The movie stars Morgan Freeman and Tim Robbins as two convicts servingtime in a New England prison named Shawshank. Tim Robbins plays a man namedAndy Dufresne, a banker, who gets convicted of murdering his wife and her loverand is sent to prison in Shawshank. Andy eventually becomes good friends with afellow convict by the name of Ellis Boyd Redding(Morgan Freeman) who is able toget anything for anyone within reason. The story follows the prison life ofAndy 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 roughcut. Darabont tends to take the story at a distance allowing the characters toestablish their traits to the audience instead of pushing a barrage of anglesat 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 thecinematography by Roger Deakins. The whole story looks like it was filmed witha blue filter. The filters give a special beauty to the scenes, which in turncauses more dramatic feelings for the audience. With this filter the movietends to bring out the two different colors of blue and brown.
The blues of theuniforms are all the more dramatic compared to the drab brown buildingssurrounding the prisoners. The colors also produce dramatic irony in the lastscene of Red and Andy on the beach. The blue and brown colors that once gavefeelings of confinement and despair in the prison are now colors of freedom andhappiness. The lighting that goes along with the scenes are also interesting. Thewhole movie is shot primarily in high contrast with the exception of the guardswho are mostly in the shadows.
The lighting that follows the guards present adarkness to their characters, they are displayed as harsh and villainy. Theviolent scenes all take place in the shadows as well, with low key light. Thelighting of these scenes give a sense of violence without actually showing itin the film. The screenplay written for The Shawshank Redemption is exact and precise,everything in the movie complements the development of characters and presentsunderlying motifs such as prisoner’s dependence from long term incarceration,prisoner camaraderie, and feelings of hope in hopeless situations.
The plot hasa smart climax that is not fully understandable until the last few scenes. Theending is a total surprise as to how Andy escapes from Shawshank. The movie isbrought together with the clever narration’s by “Red”(Morgan Freeman). Byhaving Red narrate, the audience quickly identifies with the prisoners, thereare certain common traits that the characters and audience share that producesympathy for the incarcerated criminals. The use of narration also brings out asense of fate. The use of a narrator also helped tremendously as to explainingthe details of how Tim Robbins character escapes from the jail.
The dialogue is also clever and witty at times. The movie has manymemorable quotes such as when Andy tells red, “On the outside I was alwaysstraight as an arrow, I had to come in here to be a crook” and “You either haveto start living or you got to start dying. ” Some other quotes in the movie area little more subtle like when the warden hands Andy his bible back with thewords, “Salvation lies from within. ” Only at the end of the movie do we findthat 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 somerecords that the state has just sent to the prison. He decides to play therecord on the intercom and locks himself in the room so the guards won’t stophim. The camera goes through a montage that captures the prisoners love for asimple thing such as listening to a record. The montage consisted mostly ofpanning shots with a crane shot mixed into it.
The montage was made fluidlywith the camera moving at the same speed in all the shots. The director tookspecial notice to the actors expressions by using many close-ups in a moviethat does not consist of many close-ups. The lighting on this scene was evenlyilluminated, there were no shadows evident. The director wanted to get thefacial expressions and convey there feeling of yearning for simple freedoms.
The mise-en-scene for this montage was strategically done to express thenumber of prisoners the music was reaching. The prisoners are all evenly spacedout in the courtyard with the crane shot moving up enhancing the idea that themusic is reaching great masses of people. The music in the montage has thefaint static that makes the audience aware that the music is coming from theintercoms. The music also helps add to the atmosphere of the scene causing asurrealistic feeling of calm. The acting is also done quite well.
The reactionsof the prisoners turns from surprise to appreciation in a realistic way. Another scene worth noting in this analysis is the scene in which acharacter named Brooks(James Whitmore) feeds pigeons in the park. The audiencelistens to the man recite a letter in which he has recently sent his friends inprison. The acting by Whitmore resembles that of a lonely old man. The lightsource in the scene seemingly comes from the sun, causing the trees to caststreaks of shadows onto the character.
What makes this a particularly goodscene is the directors’ choice of angles. The camera at first pans along theground, giving us a full shot of the pigeons eating seed. It then tilts up intoa low angle shot of the old man. The camera gently slows to a close-up of theman’s facial expression.
Darabont then shows us a full shot with the mansitting on the bench all alone. This scene conveys a sense of emptiness to theaudience which is dramatic and memorable. Overall, Darabont uses affective methods of filming, causing theaudience to feel Andy Dufresne desperation, sense of hopelessness, and finallyhis exhaltation after escaping from prison. The movie is a modern example ofthe classical style of cinema.