This week I saw two highly interesting movies and unbeknownst to me, these movies revolved around a topic seldom ever discussed - mental health. One was a Martin Scorsese beauty called Shutter Island and the other was a Steven Soderbergh wonder called the Informant. And each had a characteristic trademark of the respective directors.
Shutter Island is a story about 2 Federal Marshals sent to Shutter Island, which houses a high security facility for the criminally insane. There are 3 buildings there, Ward A for men, Ward B for women and Ward C for the most dangerous lot. The 2 marshals are called in to find an escaped convict sorry patient, for that is what the shady shrink played by Ben Kingsley repeatedly corrects the marshals for. Leo Di Caprio plays one marshal and Mark Ruffalo, the other. Several vivid images are intertwined here and that adds to the edge-of-the-seat cinematic brilliance.
For instance, Leo keeps getting flashes of his past life in a Nazi camp, where he was one of the soldiers who ruthlessly killed several German guards. And then there is the track of his wife who he claims was killed in a fire that gutted her apartment. So one track has Leo wanting to come to Shutter Island, since the pyromaniac apartment supervisor who set the fire in the apartment was there. Leo keeps seeing his dead wife who tells him what to do, adding to his confusion. Almost as in 'The Departed', there is this constant undercurrent of suspicion, since one day, the missing convict resurfaces. And how she escaped an electric fence, and sharp rocks without a shoe is a mystery. Her crime, of having drowned her kids is a mystery as well, since she maintains she didn't do it and her kids are in school. So everything is a mystery.
And then there is a lighthouse, where nefarious acts are said to be taking place. What exactly are those acts? What massive cover up is being staged? Why does Ben Kingsley act strange? Why is the escaped convict's psychiatrist on holiday a day after she mysteriously escapes? And then on one such search, Leo's partner goes missing. Where did he go? Who is the unknown woman in a cave? It really gets interesting and the end is intense, and in typical Scorsese style - it is a surprise twist.
As for The Informant, its based on a true story, with Matt Damon playing the central anti-hero in a completely believable man-next-door demeanor. He plays an insider who turns whistleblower in exposing one of corporate America's frauds in relation to price fixing. he cohorts with the FBI in exposing these crimes and also tapes conversations, endangering his career. All hell though breaks loose, when he begins to be investigated as well, for embezzlement and he comes up with a labyrinth of lies beginning from his alleged adoption! The story has everything from fraud to lies to embezzlement to bipolar disorder all shot in typical Soderbergh style with an unrelated jazz track in the background!
The fact that we have so many movies on mental health, ranging from topics around schizophrenia, insanity and depression, I guess goes on to show the trends of our times. Mental health issues are a reality. And the mind is more mysterious, since hardly anyone has been able to unlock everything about it. Celebrity suicides, bipolar disorder, numerous cases of people killing their kin and committing suicide - the list is endless. The lack of awareness makes one look down upon the mentally unstable, and not give them the help and aid they need. When in reality, diseases of the mind are just like any other ailment, only perhaps more complex. And movies like these, are certainly a step in the right direction, since if not anything else, we know about the existence of such issues!