Film-Philosophy 23 (3):351-371 (2019)

This article examines questions of trust in cinema through the lens of Shutter Island. With its self-referential allusion to the mechanical “eye” of a camera, a stage-managed fantasy embedded within its plot and image of a dark lighthouse, Shutter Island explores its spectators' and its own cinematic sense of suspicion. The plot revolves around a protagonist who has locked himself out of certain memories and into a fantasy world. The article links pathological and therapeutic aspects of trust with interpersonal and institutional trust issues in ways that blur distinctions between trusting others and trusting oneself, and shows how reliant each is on the other. Construing trust as a type of participant attitude and highlighting techniques used to render it cinematically, the article tracks its emergence and erosion, both in terms of the diegesis and its bearing on film spectatorship. As a post-classical commentary on film-making, Shutter Island is viewed as intricately exemplifying what Robert Sinnerbrink describes as an action-driven film with “a highly reflective consciousness of cinematic spectatorship”, as well as what Thomas Elsaesser describes as a “mind-game film”. To make sense of its ending, which may strike viewers as baffling and unnerving, and show how the protagonist's seemingly irrational decision is part of its film-philosophical point, traumatic disturbances in subjectivity and “monstrosities” depicted in the film are linked to Jean Epstein's notion of “something monstrous” in cinematic imagery. The protagonist's deliberately chosen fate is interpreted as a reparative gesture, expressing a desire for psychological healing and a way of helping him to marshal and recover a semblance of moral order and integrity under demoralizing circumstances.
Keywords No keywords specified (fix it)
Categories (categorize this paper)
DOI 10.3366/film.2019.0120
Edit this record
Mark as duplicate
Export citation
Find it on Scholar
Request removal from index
Revision history

Download options

PhilArchive copy

Upload a copy of this paper     Check publisher's policy     Papers currently archived: 70,079
Through your library

References found in this work BETA

Trust and Antitrust.Annette Baier - 1986 - Ethics 96 (2):231-260.
Trust as an Affective Attitude.Karen Jones - 1996 - Ethics 107 (1):4-25.
Deciding to Trust, Coming to Believe.Richard Holton - 1994 - Australasian Journal of Philosophy 72 (1):63 – 76.
Cinema 1: The Movement Image.Gilles Deleuze, Hugh Tomlinson & Barbara Habberjam - 1988 - Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism 46 (3):436-437.
Moral Prejudices: Essays on Ethics.Amélie Oksenberg Rorty - 1995 - Philosophical Review 104 (4):608.

View all 7 references / Add more references

Citations of this work BETA

No citations found.

Add more citations

Similar books and articles

Gottvertrauen.Bernd Lahno - 2003 - Analyse & Kritik 25 (1):1-16.
Dilemmas of Trust.Trudy Govier - 1998 - Carleton University Press.
The Attitude of Trust is Basic.Paul Faulkner - 2015 - Analysis 75 (3):424-429.
Institutional Trust: A Less Demanding Form of Trust?Bernd Lahno - 2001 - Revista Latinoamericana de Estudios Avanzados 15:19-58.
On the Emotional Character of Trust.Bernd Lahno - 2001 - Ethical Theory and Moral Practice 4 (2):171-189.
Manifesting Trust.Matthew Harding - 2009 - Oxford Journal of Legal Studies 29 (2):245-265.
Filmbetrachtung: Shutter Island.Norbert Mink - 2011 - Internationale Zeitschrift Für Philosophie Und Psychosomatik 1.
Trust Within Limits.Jason D’Cruz - 2018 - International Journal of Philosophical Studies 26 (2):240-250.
Trust It!D. Z. Phillips - 1999 - Bijdragen 60 (4):380-392.
Trust and Fiduciary Law.Matthew Harding - 2013 - Oxford Journal of Legal Studies 33 (1):81-102.


Added to PP index

Total views
11 ( #852,053 of 2,506,014 )

Recent downloads (6 months)
1 ( #416,828 of 2,506,014 )

How can I increase my downloads?


My notes