The celluloid has manifold layers. It unravels human stories, raw emotions and real people, both literally and figuratively. Cinema is one of the most powerful mediums of communication because it is expressive, impressive and effective. Being a visual extravaganza, cinema opens up doors to the locked avenues of the inquisitive mind. Films are fluent in the art of storytelling and narration. Watching, contemplating and understanding iconic and legendary cinema is as important as perusing a piece of classic literature. One needs to perceive and comprehend the nuances, the subtle details, the direction, the screenplay and definitely the acting to fully immerse in this incredible art form.
Movies like “The Shawshank Redemption” have left an indelible mark on the canvas of world cinema. They are only made once in a blue moon. It’s not every day that one gets to experience these awe-inspiring stories. Released in 1994, this movie celebrates its 27th anniversary this year. But its magical impact on people’s minds hasn’t disappeared at all with time.
Based on the 1982 Stephen King novella, “Rita Hayworth and Shawshank Redemption”, this movie is a magnum opus. It was directed by Frank Darabont. It is to be noted that upon its release, this piece of cinematic art was a box office failure due to the competition from “Forrest Gump” and “Pulp Fiction”. However, failure at the box office could not overshadow the artistic excellence that the movie abounds in. It went on to become one of the most loved movies of all time.
Set against the background of Maine, the story revolves around a banker, Andy Dufresne (Tim Robbins) and Ellis ‘Red’ Redding (Morgan Freeman) and their camaraderie in the most unlikely of places i.e. in a state prison. The movie begins with Andy sitting in his car, intoxicated, with a pistol in his hand. The next scene is of a courtroom where Andy is convicted for the murder of his wife and her lover. He is sentenced to two consecutive life sentences and taken to the state penitentiary. Upon his entry into the prison, Red, who is an inmate, serving a life sentence bets with his fellow prisoners that Andy won’t survive the first night and would crack up. However, Red is proven wrong. The entire movie is narrated through the perspective of Ellis Redding. We always see Andy from a distance. He seems like a “cold fish”. He is distant, reserved and it’s baffling to understand what he thinks.
Red is a ‘man of means’. He gets things done. Andy asks him for a rock hammer to pursue his hobby of rock carving and also asks for Rita Hayworth. Andy’s banking skills become an asset for the prison staff and even the prison warden Bob Gunton. He is soon assigned to a place behind the tables and keeps a tab of the wardens’ dirty money.
We see Redding transforming immensely through the course of the film. After 20 and 30 years of serving, when he is sent before the parole board and asked whether he is rehabilitated, he answers, “Yes, and that’s God’s honest truth”. Even so, his parole is denied. After 40 years in penitentiary, his whole idea of life changes. He then speaks not for himself but for all about the unchanging life at the prison. He explains that he is now institutionalised, just like old Brooks who succumbed to despondency of lonesome outside prison walls.
This is not a typical prison drama film and Andy is not a typical prisoner. He has a pool of resilience, strength, determination and most importantly hope, which he shelters from others. The film has numerous moments which make you cherish the brilliantly shining sun, the blue sea and the freedom one experiences when breathing in fresh air. One of the moments which stands out was when Andy with his flair and prowess manages to get his friends cold beer when they were assigned to roofing jobs. This scene truly had a life of its own! Another key moment was when Andy put on Mozart’s Duettino Sull’aria for the whole penitentiary to listen. The astonishment with which everyone listened and how Andy sat with his legs on the table without a worry in the world is a moment to behold.
And, finally the most important scene when Andy dreams of going to Zihuatanejo and of blue oceans. He is a loyal friend whose amicable relations with Redding are not limited within the prison walls but also spans across the blue oceans of Zihuatanejo.
The Shawshank Redemption is a masterpiece that gives us hope above all. And it truly stands by the line in the movie delivered by Andy, “Get busy living or get busy dying”. Eventually, everyone undergoes redemption.
By: Akansha Ira