26th June 2017

Shawshank Redemption Essay


“I have to remind myself that some birds aren’t meant to be caged. Their feathers are just too bright. And when they fly away, the part of you that knows it was a sin to lock them up does rejoice. Still, the place you live in is that much more drab and empty that they’re gone.”  Empowering director Frank Darabont’s inspiring film The Shawshank Redemption (1994), follows the intriguing journey of Andy Dufresne, “a smart banker” who was wrongly convicted of the murder of his wife and her lover. It explores the underlying conflict between Andy and the corrupt prison system, This all leads to Andy’s escape from the corrupt prison system. Director Frank Darabont adapts the Mozart scene and the rooftop scene, to develop the idea of hope through the feeling of freedom in the prisoner’s, to teach the audience about the corrupt prison system. To give the audience an in depth understanding the director deceived the cinematographic techniques, camera movement, and non-diegetic sound to portray the director’s conceptions and to explain how innocent people can be accused of crimes they have not committed. This happens all the time in everyday life, and the real criminals are not convicted.

In the Rooftop scene, Frank Darabont instigates the idea of hope through the feeling of freedom in the prisoners, to teach the audience about the corrupt prison system by utilizing camera movement and non-diegetic sound. In the scene we see Andy confronting the guard and offering to do his taxes for him in order to avoid taxes on the $35,000 he inherited from his brother. Andy does this for the mere cost of “three beers a piece for each of my co-workers…I think a man workin’ outdoors feels more like a man if he can have a bottle of suds. That’s only my opinion.”. The scene opens with a tilting camera movement, the scene opens like this so the viewer can see how many prisoners are wanting to sign up for just a little taste of freedom. The way the shot is angled shows a much bigger space than what we usually see inside the prison. The director’s purpose here is to show us how freedom is so close for these prisoners. Being in a bigger space represents how if they get the job for once they won’t be squished in small places, they will have room to move and be free. In the background we can hear the musical composition ‘May’ playing in the background, the music is soft and gentle, but it sounds like a bird flying into the distance, The bird is the symbol of freedom. Freedom is a symbol throughout the whole text, it represents the hope the prisoners learn to find through Andy’s “little stunts”. Therefore this music portrays the freedom the prisoners are feeling in this scene. Overtop of the music we hear Red’s voice, “It was outdoor detail, and May is one damn fine month to be working outdoors.”, These men were desperate for some sort of variance in what work they were doing. They long to see outside of those prison walls, to see the modern world. “More than a hundred men volunteered for the job”, this shows us that everyone was looking to find a piece of themselves in this new modern world, to at least see something different for a change. We then see a panning view of the prisoners drinking ‘Cold bohemian style beers’. This shows us the prisoners indulging in ‘a bottle of suds’ whilst the sun shines on their shoulders. We see a tracking motion as the guard comes and takes a beer, “drink it while it’s cold ladies”. Frank Darabont utilizes these camera movements to show the facial and body expressions from the prisoners. The prisoners are happy and this is shown well by the panning view of the prisoners indulging in the beers. It was a clever camera shot to use because it genuinely shows us the hope of freedom in the prisoners. The viewer also hears Red’s voice over “At 10 o’clock, in the morning drinking icy cold bohemian style beers courtesy of the hardest screw that ever walked at Shawshank State Prison.” This talks about the prisoners spending the morning feeling free drinking beer like they will in the future and they did in the past. It also mentions ‘courtesy of the hardest screw that ever walked at Shawshank State Prison’ this is referring to Andy and how he is working so hard to feel normal again especially because he is innocent and was convicted of a crime he did not commit. “we sat and drank those beers with the sun on our back, god we could have been taring the top of our own house”. This talks about the feeling of freedom in the prisoners whilst they were sitting there ‘with the sun on their shoulders’ drinking ‘suds’ and feeling free. This ‘little stunt’ by Andy gave the prisoners the hope they needed to get through the rough times to be had at the prison. The prisoners have a different perception of the kind of guy Andy is now. They respect him. The director, Frank Darabont uses these techniques to develop the idea of hope through the feeling of freedom in the prisoners. I can relate this to the character Aragon Elessar from ‘The Lord of the Rings’, I can relate Aragon to the character Andy because they are both respected equally by their peers. Through out both visual texts, the characters are constantly pulling different stunts and ideas to help everyone. Although they are both physically and mentally stressed to the max, they always stay focused on the task at hand. Whether that is creating a tunnel to escape from prison whilst making the place bearable, Or if it is to save your team and find the ring to become the king. These characters stayed true to themselves whilst continuing to support their ‘followers’ and staying true to themselves. “To earn respect you must become an honorable person”.

‘The Shawshank Redemption’ ‘Mozart Scene’  incorporates comparable parts to the renowned ‘Rooftop Scene’ and this commonality of cinematography techniques is needed for the viewer’s understanding of the feeling of freedom through the idea of hope. Set in the warden’s office, Andy has been donated many books and records for the library he comes across ‘The Marriage of Figaro’ which he plays over the loud speaker for all the prisoners to hear. Andy earns himself 2 weeks in the hole for his stunt, But he believes it was worth it for he got to feel free ‘if only for a short while’. In this scene we see a panning movement showing us the intercom, moving to the wires, to the speaker then the record player. Darabont uses this to create a level of suspense, of how the music is setup to play, The shot shows us this so that we can see all the small details in Andy’s plan. Andy sets up the speaker in order to listen to music again, any music. It had been close to 20 years since Andy had heard music so he felt as if the whole of prison should experience the same joy as he did. In the background we can hear the ‘Marriage of Figaro’ playing softly, The opera represents everything that the prison lacks; beauty, the world outside the confines of the prison, sharing the wealth. ‘The Marriage of Figaro’ encompasses sorrow, anxiety, and anger which were emotions that Andy definitely felt. The music contradicts the harsh prison life, Frank Darabont has purposely chosen to use this music in a contradiction of the whole theme in the film. Overtop of the music we hear Red’s voice, “I have no idea to this day what those two Italian women were singing about, the truth is I don’t want to know some things are best left unsaid.” Red and the rest of the prisoners did not care what was being played through those speakers, all they liked was the sound of ‘two Italian women’ sounding free and in control of their lives. Red say’s that ‘some things are best left unsaid’ he says this because he thinks that you shouldn’t care what they were singing about but that the sound of their voices is enough to get you through being stuck in prison. Red has started to face the truth, by listening to this music he can feel free again and have hope that he will someday be able to listen to whatever music he likes. Next, we can see a panning view of the men’s faces whilst they were staring up at the speakers, the shots montage to different settings. This shows that all the prisoners are bewildered with the music that is coming out of the speakers. You could almost say that the prisoners are staring up at the speaker like it is God, they are looking at God because they need a greater person to look up to, their friends are not very good influences. Andy, in this case, is their ‘god’ like figure, he is playing the music out of the speakers, so he has brought them a sense of freedom. In The Shawshank Redemption, they are supposed to look into a god to find their redemption with him, by reading the Bible. I can relate this to the film ‘The Great Gatsby’, where the eyes of T.J Eckleburg represent God to George Wilson. The eyes are always watching as is the speaker but in “The Shawshank Redemption” nobody looks at them until the music is played through it and in “The Great Gatsby” George doesn’t take any notice of the eyes until he needs their help after his wife Myrtle has died. George needs the eyes or ‘God’s’ help because he wishes to find out who has killed his wife whom he loves very much. This is the same as in Shawshank where these prisoners need Andy to help them get through being in prison day in day out. They need help with this because it is hard for them and they miss the little things like music and beer while they are in prison. 

Prisoners are constantly being shaped into what the prison system wants them to act like, anything out of order receives a punishment. Frank Darabont uses the ‘Rooftop scene’ and the ‘Mozart scene’ to create the idea of hope through the feeling of freedom in the prisoners to teach the audience about the corrupt prison system. “Let me tell you something my friend, Hope is a dangerous thing, hope can drive a man insane”. – Red

Lilly Trotter

Join the conversation! 1 Comment

  1. Lilly, during our editing periods, you need to consider:
    – ensuring your work captures your personal voice. I get the feeling you are using vocabulary that you think makes you sound more sophisticated.
    – Be clear on your overall idea- through your analysis of the scenes, what is it that you are trying to prove.
    – Develop your analysis of the “why”behind the directors purpose and positioning on the audience.


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