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About The Weather
Weather is central to the atmosphere of many a Gothic horror thriller, but in Shutter Island it becomes not only an expression of the film's psychological volatility, but another unpredictable and dangerous character, turning on a dime from a silvery haze to a killer Class 5 hurricane pelting the island with ferocious rain and wind. The task of forging subtle, moment-by-moment changes in the weather fell to special effects coordinator R. Bruce Steinheimer, who helped weave together such elements as bone-soaking, sideways rain and gale-force gusts that uproot trees. Steinheimer previously collaborated with Scorsese on Gangs of New York and The Aviator, so he dove into the task knowing there would be a demand for absolute authenticity. He and special effects supervisor Rick Thompson searched for technical solutions to producing a palpable sense of natural forces at work.

"For the rain, we ended up using four overhead rain-bars, two of which were 100 feet long and held up by huge cranes, to produce rain that covered an area measuring 140 by 60 feet,” explains Thompson. "We also used what we call Spiders, square rain-bars that put down rain in a pattern of 80 by 80 feet, but the real challenge was that, since Marty's camera positions and his camera moves are so inventive, we had to be equally creative in positioning the rain-bars and the cranes.”

To feed the rain-bars, Steinheimer and Thompson used water trucks with a 40,000-gallon capacity and high-pressure pumps. In addition, several large fire hoses, producing 60 to 80 pounds of water pressure, were used to bring the rain and mist to a fever pitch late in the film, but it wasn't rain alone that made the hurricane. There also had to be the sense of powerful bursts of wind throughout many of the film's most suspenseful sequences. "For that, we had four gasoline-powered fans capable of creating breezes up to 80 miles per hour,” Thompson recalls. "For scenes in which dialogue was important we alternately used electrically powered fans that were quieter and produced winds of 75 miles per hour. We also attached tubing around the fans so we could produce sideway drafts, sending out sheets of rain in a horizontal pattern. We not only drenched the actors but most of the crew members as well.”

Cast and crew became inured to drying off only to get drenched all over again. They also were ready to jump into action when the real weather suddenly cooperated with the filmmakers' ironic hope for inclement days. "We worked inside when it was sunny and outside when it was cloudy,” remarks Fischer. Recalls DiCaprio: "If there wasn't a crane dropping water on you then it was guys with fire hoses or a giant fan blowing air into your face.

But the result was that it ended up feeling very real to us. It added to the sense that these characters are confined to this island, that there's really no way out, and to the increasingly emotional impact to which the story builds.”


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