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
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.