Wednesday, 15 August 2012

"Hope can drive a man crazy" - The value of freedom of choice.

Shawshank Redemption is an incredibly moving film centred around the characters Andy and Red, both convicted murderers serving life sentences in Shawshank prison. The film explores a few issues; the brutality and discipline of certain prison systems, relationships between the inmates and the shocking effects on mental health of institutionalisation.

The film spans the 19 years that Andy spends in Shawshank and follows his struggle against prison life and his attempts to improve life for his fellow inmates. An important thing to note is that though he was convicted of murdering his wife and her lover, throughout the film he restates the fact that he is innocent.

We do not find out for certain until near the end of the film whether he is innocent or not and in the interest of not providing a spoiler, I won't describe what happens. The ending of the film surprised me in more ways than one, I wouldn't have expected the chain of events to occur as they did, and this is one of the reasons why I give this film five stars.

The value of freedom of choice is a key theme in this film, as what Andy does for the inmates is increase the value of their time to themselves with a book (bettering the library) and gets them beers after work (by bribing the prison guards with his lawyer knowledge). He himself dreams and dreams of the Pacific Ocean which "always forgets" and a hotel he would set up on the coast of Mexico where the sea would be so blue.

I was gripped to this lengthy film (two and a half hours long!) from the beginning and felt that it really grabbed my attention and drew me into the story, so much that by the more emotional scenes near the end of the film I felt like I was Andy, as the story was told so convincingly and paid attention to details.
At the end of the film I was left questioning many things such as how prisons should be run and what happened to the manager of the prison to make him so evil and money hungry.

The film educated me on life on the inside, though I don't know how "real" it actually was, though they did a convincing job of portraying life, they showed the men going about their everyday tasks. I would imagine that this would be something like a high security institution today, but not a standard prison.

The uplifting part of this film is that the message "hope can send a man crazy", as voiced by Red after their dear old friend Brooks (the ancient librarian who has lived in the prison for 50 years on a life sentence) struggles on the outside after finishing his sentence, is changed by the end into "hope is good and necessary, a man needs hope". So throughout the despair of the hopeless situation, there is a positive note that can be taken.

The friendship of Red and Andy is one of the central parts of the film and the story is told entirely from the point of view of Red, as he closely watches his friend and the changes that happen as a result of him.

I would go as far as to say that this is one of the best films I have ever seen, as a result of the thoughtful nature of the film and the questions it caused me to consider, as well as the way the story is told, the way two and a half hours seemed like no time at all and the gripping nature of the storyline itself. Prisoners really do have a story to tell.

It caused me to consider whether prisoners value free time more than anyone else, or whether the degree of institutionalisation they undergo in prison makes them a different person unable or unwilling to make their own decisions after so long formulating their behaviour to do exactly as told. I would come to the conclusion that it depends how long you have been in prison.

I will add more to these thoughts when I have the time as I think there is so much to think about from this film.

--Meaning of the title--

The word redemption means to be saved from sin or evil, and Andy and Red in trying to improve prison life, find their own redemption, though as they are serving life sentences, it is impossible to redeem themselves in the eyes of the law.
The unexpected occurrences towards the end of the film offer another interpretation of redemption!

--Things you need to know--

You can get this film from Blockbuster as I did or online at under a fiver! I can't recommend this film enough and would suggest that it is suitable for a wide range of audiences, though not for young children who get troubled by violence as it is packed with violent scenes.

One of the best films I have ever seen. Five stars!

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