Its 20 years since the release of “The Shawshank Redemption” has been an extraordinary & engrossing piece of film-making from director; screenwriter Frank Darabont. This American crime drama based on Stephen King’s novel, Rita Hayworth and Shawshank Redemption.
The inspiring, life-affirming and stirring, old-fashioned style Hollywood product (resembling The Birdman of Alcatraz (1962) and Cool Hand Luke (1967)) is a combination prison/dramatic film and character study. The popular film is abetted by the golden cinematography of Roger Deakins, a touching score by Thomas Newman, and a third imposing character – Maine’s oppressive Shawshank State Prison (actually the transformed, condemned Mansfield Ohio Correctional Institution or State Reformatory).
Posters for the film illustrate the liberating, redemptive power of hope of freedom and resurrection, with the words: “Fear can hold you prisoner, Hope can set you free.” Darabont’s film is a patiently-told, symbolic tale (unfolding like a long-played, sometimes conscientious, persistent chess game) of friendship, patience, hope, survival, unrestraint, and ultimate redemption and salvation by the time of the film’s finale.
It was nominated for seven Academy Awards, including Best Picture, Best Actor (Morgan Freeman), Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Cinematography, Best Editing, Best Original Score, and Best Sound – but it failed to win a single Oscar. And the film’s director failed to receive a nomination for himself. In the same year as Forrest Gump, Pulp Fiction, and Speed received all of the attention.
Only through positive word-of-mouth (following cable TV and broadcast airings, and then video releases) did the film do well – although its original reception at the box-office was lukewarm. The film was the precursor for another inspirational and popular film (and a similar adaptation of a Stephen King story by writer/director Frank Darabont) – The Green Mile (1999).
This film also talks about the process and consequences of institutionalization. Both works trace the lives of long-term prisoners in Shawshank Prison. The main character is about two people. Ellis Redding (or ‘Red’) and Andy Dufresne in the fictional penitentiary, located in Maine, is run by the corrupt Warden Norton and guard captain Byron Hadley, the former involved in money laundering and bribery, while the latter verbally and physically abuses inmates. The story is narrated by the character Ellis Redding about his friend, Andy Dufresne. Andy, a successful banker, has been falsely convicted for the murder of his wife and her lover and is serving two life sentences in Shawshank prison. The film follows Andy’s struggle for survival in prison, facing violence, rape, betrayal and exploitation, until his eventual escape back to the outside world.
In the end, the film implies that Andy’s physical escape from Shawshank is a realization of his mental one. He escapes to Zihuatanejo, a Mexican city to which he had dreamt of going while in prison. Red shoots the idea down as“shitty pipe dreams.” He finds Andy’s plan to escape illusory and dangerous, but Andy manages to translate it into real flight, which the film suggests demonstrates his incredible belief in his own ability and right to control his life leads him to create his exclusive mind space, avoiding the dependence that results from societal exclusion and eventually escaping the physical boundaries of Shawshank Prison.
The interesting point of this movie is the narration by the character RED, played by Morgan freeman. Some of his homilies are worth elucidating……….
The first night’s the toughest, no doubt about it. They march you in naked as the day you were born, skin burning and half blind from that delousing shit, they throw on you, and when they put you in that cell, when those bars slam home, that’s when you know it’s for real. Old life blown away in the blink of an eye. Nothing left but all the time in the world to think about it. Most new fish come close to madness the first night. Somebody always breaks down crying. Happens every time. The only question is, who’s it gonna be? It’s as good a thing to bet on as any, I guess. I had my money on Andy Dufresne. I remember my first night. Seems like a long time ago.
I could see why some of the boys took him for snobby. He had a quiet way about him, a walk and a talk that just wasn’t normal around here. He strolled, like a man in a park without a care or a worry in the world. Like he had on an invisible coat that would shield him from this place. Yeah, I think it would be fair to say I liked Andy from the start.
I have no idea to this day what those two Italian ladies were singin’ about. Truth is, I don’t want to know. Some things are best left unsaid. I like to think they were singin’ about something so beautiful it can’t be expressed in words and makes your heart ache because of it. I tell you, those voices soared, higher and farther than anybody in a gray place dares to dream. It was like some beautiful bird flapped into our drab little cage and made those walls dissolve away. And for the briefest of moments, every last man at Shawshank felt free.
I don’t think you ought to be doing this to yourself, Andy. This is just shitty pipedreams. I mean, Mexico is way the hell down there and you’re in here, and that’s the way it is
“In 1966, Andy Dufresne escaped from Shawshank Prison,” nineteen years after being incarcerated.
Geology is the study of pressure and time. That’s all it takes, really. Pressure and time. That and the big god-damn poster. Like I said, in prison, a man’ll do most anything to keep his mind occupied. It turns out Andy’s favorite hobby was totin’ his wall out into the exercise yard a handful at a time.
Andy crawled to freedom through five hundred yards of s–t-smelling foulness I can’t even imagine. Or maybe I just don’t want to. Five hundred yards. That’s the length of five football fields, just shy of half a mile.
I like to think the last thing that went through his head – other than that bullet – was to wonder how the hell Andy Dufresne ever got the best of him.
Andy Dufresne, who crawled through a river of shit and came out clean on the other side. Andy Dufresne headed for the Pacific. Those of us who knew him best talk about him often. I swear the stuff he pulled. Sometimes it makes me sad, though, Andy being gone. 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, but still, the place you live in is that much more drab and empty that they’re gone. I guess I just miss my friend.
Rehabilitated? Well now, let me see. You know, I don’t have any idea what that means…I know what you think it means. To me, it’s just a made-up word, a politician’s word so that young fellas like yourself can wear a suit and a tie and have a job. What do you really want to know? Am I sorry for what I did?…There’s not a day goes by I don’t feel regret. And not because I’m in here or because you think I should. I look back on the way I was then. A young, stupid kid who committed that terrible crime. I want to talk to him. I want to try and talk some sense to him. Tell him the way things are. But I can’t. That kid’s long gone. This old man is all that’s left. I gotta live with that. ‘Rehabilitated?’ That’s just a bulls–t word. So you go on and stamp your forms, sonny, and stop wasting my time. Because to tell you the truth, I don’t give a s–t.
All I do anymore is think of ways to break my parole so maybe they’d send me back. Terrible thing to live in fear. Brooks Hatlen knew it. Knew it all too well. All I want is to be back where things make sense. Where I won’t have to be afraid all the time. Only one thing stops me. A promise I made to Andy.
If you’re reading this, you’ve gotten out. And if you’ve come this far, maybe you’re willing to come a little further. You remember the name of the town, don’t you? I could use a good man to help me get my project on wheels. I’ll keep an eye out for you and the chessboard ready. Remember, Red. Hope is a good thing, maybe the best of things and no good thing ever dies. I will be hoping that this letter finds you, and finds you well.
Get busy livin’, or get busy dyin’. That’s god-damn right. For the second time in my life, I am guilty of committing a crime. Parole violation. Of course, I doubt they’ll toss up any roadblocks for that. Not for an old crook like me.
I find I’m so excited I can barely sit still or hold a thought in my head. I think it’s the excitement only a free man can feel, a free man at the start of a long journey whose conclusion is uncertain. I hope I can make it across the border. I hope to see my friend and shake his hand. I hope the Pacific is as blue as it has been in my dreams. I hope……
The performances in Shawshank are powerful, and the commentary upon the justice system is both thoughtful and thought-provoking. This is a film with remarkable staying power. It sustains its suspense and tension throughout; its remarkably hopeful story is thoroughly engrossing. In the end of it all, Andy will escape…………..
The credits also need the mention of Stephen King. Without his story, the movie could not have been. The movie so closely follows the story, which you’ll find that if you read the book, most of the dialog is lifted word for word. I’ve always felt King’s short stories were his best works and in fact the collection that this movie was taken from has had 3 of the 4 stories made into movies, one of them being Stand By Me.
One of the few movies that I can watch over and over again, the Shawshank Redemption just starting to get some of the appreciation that it deserves as not only one of the best movies of the 90’s, but as one of the greatest films of all time…… I hope you love this
Direction: Frank Darabont
Producers: Frank Darabont, Liz Glotzer, David V. Lester & Niki Marvin
Cast: Tim Robbins, Morgan Freeman, Bob Gunton, William Sadler, Clancy Brown, Gil Bellows, James Whitmore, Mark Rolston & Jeffrey DeMunn