Director Martin Scorsese’s films have never used music as mere background noise. His attention to detail, especially when delving into a period piece, does not distinguish between the audible and the visual, a characteristic applied with great care on the two-disc soundtrack to 2010’s Shutter Island. Produced by longtime collaborator Robbie Robertson, the tale of two U.S. Marshals sent to a remote Massachusetts island to investigate a murder is lent enormous weight by a score cobbled from the dismal atmospherics (the majority of the film takes place in a hospital for the criminally insane) of modern classical heavyweights like John Cage, Ingram Marshall, Max Richter, John Adams, and Brian Eno. Peppered between the long slabs of ominous avant-garde minimalist chamber music are fleeting rays of light from period radio crooners Kay Starr, Lonnie Johnson, and Johnnie Ray, resulting in a harrowing listening experience in its own right, and one that further cements the filmmaker’s reputation as one of American cinema’s most original voices.
by James Christopher Monger