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,
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, 26 February 2012 - 06:11 PM.