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Take Shelter (2011)

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Your thoughts about the ending echo my own, John.

It's not the grimness of the ending that troubles me as much as I find it too easy. There were many exciting directions that this story could have gone, but the film chooses one of the less-interesting roads and goes for a finale that's fashionably nihilistic rather than genuinely thought-provoking and challenging.

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Wow, I really, really disagree.

I had this conversation a while back on Facebook.

While I agree that the conclusion doesn't feel as powerfully executed as the earlier rush of the storm shelter scene, I think this conclusion is necessary.

The movie is about, in many ways, Curtis's common overdeveloped sense of masculine responsibility, and his common male aversion to cooperation. He sees visions that may be prophecies worth heeding, but he wants to take his family's salvation into his own hands... wreaking havoc on trust, on family harmony, on honesty, on transparency. His reaction to the visions throughout the movie create a storm... a storm of fear and collapsing relationships.

But in the end,

his visions prove to have been prophetic after all. What has changed? His family can see it coming, so this is it. This is the one. But what else has changed? Instead of taking control, he turns to them quietly to confirm that they see what he sees. And they go - together - toward shelter. He has come down from his self-appointed throne. He's not insisting on being the controller or the savior. He's been humbled, and now... now they can work together and stand a much better chance of weathering the storm... not just surviving as individuals, but surviving as a family.

At least... that's why I found the conclusion meaningful, if not entirely satisfying in its execution.

I don't find the conclusion nihilistic at all.

The prophet has seen the coming storm. But there's hope in that now he's a humble prophet, one who understands that we need each other in order to have hope, one who isn't starting up storms of his own.

It's the ending I would have written.

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Wow, I really, really disagree.

I had this conversation a while back on Facebook.

While I agree that the conclusion doesn't feel as powerfully executed as the earlier rush of the storm shelter scene, I think this conclusion is necessary.

The movie is about, in many ways, Curtis's common overdeveloped sense of masculine responsibility, and his common male aversion to cooperation. He sees visions that may be prophecies worth heeding, but he wants to take his family's salvation into his own hands... wreaking havoc on trust, on family harmony, on honesty, on transparency. His reaction to the visions throughout the movie create a storm... a storm of fear and collapsing relationships.

But in the end,

his visions prove to have been prophetic after all. What has changed? His family can see it coming, so this is it. This is the one. But what else has changed? Instead of taking control, he turns to them quietly to confirm that they see what he sees. And they go - together - toward shelter. He has come down from his self-appointed throne. He's not insisting on being the controller or the savior. He's been humbled, and now... now they can work together and stand a much better chance of weathering the storm... not just surviving as individuals, but surviving as a family.

At least... that's why I found the conclusion meaningful, if not entirely satisfying in its execution.

I don't find the conclusion nihilistic at all.

The prophet has seen the coming storm. But there's hope in that now he's a humble prophet, one who understands that we need each other in order to have hope, one who isn't starting up storms of his own.

It's the ending I would have written.

**YES** I was actually just gearing up to write something similar. ::cheers::

I never took the ending as being nihlistic, but rather that she saw that he was right and now FULLY stood behind him and understood him (she did try to stand behind him at least a bit before). I also never perceived the film as saying that they were done for at the end, but only that they now had a challenge on their hands that they would go through together, and they would be able to do it together because she had stood behind him (at least to a certain degree) even when there was some debate over whether or not he was right. So now working together they quite likely will have what it takes.

Edited by Attica

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The ending of TAKE SHELTER effectively suggests that if there is some kind of power force guiding us, due to its vagueness we cannot really discern whether it is there or just our own madness, and better just buckle-up and wait for the impending, inevitable annihilation to wash over us, an ending that is seemingly without meaning (one article I read rightly called it a Rorschach apocalypse).

TAKE SHELTER is more paranoid than MELANCHOLIA, but it isn't altogether that different. Whatever God is at work in TAKE SHELTER is a Demiurge.

Edited by Ryan H.

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That's Melancholia almost precisely, but I don't think it's Take Shelter...

The difference is that Take Shelter is not making an ontological statement in its final frame. In other words, I don't take the paranoia to be tied to the nature of the way things are...

I do take Justine's depressed melancholy--her functional indifference--to be directly tied to the cosmos.

Melancholia's impending doom expresses meaninglessness; Take Shelter uses impending doom to express something meaningful.

Edited by Nicholas

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Melancholia's impending doom expresses meaninglessness; Take Shelter uses impending doom to express something meaningful.

What meaning does TAKE SHELTER suggest with this vague, undefined, impending doom?

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The ending of TAKE SHELTER effectively suggests that if there is some kind of power force guiding us, due to its vagueness we cannot really discern whether it is there or just our own madness, and better just buckle-up and wait for the impending, inevitable annihilation to wash over us...

Then why conclude with,

"Let's go" ? Where would they be going? Why bother, if it's just about waiting for inevitable annihilation? I think the warnings came so that they could "build an ark" (or a shelter). Now that they are working as a family, they have a chance to not only survive, but survive in love.

How many times have the prophets served this purpose? Jonah warns a city of annihilation. The city actually responds and repents. But Jonah? His story isn't over until he's learned the lesson that you can be right, but you can also be "damned right." Better to be righteous.

I find the ending of TAKE SHELTER to be very hopeful.

Edited by Overstreet

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Then why conclude with, "Let's go" ? Where would they be going? Why bother, if it's just about waiting for inevitable annihilation? I think the warnings came so that they could "build an ark" (or a shelter). Now that they are working as a family, they have a chance to not only survive, but survive in love.

I'd be able to buy that explanation easier if not for the hurdle presented by the story's geography. Curtis and his family are in Myrtle Beach during the finale. The shelter is in Ohio. That shelter isn't going to be of any use to 'em.

How many times have the prophets served this purpose? Jonah warns a city of annihilation. The city actually responds and repents. But Jonah? His story isn't over until he's learned the lesson that you can be right, but you can also be "damned right." Better to be righteous.

Jonah knew from whom his message was coming. He knew that the message was, in fact, a message. He knew what the message meant as far as what he was to do. so much so that he could ignore it. God was not torturing Jonah the way he tortures Curtis here.

Edited by Ryan H.

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Well I agree with Jeffrey's points about the "humbled prophet." When they go underground, the "false" storm is intended to indicate a significant change or movement that has occurred. The film is largely about Chastain's character's devotion to her husband--even when he gives her every reason not to remain committed to him. Jeffrey's comments about the overcooked masculinity prophet seem appropriate as well. Much of the film bears out this emphasis--his drinking and coming home late, his keeping to himself and not being transparent, his taking matters into his own hands--his overall gruffness. Two of the most powerful moments are when he takes the equipment from work and then when his wife finds out that he has lied to her. For me, at least, the film's tension revolves just as much--if not more--around how he relates to his family in the midst of his personal crisis.

On a more personal level, I'm currently working on an essay about a personal sense of impending doom that I've struggled with since becoming a father (I have a one year old son). There is something about this increased responsibility that challenges me with a personal "apocalyptic" sense. Or, put differently, I admit to feeling some mild paranoia in my new role as a father. I also confess that much of my paranoia has subsided since I confided in my wife about some of my late-night worrying. And this last point is essential in the film.

Anyway, my point is that I take the film to be much more about these issues than about the nature of the coming storm itself. To ask what the storm "represents" in the sense of universal purpose/meaning/telos is to miss the point in this case.

And Curtis strikes me as a much more "sane" person after coming from underground. But that could be just me. Admittedly, I'm planning to watch the film again before sending it back to Netflix.

Edited by Nicholas

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Well I agree with Jeffrey's points about the "humbled prophet." When they go underground, the "false" storm is intended to indicate a significant change or movement that has occurred. The film is largely about Chastain's character's devotion to her husband--even when he gives her every reason not to remain committed to him. Jeffrey's comments about the overcooked masculinity prophet seem appropriate as well. Much of the film bears out this emphasis--his drinking and coming home late, his keeping to himself and not being transparent, his taking matters into his own hands--his overall gruffness. Two of the most powerful moments are when he takes the equipment from work and then when his wife finds out that he has lied to her. For me, at least, the film's tension revolves just as much--if not more--around how he relates to his family in the midst of his personal crisis.

On a more personal level, I'm currently working on an essay about a personal sense of impending doom that I've struggled with since becoming a father (I have a one year old son). There is something about this increased responsibility that challenges me with a personal "apocalyptic" sense. Or, put differently, I admit to feeling some mild paranoia in my new role as a father. I also confess that much of my paranoia has subsided since I confided in my wife about some of my late-night worrying. And this last point is essential in the film.

Anyway, my point is that I take the film to be much more about these issues than about the nature of the coming storm itself. To ask what the storm "represents" in the sense of universal purpose/meaning/telos is to miss the point in this case.

The intended emphasis may be on the familial issues, but that just further emphasizes how problematic the finale is. The ending is such that it demands the whole film be examined in the light of the last few moments. You can't have prophetic visions that lead to an apocalypse without those questions coming into play. Since the film isn't designed to support that ending, the ending reduces the film to a muddled mess.

It's a shame, too, since there's a lot to admire in TAKE SHELTER.

Edited by Ryan H.

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How does it muddle things?

Like I said, I've had some mild paranoia since becoming a father, but my confiding in my wife regarding these things does not mean that something bad isn't going to happen...

We all face an impending doom of sorts at some point or another--the film's about how we handle this (particularly as it relates to the familial), and it uses the prophet/apocalypse to explore this issue...

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Obvious Spoilers Ahead:

Edited to add: In fact, you can probably assume, from now on at this point in the thread, that almost every post in this discussion will contain spoilers.

What meaning does TAKE SHELTER suggest with this vague, undefined, impending doom?

Then why conclude with,

"Let's go" ? Where would they be going? Why bother, if it's just about waiting for inevitable annihilation? I think the warnings came so that they could "build an ark" (or a shelter). Now that they are working as a family, they have a chance to not only survive, but survive in love.

How many times have the prophets served this purpose? Jonah warns a city of annihilation. The city actually responds and repents. But Jonah? His story isn't over until he's learned the lesson that you can be right, but you can also be "damned right." Better to be righteous.

I find the ending of TAKE SHELTER to be very hopeful.

It's meaningful precisely because of what turns out to be true and false at the end. Maybe it was because I hadn't read anything before seeing the film, but I spent the first 99% of the film convinced that this was an interesting, well-constructed and well-acted film exploring mental illness. While I acknowledged the truth that a storm was coming as a technical possibility, and Shannon makes you at least consider the possibility for a few seconds in his passionate rant & breakdown at the dinner party, I was convinced, just like his friends and family, that he was mentally ill. The storm that they weather together in the shelter seemed more like an opportunity for him to finally consciously confront his own illness than a lucky coincidence.

When he finally opens that door and they emerge back above ground, it turns out that everyone else in the town weathered (what did turn out to be a moderately damaging storm) just fine without any storm shelters. While all his work and preparation turned out to be a little useful, it also turned out to be practically unnecessary (other than as a means for him to confront his own delusions). By this time, he and wife are both convinced that he is suffering from the same problems that his mother suffered from. His genetic disposition to paranoia has caused all his hallucinations and feelings of disaster that he can't shake off. The hope, at this point, is that, with the help of a very loving wife, he will be able to handle and overcome his own illness in ways that his mother was unable to. If the film had ended right there, it would have still perhaps been one of the best films of the year - a film that sympathetically and realistically portrayed the problems that many people have to confront and explored how these problems are very likely to destroy relationships even in spite of great love and self-sacrifice.

But then, the ending turns all of this on it's head. It was not the ending I expected. Suddenly, the conclusion is that, even if he does have a history of mental illness in his family, and even if he does have a predisposition to it - everything that he was experiencing was for a reason outside of his own mental problems. There were outside forces at work that had warned this man that he had to prepare for the coming storm. The storm that he kept seeing was real. He was prophetic instead of delusional. During his breakdown/rant at that dinner party, he was telling everyone the truth all along - as crazy as it all sounded. The reason he kept seeing things no-one else could see was not because he was mentally ill, instead it was because there were greater things in existence outside of his own self.

To explain how slow I was to realize what was actually happening, at the end, when it becomes evident that his daughter is seeing something, my immediate conclusion was that, "oh no, it's going to end by showing that he has passed down to his daughter the same mental problems that his mother had passed down to him" making the revelation that the storm was actually really arriving all the more surprising. When you read many of the Old Testament prophets, they often give you reason to believe that they were, at times, personally unstable and incredibly prone to doubt the often terrible and horrible things that they had been shown - and that they were supposed to reveal to everyone else. It doesn't sound like Noah was just tasked with building an ark, he was also tasked with preaching and predicting the coming storm to everyone else around him. And doing this would have made him sound, quite frankly, like a loon.

The ending reveals that there were forces at work, all along the whole time, that were greater than Curtis's own personal instability. Whatever higher power was allowing him to see the future was also allowing him to prepare for salvation.

Edited by Persiflage

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Well I agree with Jeffrey's points about the "humbled prophet." When they go underground, the "false" storm is intended to indicate a significant change or movement that has occurred. The film is largely about Chastain's character's devotion to her husband--even when he gives her every reason not to remain committed to him. Jeffrey's comments about the overcooked masculinity prophet seem appropriate as well. Much of the film bears out this emphasis--his drinking and coming home late, his keeping to himself and not being transparent, his taking matters into his own hands--his overall gruffness. Two of the most powerful moments are when he takes the equipment from work and then when his wife finds out that he has lied to her. For me, at least, the film's tension revolves just as much--if not more--around how he relates to his family in the midst of his personal crisis.

On a more personal level, I'm currently working on an essay about a personal sense of impending doom that I've struggled with since becoming a father (I have a one year old son). There is something about this increased responsibility that challenges me with a personal "apocalyptic" sense. Or, put differently, I admit to feeling some mild paranoia in my new role as a father. I also confess that much of my paranoia has subsided since I confided in my wife about some of my late-night worrying. And this last point is essential in the film.

Anyway, my point is that I take the film to be much more about these issues than about the nature of the coming storm itself. To ask what the storm "represents" in the sense of universal purpose/meaning/telos is to miss the point in this case.

The intended emphasis may be on the familial issues, but that just further emphasizes how problematic the finale is. The ending is such that it demands the whole film be examined in the light of the last few moments. You can't have prophetic visions that lead to an apocalypse without those questions coming into play. Since the film isn't designed to support that ending, the ending reduces the film to a muddled mess.

It's a shame, too, since there's a lot to admire in TAKE SHELTER.

Well the film shows that he was given prophetic warnings, that caused him and others some confusion which they eventually rejected, and then found out were true. There is no indication that these prophetic warnings weren't intended to be of benefit from a loving God. Rejecting the warnings was the people's choice, just as it was the people's choice in the Old Testament.

The film also indicates throughout that there is one mother of a storm coming.... but I don't remember any indication that nobody possibly could survive, but instead a warning for him to get ready for it. This isn't like having a huge planet crashing into the earth where everything is completely hopeless. There is hope for them. He feels called to build a Shelter to protect against the storm, but there is no indication that this shelter is the only way that people could possibly survive against the storm. In other words they now have an advantage in that they have been forewarned and have considered the whole matter....... they can now search out a form of shelter from the storm that is sufficient. I think the film leaves that door fully open, and therefore the door that they can (possibly will) survive.

The ending reveals that there were forces at work, all along the whole time, that were greater than Curtis's own personal instability. Whatever higher power was allowing him to see the future was also allowing him to prepare for salvation.

I think so.

Edited by Attica

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How does it muddle things?

Because it pushes the focus on to the existential, what-is-or-isn't-real questions, and to the significance of the prophecies he's been receiving, not to notions of how a family can lovingly respond to impending danger and/or great strife.

Like I said, I've had some mild paranoia since becoming a father, but my confiding in my wife regarding these things does not mean that something bad isn't going to happen...

Of course not. But this doesn't correlate too well with the prophecy/apocalypse question. TAKE SHELTER would have resolved itself more effectively had it suggested that Curtis' visions were really the outgrowth of a kind of paranoia/madness, not grounded in some vague supernatural force informing him of impending an apocalypse, and then concluded with a tragic, devastating event that, while it was in no way related to his visions, nevertheless called on him and the family to act together to save themselves using the bonds they had fashioned together through their experiences.

We all face an impending doom of sorts at some point or another--the film's about how we handle this (particularly as it relates to the familial), and it uses the prophet/apocalypse to explore this issue...

My point is that the notion of a prophet and impending apocalypse makes for a poor vehicle for an exploration of familial issues, at least as it is presented in this film. It raises too many questions that aren't about familial interaction.

Whatever higher power was allowing him to see the future was also allowing him to prepare for salvation.

Only to screw him over in the end.

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Well, no I don't think it does necessarily change the focus. It is still on the family. I found the ending hopeful in the same ways that Jeffrey and Attica did. There was a very clear restorative sense in the end of the film--for me, at least!

Further, you keep treating the ending as if it was Melancholia's ending. All we see is a coming storm--and the family's reaction. This is quite a different ending than Melancholia's.

Edited by Nicholas

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Ryan, I just didn't experience any of the muddling you're describing.

1. There is a storm coming.

2. It may be a storm brought in response to, or brought on by, flaws in human character like those in Curtis.

3. Curtis is warned, but he needs to explore all possibilities in order to be certain that he cannot rationalize away his visions.

4. Curtis is harboring fears and vanity that is afflicting his family. He needs to deal with these things if they are going to have a chance of surviving the Coming Mother of All Storms.

5. Curtis is humbled by Storm 1, and realizes what he must overcome.

6. Curtis is given a strong last chance to rationalize the problem away and to relax.

7. Mother of All Storms comes. The family is ready this time. They'll find shelter, somehow, because they are in tune with one another. While the storm descending on the world is very real, they are no longer going to be swept away by it... nor is Curtis contributing to its fury.For me, all the pieces fit very nicely.

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... the hurdle presented by the story's geography. Curtis and his family are in Myrtle Beach during the finale. The shelter is in Ohio. That shelter isn't going to be of any use to 'em.

The details of where they are geographically are not emphasized by the script. You ask most viewers of the film what beach they are at, and I'd suspect 9 out of 10 won't remember. But regardless, I'd maintain that the importance of the ending is not in answering the question of whether or not they'll be able to find shelter precisely in one single storm shelter in Ohio. I think the important question answered by the ending is that the premonitions that Curtis has are actually really predicting what will be future events unless he takes action against them. There is no reason to think, at the end, that he is going to stop having these premonitions or that he and his wife are now going to discard them as only symptoms of mental illness.

Jonah knew from whom his message was coming. He knew that the message was, in fact, a message. He knew what the message meant as far as what he was to do. so much so that he could ignore it. God was not torturing Jonah the way he tortures Curtis here.

And that is exactly the point at which the film leaves Curtis. He now does know without any more doubt that his premonitions are, in fact, a message. And, therefore, that the message originates from some higher source other than himself (or from any deficiencies of his own brain). Definitely less clear cut than God coming down and speaking to him in person, but if you think the "gift" of prophecy wasn't often a little like torture, then go back and read Jeremiah or Hosea.

We can, of course, choose to interpret that ending in different ways, however we see fit. But the point I'm stressing here is that the film, by no means, necessarily demands a muddled or nihilistic conclusion from that ending. Just by their reactions at the end - they aren't lying to their daughter that they are going to build her a magical hut of sticks and then sobbing in despair. There would have been countless ways to show a despair or resignation of Curtis and Samantha at the end, but the film doesn't.

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Ryan, I just didn't experience any of the muddling you're describing.

1. There is a storm coming.

2. It may be a storm brought in response to, or brought on by, flaws in human character like those in Curtis.

3. Curtis is warned, but he needs to explore all possibilities in order to be certain that he cannot rationalize away his visions.

4. Curtis is harboring fears and vanity that is afflicting his family. He needs to deal with these things if they are going to have a chance of surviving the Coming Mother of All Storms.

5. Curtis is humbled by Storm 1, and realizes what he must overcome.

6. Curtis is given a strong last chance to rationalize the problem away and to relax.

7. Mother of All Storms comes. The family is ready this time. They'll find shelter, somehow, because they are in tune with one another. While the storm descending on the world is very real, they are no longer going to be swept away by it... nor is Curtis contributing to its fury.For me, all the pieces fit very nicely.

mild spoilers.

That's an interesting thought about Curtis' connection to the storm, and possible contribution to it's fury. I hadn't entertained that possibility..... thanks for that.

In that line of thought, if Curtis (and his very humble wife) were at the end not contibuting to the storm's fury, then maybe in this they were the people (or a couple of them at least) who would not be terribly impacted by it. In other words the "power" that was speaking to him before hand was not only preparing them to escape the storm, but bringing them to the humbleness of character that would allow them to truly not be affected by it.

Edited by Attica

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Ryan, I just didn't experience any of the muddling you're describing.

1. There is a storm coming.

2. It may be a storm brought in response to, or brought on by, flaws in human character like those in Curtis.

3. Curtis is warned, but he needs to explore all possibilities in order to be certain that he cannot rationalize away his visions.

4. Curtis is harboring fears and vanity that is afflicting his family. He needs to deal with these things if they are going to have a chance of surviving the Coming Mother of All Storms.

5. Curtis is humbled by Storm 1, and realizes what he must overcome.

6. Curtis is given a strong last chance to rationalize the problem away and to relax.

7. Mother of All Storms comes. The family is ready this time. They'll find shelter, somehow, because they are in tune with one another. While the storm descending on the world is very real, they are no longer going to be swept away by it... nor is Curtis contributing to its fury.For me, all the pieces fit very nicely.

Then you experienced it the way Jeff Nichols intended you to experience it, given his comments about the film in this interview.

Alas, I wish that he hadn't decided to bring in the supernatural into a film when he isn't prepared to give it more definition than he does, particularly since his interests in this material don't seem to lie in that direction. I find it distracting, and it leaves me wanting a film that was either less or more engaged with the supernatural than this halfway route.

The details of where they are geographically are not emphasized by the script.

They are details, nonetheless.

We can, of course, choose to interpret that ending in different ways, however we see fit. But the point I'm stressing here is that the film, by no means, necessarily demands a muddled or nihilistic conclusion from that ending.

The push-back I'm getting is starting to convince me that the ending isn't perhaps supposed to seem as doomed as it initially felt to me. Chalk that up to MELANCHOLIA polluting my experience of this film, or perhaps some subconscious association between the ending of TAKE SHELTER and the harrowing finale of my favorite apocalyptic film, Peter Weir's THE LAST WAVE, which has a lot of surface-level similarity with TAKE SHELTER.

At any rate, I'm still left a bit frustrated by the film's ambiguities.

Edited by Ryan H.

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Had anyone read the interview before Ryan posted it?

If not, then, wow, we were all pretty much in step with the director's intentions. Masculinity, fatherhood, the ending, and even Ryan's point about ambiguous disorganized religion...

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Just wondering: Why do people assume that any genuine premonitions a man might have must, of necessity, come from a deity of some sort?

Attica wrote:

: Well the film shows that he was given prophetic warnings, that caused him and others some confusion which they eventually rejected, and then found out were true. There is no indication that these prophetic warnings weren't intended to be of benefit from a loving God. Rejecting the warnings was the people's choice, just as it was the people's choice in the Old Testament.

Ah, but if God is part of the picture here, then it was God's choice to give one man those warnings and no one else. So do the people bear ALL the blame for choosing not to heed the man's warnings?

The Bible, at least, gives us an "explanation" in the sense that it says Noah was the only righteous man of his era, or something like that. So either God chose him because he was righteous, or he was receptive to the warning because he was righteous. But would such an "explanation" work for a film like this?

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Peter T Chattaway wrote:

:Just wondering: Why do people assume that any genuine premonitions a man might have must, of necessity, come from a deity of some sort?

I guess because we arguably live in a religious society, we sometimes put these assumptions onto the film (films).

:Ah, but if God is part of the picture here, then it was God's choice to give one man those warnings and no one else. So do the people bear ALL the blame for choosing not to heed the man's warnings?

The Bible, at least, gives us an "explanation" in the sense that it says Noah was the only righteous man of his era, or something like that. So either God chose him because he was righteous, or he was receptive to the warning because he was righteous. But would such an "explanation" work for a film like this?

When I wrote "the peoples choice" I was thinking more in the context of "the People" referring to general people who have received any warnings. So in the case of the film it would be mainly Curtis' with the slight possibility of his wife and others. I was talking in a more general sense of how prophecy works, being that people can, and have (possibly still do - depending on ones understanding of this) rejected these warnings. Thus I was saying that this rejection of the prophecies have little bearning on God's intention in giving them, and not really that all of the townsfolk in the film had any culpability. Maybe I wasn't clear enough in what I was trying to say.

Also as to my quote you had touched on, when I referred to God. In the instance of what I was trying to say about Prophecy I was using the example of a loving God, partially in response to what Ryan had said about Demi-Urge being " Whatever God is at work in TAKE SHELTER is a Demiurge. " I truly didn't read the film that way. I saw the prophecies as ultimately with a helpful intention. Sure - arguably that could be a wrong reading, but my main intention was to communicate this take on the film.

As well later I had mentioned what was happening as coming from "the Power", indicating that it wasn't necessarily coming from the "God" of Christian understanding. So I guess my view on what caused the premonitions flip flops depending on the context of the conversation about the film, and is partially speculative. Hope that makes sense. ;)

Of course the film isn't clear about what's going on there, which fits with what Ryan said about being frustrated with the film's ambiguities. Part of me fully agrees with this, but then there is the other side of me which says that....because of the film's ambiguities we are put in the same place as Curtis in not having a full grasp of what's going on, so then through this we more easily connect and emphasize with Curtis and his story, as we are somewhat in his shoes.

Edited by Attica

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Wow, great discussion here. Many helpful points that I think are helping me ask better questions about what the film is doing.

The ending of TAKE SHELTER effectively suggests that if there is some kind of power force guiding us, due to its vagueness we cannot really discern whether it is there or just our own madness, and better just buckle-up and wait for the impending, inevitable annihilation to wash over us, an ending that is seemingly without meaning (one article I read rightly called it a Rorschach apocalypse).

Thanks, Ryan. This helpfully articulates my initial reaction to the ending. Reading a number of the film's defenders here, I see more clearly though the family's togetherness in that final moment. Which is nice, as far as it goes. However, that leads me to another question: if all of this was (mostly) about family unity, weren't they in a pretty good place to begin with, pre-visions? What has been gained over the course of the film? Dewart, before he knew anything about the visions, declared that Curtis "had it good" (or something like that). Or is it better because his people stuck by him (and he them) through his troubles?

I'm also still hung up on the geographic question. They were 700 miles away from the shelter at the end of the movie. A detail, I know, but one they put into the film. How does building the shelter change Curtis' actions in that final scene? Or does his building the shelter change the actions of his family? I suspect that whether he built the shelter or not, they would have run, together, to find some kind of safety from the coming storm. Am I wrong about this? Is there something I'm forgetting from the film that suggests they would have reacted differently?

Edited by John

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For me, the most significant image of the ending

isn't the clouds rolling in (which could theoretically be "a" storm, not "the" storm); it's when Sam sees the oily yellow rain on her arm, which connects back to the opening image of Curtis standing in his driveway. I can't remember if that kind of rain appeared in any not-dream scenes before the end. For most of the movie, I was thinking the oily rain was Curtis's psychic reaction to the chlorine gas spill that's mentioned on TV early in the film, or even that it could be real because the gas had somehow leaked into the clouds or something. The location of the ending makes it a lot harder for that train of thought to work, though.

Overall, I'd say I'm in the "loved it, with reservations" camp. Take Shelter does a lot of things better than most films I can think of, particularly Shannon's performance and the immersive quality of the dream scenes, but I still feel like it cheats a bit at the end.

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