42 – Take Shelter (2011)

  Sleep well in your beds. ‘Cause if this thing comes true, there ain’t gonna be any more.

Take Shelter may be deemed an unusual choice, as it does not fully sit with the rest of the films on this list, it does not deal with the aftermath of an apocalyptic event, however in this year when we have the impending doom of the mayan calendar running out on december 21st I believe it is right to include this film, my blog , my rules, bend them as I want.

A film for troubled times, Take Shelter taps into current anxieties about economic meltdown and climate change disaster with its scarily apt depiction of a man driven to the edge by apocalyptic fears.

Take Shelter is written and directed by Jeff Nichols,  a film in which Curtis, played brilliantly by Michael Shannon, A crew chief for a sand-mining company, he is on the lower rungs of the middle-class – but the tiniest slip could plunge him and his loved ones into poverty. In his shoes, who wouldn’t be uneasy? But Curtis’s concerns are even more acute: by night and by day, he is assailed by a gathering storm of nightmares and hallucinations. Convinced that a huge tornado is about to strike his small Ohio town, he throws all his energy and all his money into enlarging the storm shelter in his back yard – perversely driven to complete the project despite the strains it inflicts on his marriage and on his family’s financial security. Is he mad or prescient? Has he inherited his mother’s schizophrenia or is he somehow genuinely attuned to an impending cataclysm? Or both?

Curtis’ dreams are unpleasant to say the least, but I’m not going to go into detail about them because the movie does such a good job of intertwining the dreams with reality, it’s almost like a toned down version of Inception. Curtis’ fear is made understandable and real by Shannon’s performance. The audience knows why he doesn’t want to tell anyone what’s going on with his dreams but at the same time the audience is wishing he would tell at least some people.

The interesting difference between this film and others of it’s type (that is movies that involve someone going crazy) is that the character isn’t convinced that he’s completely right. Curtis’ doubts about his sanity due to his past experiences is something that I feel is rarely seen in a film like this. What’s delivered from this is a feeling of doubt for the audience. Many people who don’t know about this film before watching it will think they have everything figured out early, but I believe that people will be surprised at the way things turn out in this film.

Jeff Nichols dispenses without a lot of our apocalyptic movie motifs, there is no use of television or radio to tell us of any impending doom, all we have is his friends and family who instead warn him of channeling all his money into the shelter is wrong especially in todays financial climate. This adds to the claustrophobia of the film itself, we are there with Curtis, unsure if this is prophecies or schizophrenia. This film is definitely a film of its time, not only dealing with our current financial meltdown, but also climate change and what impacts it could have on us.

There is a lot of discussion online surrounding the ending of the film, as I have said before I will include spoilers so stop now if you don’t wish to see any thoughts on the ending


The ending is very ambiguous, not only do we not know if this is finally the storm hitting, but because the dreams have been so entwined with reality in the movie, I am still not convinced that we have not just witnessed one of Curtis’ apocalyptic dreams again. The actual apocalypse represented in the film is ambiguous throughout, we have seen visions of tornadoes, a tsunami, and yellow rain that turns people into killer zombies,the storm at the end could just represent Cutis’ schizophrenia. The meeting with the psychiatrist at the end is his worst fear come true, being told that he’ll likely lose his family and have to go into treatment. I think the final scene on the beach could be a symbolic representation of this, the three of them are now all aware of the reality of his schizophrenia and what it will mean for their lives, and the thing that he had feared all along is now real for all of them. The storm can be read a number of ways throughout the film, financial doom, climate change, or schizophrenia.This for me was the perfect ending to the film, a typical hollywood ending would have had Curtis right all along and he save his family, but we are left to doubt everything.

*************END OF SPOILER************

Take Shelter is a very interesting film, and I would highly recommend it in this apocalyptic year, when we are all unsure of the ending and how it will come.


One Response to “42 – Take Shelter (2011)”

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