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Shawshank Redemption – The power of an individual’s will and hope

Table of Contents

This is the story of Andy Dufresne (Tim Robbins), the vice-president of a bank, convicted of his wife’s murder. Andy states that he has been falsely accused, but all evidence points towards Andy and nobody else. As a result, he is sent to the Shawshank prison, to serve a double life sentence. In comes Red (Morgan Freeman), he is a convict serving a sentence at the Shawshank prison. He is the ever-popular prisoner, adept at getting things smuggled into the prison at fellow prisoner’s requests. He finds Andy to be a rather different person. Initially, Andy is withdrawn and introvert. Later, he approaches Red regarding a deal. Red gets the required item smuggled in for him.

Later on. Slowly, Red and Andy both forge a good friendship. They tread through the years facing oppression, pain, despair, experiencing some great moments of solidarity and in Red’s case, some useless rehabilitation checks wherein he’s always rejected. Andy is given work at the prison library. He slowly gains reputation among the guards helping them with all sorts of bank related stuff: Taxes, Loans, Education of kids etc. Even the warden starts getting his regular accounts done by Andy. And so the years roll on. Through the years, nobody concedes to the idea of Andy being innocent, because apparently, at a prison, “everybody’s innocent”. But years later, the arrival of a new prison inmate Tommy (Gil Bellows) changes the world forever. The consequent revelation leads to a crazy drive inside Andy to seek “salvation”. What happens next is one of the greatest sequences of cinematic history. It is the human tendency to redeem oneself that leads us to all the great moments in life. This is what The Shawshank Redemption is all about.

TECHNIQUES

Many film techniques were used throughout the film as a clever way of conveying main themes. The use of camera angles was a clear way of defining a characters personality. The warden, Norton, is often seen from low angles which highlights his high status in the prison and his authority. While Andy is inside Shawshank we do not see many variations of colour, mainly just shades of grey. These dull, lifeless colours highlight the prisoners lack of power and for most of the prisoners, their lack of hope. This contrasts against the colours shown during the reunion of Andy and Red. The audience no longer sees grey, depressing colours, but instead sees the bright sand and vibrant colours of the Pacific Ocean. This shows the audience how Andy is no longer controlled by the conformity of prison life, has regained power and is now, finally free.

Similarly in another scene when Brook releases his bird, Jake, from the prison we see how lighting was used to show the theme, that hope is the key to redemption. In this scene the prison library is very dark and we could only see the light from the window where Jake was present. When Jake is released by Brook we see him going straight into the light, this signifies that he flies into freedom and has hope as he is not restrained by the institutionalism. Jake flying out of a window to freedom, gives a more optimistic view of Andy’s human spirit. It foreshadows Andy’s escape from Shawshank redemption. As quoted by red in voice over I have to remind myself that some birds aren’t meant to be caged: their feathers are just too bright. However we see Brook walking into the darkness and out of the camera shot. This leaves us with a shot of darkness which emphasizes the theme how Brook had got busy dying and had lost redemption, hope and freedom. This loss of identity is also shown by him walking into the darkness with his head down. Talk about loss of hope and how he feels defeated by the institution.

ANALYSIS

In the film Shawshank Redemption the director has used various techniques such as music, sound, colours, lighting and camera angles to present the main theme and purpose of movie. The lightening and cinematography play very important roles in the movie. The movie uses long takes, close ups and slow zoom towards the characters to make the story more intimate to impact viewers. When filming the prison guards, the camera angles are low making the guards seem more powerful and looked up to. When filming the prisoners, the camera angles look down on them often from the sky which shows their lack of power. Close-ups are often used for Red and Andy since they are the main characters and the focus of the story.

The movie is narrated by Morgan Freeman who tells Andy’s story of how he was convicted, his life in prison and his escape. Freeman has the perfect voice to tell a story which makes you to listen more. The costumes are grey/blue prison uniform. These colours are dark and negative that life in prison is unbearable and awful. The movie shows a side of prison that we do not usually get to see. As the movie progresses, we as audience come to believe that the characters are not that bad even though they are in prison. Ironically most of them are innocent. We as audience then start to empathize with the inmates and want them to escape and to be free. Throughout the movie Andy gets assaulted many times. This causes us to feel sorry him even though he is in prison for murder.

The film is great because of the strong plot that develops. The movie portrays a man who loses everything and lands in prison. But as the movie goes on, he is able to find some moments of happiness with others in the same situation. The film never uses special effects but is still able to keep our interest through character development and a great script.

One of the main weaknesses of the movie is character development. Andy makes many friends while in prison but we never find out how his friends ended in jail. Also it would have been good to do a scene at the end where it shows what Red and Andy are doing a couple years later. I strongly feel the music should have been more driven. This movie really deserved an iconic soundtrack. More so than just the brilliant acting by Mr. Freeman and Mr. Robbins, along with the great directing by Frank Darabont, the cinematography is quite flawless and the film has a consistent flow to it. It also has an engaging plot and setting that suits the overall themes quite well. The Shawshank Redemption is a very human story with a lot of powerful and emotional scenes.

The film highlights the triumphs, the tragedies, and the deeper meaning that we seek within our own lives. I would surely recommend this movie to everyone as the movie is full of life lessons which are certainly better understood and felt after watching it. The movie portrays the bond being shared between two men during the years of their imprisonment who share emotions and find solace in each other, ultimately paving their way to salvation. The movie also shows how to maintain one’s self significance in the most disintegrated and hopeless place.

CONCLUSION

Shawshank Redemption is an amazing journey of a man who bears so much pain for so many years and in the end amazes everyone with his plan. Narration by Morgan freeman adds to the beauty of the film. It’s a journey of man’s transformation and redemption. “Some birds aren’t meant to be caged…their wings are just too bright” and Get busy livin’ or get busy dyin. Lines like these immortalize the movie. It teaches us to have faith in ourselves and take life as it comes.

I would give this film ‘A’ grade as the director through a strong script and cinematography along with stellar performances from the actors has beautifully portrayed the power of an individual’s will and hope. The story telling is such that it never gets dull and always keeps the audience interested and leaves a strong impression in the end. Sometimes life can turn to seem like a prison, where you might be punished for something you didn’t do or most of the times, life gives you a hard blow without any reason. You crave for help only to later learn that the only person who can save you is you. In the movie as Andy is wrongly convicted of a double murder and given two life sentences. It is his intelligence and inner strength that help him to deal with his dilemma, and his ultimate escape reveals anything is possible if you believe and have the will to fight all odds. But most importantly to Hope even in the bleakest phases of life. It is hope that drives Andy to dig his cell’s wall with a rock hammer.

The task which is believed to have taken a person six hundred years to finish, he finished it in less than twenty years. It is hope that inspires Andy to write a letter to the state government for funds to renovate the decrepit prison library for consistent six years, which, according to Warden Norton, was an impossible task. It is hope that helps Andy to stay poised and persistent in The Shawshank for the crime he actually never committed and find some friends in a place where integrity and self-respect lacks; it is hope and faith of Andy that takes out Red from jail and helps him live his dream; it is hope that ultimately rewards Andy with freedom. Thus as Andy says “Hope is a good thing. Maybe the best of things and no good thing ever dies.”

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