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Shawshank Redemption film analysis

 

“Remember, hope is a good thing, maybe the best of things, and no good thing ever dies.”

The film “The Shawshank Redemption” by Frank Darabont, is an engaging film about hope, seizing opportunities, and making the most of whatever situation you find yourself in. Andy Dufresne is wrongfully convicted of murdering his wife, the story is about his time in prison,  and despite his unfair situation, he maintains hope and freedom in his mind. His grand, extremely clever plan to escape inspires others with hope, a recurring theme in the movie.

In this analysis, I will be analysing the Rooftop scene, when Andy confronts Captain Hadley about his money issues, and the music scene, when Andy plays the opera over the loudspeakers. I will examine these scenes by using lighting and camera angles to show the director’s purpose of grabbing hope where ever you can find it. This film makes a lasting impression on the audience and is one of those films that you end up thinking about for days afterwards without even realising.

 

The first scene that is used to show the directors message is the rooftop scene. In the rooftop scene, Andy is on the edge of the factory building, about to be pushed off by Captain Hadley. As the tensions rise, the director lifts the camera up high and looks down from above, and then slowly moves the camera down again, this goes in parallel with the situation at the time. As he is about to be thrown off the roof Andy feels scared and is full of adrenaline. The bird’s eye view camera angle shows the height of the building and helps the viewer perceive Andy’s fear and heightened senses. As the camera slowly comes back down, the situation calms down as Andy realises Captain Hadley is not going to throw him off the roof. The light on Andy’s face in this scene is much brighter than the light on Captain Hadley. This focuses the viewer on Andy, and by having Hadley in the shade he feels like the darker character and is less connected with the viewer. This was a risky move by Andy to seize the opportunity of gaining back some freedom and control for himself and his fellow prisoners.

Throughout the later half the scene, the director over exposes the camera and the background becomes almost all white, which removes all background distractions and focuses the attention solely on the character.   The camera slowly pans backward from the sitting prisoners and follows Bogs as he goes and offers Andy a beer. The camera at head/eye height gives the feeling that you are sitting there amongst the men and the slow movement of the camera gives the shot a relaxed feeling, as if you are there watching Bogs as he offers Andy a drink. These two camera techniques allow the viewer to put themselves in the shoes of the inmates and understand the freedom that they feel.  The viewer is reminded in our own lives sometimes we must risk something to make our situation better, and no matter what our circumstance or situation, we can choose how to react in that moment.  

This scene is similar to a scene in the film “Invictus” when Francois Pienaar, captain of the 1995 Springboks Rugby Team, takes a tour of the prison where Nelson Mandela (played also by Morgan Freeman) was imprisoned for 27 years. This scene shows the struggles that Nelson Mandela Went through during prison, but despite these struggles Nelson, much like Andy, did not give up hope, even in times when everything was against him. This hope allowed Nelson survive and overcome the South African government and spread hope across South Africa by becoming South Africa’s first black president. This is similar to Andy’s escape of Shawshank, he did not let the harsh American justice system over come him but instead kept hope and was able to outsmart the Warden and live a free life, and by doing so, inspired others with his victory.

 

Music Scene

In this scene, Andy again “seizes the moment”. He takes the opportunity to do something so simple as play music to the prisoners.

Music is banned in prison so when Andy plays the music over the loudspeakers the prisoners gain a sense of freedom that they have not felt in a long time. The music reminds them of their old lives and that there is more to life than the what’s confined within the walls.

As the camera pans around the loudspeaker it goes to an over the shoulder shot, that creates a feeling as though the loudspeaker is a person speaking to them. The panoramic, elevated camera angle captures all the men in the yard. As the music plays the inmates look towards the speaker, it seems not one man is left untouched by its beauty.  The camera smoothly glides past the inmates with long slow shots creating a sense of calmness. This is the reaction the inmates feel when the music plays, they feel a calmness they have not felt in a long time. In the same shot, the lighting in the courtyard is very bright giving the scene a more vibrant feeling. This lifts the prison from being a dull, boring place to being a warm, not so bad place. This is another situation where his actions make the prisoners feel human in the moment and reminds them of life beyond the prison walls, giving them hope for more than they have. Like the rooftop scene, this is also a moment when the director reminds us that in our everyday lives sometimes it’s worth taking a risk to achieve something. As the music starts playing in the infirmary the inmates look up and move to the window, curious to see what is going on. The camera movement follows this pattern: The angles start low and pan upwards, as if the camera is another inmate look upwards curious as to what’s going on. This puts the viewer in the shoes of the inmate as if the shot is a P.O.V. In this scene the inmates go to look out the window to see where the sound is coming from, but there is extra lighting coming through the windows so it’s almost as if the speaker is spreading light throughout the prison.  This is another way Andy has done something to create a sense of freedom amongst the inmates, if only for a short while. The scene reminds the viewer to savor the simple freedoms we have in our lives like listening to music.

This scene can be related to the film “The Blind Side”. Andy is like Leigh Anne Tuohy and the rest of the inmates can be seen as Michael Oher. Michael had lost hope of the future and was living on the street by the time Leigh Anne found him. Leigh Anne took an opportunity to take Michael under her wing and gave him experiences that allowed him to see the bright side of life and gave him hope for the future. Andy does much the same, he seizes opportunities to give the inmates experiences such and drinking beer in the sun, and listening to music. It reminds them of life beyond the prison walls and gives them hope for the future.

Conclusion

To conclude, “The Shawshank Redemption” was a brilliant film that displayed the director’s purpose of grabbing hope and seizing the moment, no matter what your environment by using many techniques such as lighting and camera angles.

The Rooftop scene and the Music scene work well together to deliver the message that you are in control of your life and you can make a decision about your life no matter what situation you are in. Both the Rooftop and the Music scene use camera angles that put you in the shoes of the inmates during their short moments of freedom. This helps put the viewer in a position to understand how powerful hope can be. The brightened lighting in both scenes then adds to this feeling as it gives the sense that they are free from the dark insides of the prison and momentarily free.

In both scenes, Andy decides to make a sacrifice for the benefit of his fellow inmates. In the rooftop scene, he was almost thrown off a rooftop to gain three beers each for his “co-workers”. This is Andys way of spreading hope to the other inmates as it reminds them what life can be like beyond the prison walls. This is similar to the music scene because he knows that he will get punished for playing the music but yet he does it anyway, he installs hope into every man in Shawshank. As red said “and for the briefest of moments, every last man in Shawshank felt free.”. I believe this is the true purpose of the movie, to grab hope wherever you can find it, and seize every opportunity to give hope to everyone, and allow them to take control of their own lives.

“Fear can hold you prisoner. Hope can set you Free”

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I an English student at Mt Aspiring College

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