little over-rated. Even the most functional of us spend time in our own little worlds, and as long as we can avoid cognitive dissonance, what's the harm in it? Who's to say that it is an illusion at all?