Spoiler Alert – please stop reading now if you don’t want to know Shutter Island’s plot.
Great film, Shutter Island. Highly entertaining. Even worth seeing twice in that looks-really-different-with-hindsight way. But. One thing made me want to scream and it wasn’t the painty-red blood on the actresses or the shot-up nazi lying on the floor at Dachau.
It was the anagrams. I so wish Scorsese had said to the writer “Can we find some way round using the anagrams?” The moment that phoney name ‘Laeddis’ came up I started to cringe. Ever heard the surname Laeddis? It just doesn’t say ‘genuine surname’. It says red flag: viewer-you’ll-never-guess-it’s-an-anagram. But actually you do. The reason you do is because the anagram as a device on film and in literature is spattered around as casually as gunfire in a Tarantino movie. And it’s just about the most embarrassing, corny fictional device there is. Personally when I see a anagram taking shape in a book, especially a name anagram, I drop it as if there’s a black widow spider on the page. If an anagram waves at the audience in a cinema I want to hide under the seat.
And it kind of spoilt the film because – bing – once you spot the anagram you kind of know Di Caprio’s character, Teddy (Edward) Daniels, is Laeddis. And it was the same with wife Dolores. The first time Di Caprio/Daniels calls her name, it jars. OK, she probably would have been born around 1920 or ’25 and girls were called Dolores, but it just didn’t sound right. And nor did Solando, surname of the fictional Rachel.
Edward Daniels = Andrew Laeddis & Rachel Solando = Dolores Chanal. Yawn. You don’t say??
It’s hard to understand why writers still think the anagram is clever. The first time you uncover one as a child, in a book it’s fun. “Oh – I get it. N.B. Adam = bad man. Wow!”
But you’re seven.
The novelty quickly wears off. And yet….the anagram has more followers in the film and book creation industries than Mel Gibson had in Braveheart.
Some of the cringiest are in:
The Da Vinci Code: Mona Lisa is made into an anagram for “Amon L’Isa” teased to represent gods in ancient Egypt, Amun and Isis. A few other anagrams too tedious to mention pop up in the Da Vinci Code too.
The Silence Of The Lambs. Hannibal Lecter’s greatest crime was using anagrams. Concealing a victim’s head in a garage he filed it under ‘Miss Hester Mofet’. FBI Agent Starling cleverly figured out it was a dastardly and cunning clue, i.e. an anagram of something or other. I forget.
The Doomsday Affair. I loved the Man from U.N.CL.E. with a passion when I was a kid. What? – Illya Kuryakin – are you kidding? Had there even been such a handsome guy? But even youngsters immediately spotted the mysterious villain in The Doomsday Affair who dealt death all around. How? He was called…Tixe Ylno.
Some Harry Potter book or other. Tom Marvolo Riddle. I am Lord Voldemort.
Yes, you would be wouldn’t you?
Even the series House which you might think would have the sense to stay away from anagram kitsch surrenders hopelessly to it. In one episode Dr. House can’t help pointing out that his name, Gregory House, is an anagram for “Huge ego, sorry.”
The only intelligent anagram there has ever – ever – been in literature, on film, or in a cartoon is Bart ‘brat’ Simpson.
But even there, I wish Matt Groening hadn’t told us.