May 7, 2012
The Shawshank Redemption
The Shawshank Redemption (1994) was a remarkable motion picture inspired by Stephen King and Directed by Frank Darabont. It was not a big budget movie with a lot of special effects rather it was a story about two convicts Ellis Boyd "Red" Redding (Morgan Freeman), Andy Dufresne (Tim Robbins), and Samuel Norton (Bob Gunton), the self-righteous, Bible-carrying Warden (Filmsite, 2012) that vowed they’d never be released from Shawshank State Prison. These actors are considered stars. A character actor is an actor that can fit into many different roles, “adapting to the needs of each script and director they work with” (Goodykoontz & Jacobs, 2011 Sec 3.4 para.4). This film has one of the best unforgettable endings in movie history and was one of the best films of the 1990’s. The film’s acting, storytelling, sound, editing, cinematography, and critical analysis are outstanding and it makes for a surprisingly good movie. Shawshank Redemption is a classical film, with a combination of realistic and formalist styles that gives us the best of both worlds. In the movie, the use of long takes, closes ups, and slow zooms toward the characters make the story intimate enough to affect the audience.
One of the most striking uses of formalism in the film takes place when the "sisters" attack Andy for the first time. In that sequence, the characters are shot in silhouette. This effectively makes the attackers inhuman. The use of silhouettes are repeated throughout the film. During the first night that Andy spends in Shawshank the guards savagely beat a crying prisoner. As they drag him from his cell, the guards are in silhouette. It is also interesting to note that we rarely see the guards' eyes. They are usually hidden by the rim of their hats. It is also important to note that the guards are often seen in groups of three or more and that they are shot from low angles for much of the film to give the impression that they are powerful. Andy Dufresne tells his story about his time at Shawshank and those historic memories and events are narrated by Red. The audience picks up on who Andy really is through the eyes of Red, who unfortunately is not a mind reader and has no idea what is going on with Andy’s thoughts and neither does the audience. Before the film begins you hear a scratchy car radio play the romantic song: "If I Didn't Care," performed by the Inkspots: (Filmsite, 2012) If I didn't care, more than words can say,
If I didn't care, would I feel this way,
If this isn't love, then why do I thrill
And what makes my head go round and round
While my heart stands still...
Andy Dufresne is seen sitting in a Plymouth is parked outside a cabin and inside that cabin are the silhouettes of his wife and a golf pro who are involved in a lurid love affair. It is a dark night in a wooded area and Andy, by all intent, is drunk and just sitting there with a bottle of bourbon. Andy reaches for a gun in the glove compartment, which is wrapped with a dirty rag and bullets that are covered up. The next morning Andy’s wife and lover were discovered dead, and bullet ridden and Andy is the prime suspect. He claims he loaded the gun and intended to commit the crime but he sobered up and had second thoughts and threw the gun in the Royal River. Andy was found guilty of murder and was sentenced to serve two life sentences back to back and this is how the story of Shawshank Redemption begins. After Andy is found guilty of murder and sentenced to life in “Shawshank Prison” you see him arrive in a bus with other new prisoners waiting to be inducted. Low key lighting is used and creates a visual cue to the internal conflict that the prisoners are experiencing. When Andy first enters Shawshank, he walks through a huge stone archway. As he does this, the camera pans up the stone from the entrance all the way to the top of the building. The...