Essay/Term paper: The shawshank redemption
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The Shawshank Redemption
For my film analysis, I chose the movie The Shawshank Redemption. Frank
Darabont directed Shawshank and wrote the screenplay based on the novel Rita
Hayworth and Shawshank Redemption by author Stephen King. The movie was made in
1994 and produced by Niki Marvin.
The movie stars Morgan Freeman and Tim Robbins as two convicts serving time
in a New England prison named Shawshank. Tim Robbins plays a man named Andy
Dufresne, a banker, who gets convicted of murdering his wife and her lover and is sent to
prison in Shawshank. Andy eventually becomes good friends with a fellow convict by the
name of Ellis Boyd Redding(Morgan Freeman) who is able to get anything for anyone
within reason. The story follows the prison life of Andy Dufresne and his eventual escape
from Shawshank's walls.
The movie follows a formalistic style of direction under Frank Darabont. He
interweaves scenes with nice fluid shots. The shots are not jarring or rough cut. Darabont
tends to take the story at a distance allowing the characters to establish their traits to the
audience instead of pushing a barrage of angles at the audience. The position of the
camera is intricately placed in all scenes. The movie is a perfect example of classical
The most unique part about the style of the movie is in the cinematography by
Roger Deakins. The whole story looks like it was filmed with a blue filter. The filters
give a special beauty to the scenes, which in turn causes more dramatic feelings for the
audience. With this filter the movie tends to bring out the two different colors of blue and
brown. The blues of the uniforms are all the more dramatic compared to the drab brown
buildings surrounding the prisoners. The colors also produce dramatic irony in the last
scene of Red and Andy on the beach. The blue and brown colors that once gave
feelings of confinement and despair in the prison are now colors of freedom and
The lighting that goes along with the scenes are also interesting. The whole movie
is shot primarily in high contrast with the exception of the guards who are mostly in the
shadows. The lighting that follows the guards present a darkness to their characters, they
are displayed as harsh and villainy. The violent scenes all take place in the shadows as
well, with low key light. The lighting of these scenes give a sense of violence without
actually showing it in the film.
The screenplay written for The Shawshank Redemption is exact and precise,
everything in the movie complements the development of characters and presents
underlying motifs such as prisoner's dependence from long term incarceration, prisoner
camaraderie, and feelings of hope in hopeless situations. The plot has a smart climax that
is not fully understandable until the last few scenes. The ending is a total surprise as to
how Andy escapes from Shawshank. The movie is brought together with the clever
narration's by "Red"(Morgan Freeman). By having Red narrate, the audience quickly
identifies with the prisoners, there are certain common traits that the characters and
audience share that produce sympathy for the incarcerated criminals. The use of narration
also brings out a sense of fate. The use of a narrator also helped tremendously as to
explaining the details of how Tim Robbins character escapes from the jail.
The dialogue is also clever and witty at times. The movie has many memorable
quotes such as when Andy tells red, "On the outside I was always straight as an arrow, I
had to come in here to be a crook" and "You either have to start living or you got to start
dying." Some other quotes in the movie are a little more subtle like when the warden
hands Andy his bible back with the words, "Salvation lies from within." Only at the end
of the movie do we find that Andy had hidden a rock pick in the bible that the warden
had given him.
One of the best scenes in the movie is when Andy is looking through some
records that the state has just sent to the prison. He decides to play the record on the
intercom and locks himself in the room so the guards won't stop him. The camera goes
through a montage that captures the prisoners love for a simple thing such as listening to
a record. The montage consisted mostly of panning shots with a crane shot mixed into it.
The montage was made fluidly with the camera moving at the same speed in all the
shots. The director took special notice to the actors expressions by using many close-ups
in a movie that does not consist of many close-ups. The lighting on this scene was evenly
illuminated, there were no shadows evident. The director wanted to get the facial
expressions and convey there feeling of yearning for simple freedoms.
The mise-en-scene for this montage was strategically done to express the number
of prisoners the music was reaching. The prisoners are all evenly spaced out in the
courtyard with the crane shot moving up enhancing the idea that the music is reaching
great masses of people. The music in the montage has the faint static that makes the
audience aware that the music is coming from the intercoms. The music also helps add to
the atmosphere of the scene causing a surrealistic feeling of calm. The acting is also done
quite well. The reactions of the prisoners turns from surprise to appreciation in a realistic
Another scene worth noting in this analysis is the scene in which a character
named Brooks(James Whitmore) feeds pigeons in the park. The audience listens to the
man recite a letter in which he has recently sent his friends in prison. The acting by
Whitmore resembles that of a lonely old man. The light source in the scene seemingly
comes from the sun, causing the trees to cast streaks of shadows onto the character. What
makes this a particularly good scene is the directors' choice of angles. The camera at first
pans along the ground, giving us a full shot of the pigeons eating seed. It then tilts up into
a low angle shot of the old man. The camera gently slows to a close-up of the man's
facial expression. Darabont then shows us a full shot with the man sitting on the bench
all alone. This scene conveys a sense of emptiness to the audience which is dramatic and
Overall, Darabont uses affective methods of filming, causing the audience to feel
Andy Dufresne desperation, sense of hopelessness, and finally his exhaltation after
escaping from prison. The movie is a modern example of the classical style of
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There are standard ways to stage a prison film and standard ways to tell a story by Stephen King. But "The Shawshank Redemption," based on a King novella and set in the correctional institution of the title, succeeds in avoiding the familiar.
Without a single riot scene or horrific effect, it tells a slow, gentle story of camaraderie and growth, with an ending that abruptly finds poetic justice in what has come before. The writer and director, Frank Darabont, tells this tale with a surprising degree of loving care.
There are times when "The Shawshank Redemption" comes dangerously close to sounding one of those "triumph of the human spirit" notes. But most of it is eloquently restrained. Despite an excess of voice-over narration and inspirational music, Mr. Darabont's film has a genuine dignity that holds the interest. It is helped greatly by fine, circumspect performances from Morgan Freeman as a rueful lifer named Red and Tim Robbins as Andy, the new kid on the cellblock. The film spans nearly 20 years of friendship between these two.
When Andy is convicted of his wife's murder, the judge pronounces him "a particularly remorseless and icy man." He sustains that chill when he first arrives at Shawshank, remaining aloof from other inmates even when those inmates threaten him with physical harm. "I wish I could tell you that Andy fought the good fight," says Red, who knows Andy has been gang-raped by fellow prisoners, in one of the film's only halfway-brutal episodes. "I wish I could tell you that, but prison is no fairy-tale world."
Needless to say, the heroes of such stories usually do succeed in defending themselves, at least when Hollywood is telling the fairy tale. But "The Shawshank Redemption" has its own brand of iconoclasm, with Mr. Darabont's direction as quiet, purposeful and secretive as Andy is himself.
Eventually Andy begins to fit in, especially after he wows the guards with skills left over from his pre-prison banking career. From the first time he advises one guard to make a one-time-only tax-free gift to his wife, Andy gets a new lease on life as "a convicted murderer who provides sound financial planning."
Andy does special fiscal favors for the warden. ("You know, the funny thing is, on the outside I was an honest man, straight as an arrow," he says about this. "I had to come to prison to be a crook.") He also makes the occasional dramatic gesture, like commandeering the prison's loudspeaker and playing a Mozart aria for all his fellow inmates. The film has a tendency to wax romantic at such moments, but more often it sustains an intelligent reserve.
Mr. Freeman is so quietly impressive here that there's reason to wish Red's role had more range. As written, he spends his time observing Andy fondly and describing prison life. But Mr. Freeman's commanding presence makes him a much stronger figure than that. Mr. Freeman is especially moving when he suggests how dependent Red has become on the prison walls that give shape to his life. Even so, Red has kept his ruefulness. "Only guilty man in Shawshank," he jokes about himself.
Mr. Robbins has the trickier role of someone whose still waters run deep, but whose experience doesn't add up until an exposition-packed denouement. (The film's swift, enjoyably farfetched closing scenes are a sharp reminder of who is the author of this story, after all.) Andy's is the more subdued role, but Mr. Robbins plays it intensely, and he ages effectively from newcomer to father figure during the story. One of Andy's projects is improving the prison library, which once contained nothing but the equivalent of books by Stephen King.
To raise funds for this undertaking, Andy is steady and patient, writing weekly letters to state officials until he gets what he wants. Mr. Darabont, a screenwriter making an impressive directorial debut, works in much the same quietly persistent way. "The Shawshank Conspiracy" takes shape slowly and carefully, displaying an overall subtlety that's surprising in a movie of this genre. In the end, like Andy and Red, it gets to where it wanted to go.
"The Shawshank Redemption" is rated R (Under 17 requires accompanying parent or adult guardian). It includes profanity and occasional violence, including a scene that discreetly suggests homosexual rape.
THE SHAWSHANK REDEMPTION Written and directed by Frank Darabont, based on the novella "Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption," by Stephen King; director of photography, Roger Deakins; edited by Richard Francis-Bruce; music by Tom Newman; production designer, Terence Marsh; produced by Niki Marvin; released by Columbia Pictures. Running time: 142 minutes. This film is rated R. WITH: Morgan Freeman (Red), Tim Robbins (Andy), Gil Bellows (Tommy), Clancy Brown (Captain Hadley), Bob Gunton (Warden Norton), Mark Rolston (Bogs Diamond), William Sadler (Heywood) and James Whitmore (Brooks Hatlen).