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The Shawshank Redemption

Oct 08, 1999 1139 Words
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 cinema.

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 happiness.

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 way.

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 memorable.

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 cinema.

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