The Shawshank Redemption (Frank Darabont, 1994)

08Mar10

If you haven’t seen The Shawshank Redemption before and I told you it could aptly be summarised as an embodiment of the word ‘hope,’ you’d rightly predict the film to be corny, and ultimately a cliché. As it turns out, nothing could be further from the truth. Somehow,Shawshank captures that emotion, through a tale of community and friendship behind bars, without nearing sentimentality at any point. It’s a truly heartwarming story that everyone is taken in by. If this film does not inspire, few others will.

It does so primarily through the lives of two men: ‘Red,’ and Andy Dufresne. Both are convicted for murder, but we’re led to believe that the latter is innocent. Perhaps this is what inspires him to never stop dreaming of freedom finally returning to his life, even when he is constantly bludgeoned within an inch of his life by the dark forces within Shawshank. He is physically beaten by sadistic inmates, and mentally by the Warden. Yet he persists. He writes letters weekly for six years until funds for the prison library are released. He carves his own chess board and pieces out of rock. He uses his financial expertise to gain extra privileges with the staff, and manages as such to play opera music over the entire prison’s speaker system, in the most moving scene of the film. Andy gets a week of solitary confinement for that stunt. But he continues to hope, nevertheless.

It is ironically and conveniently timely that I watched this film around the same time I revisited One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest, for they have surprising similarities: just as McMurphy inspires the Chief’s liberation, Andy undoubtedly has an impact on the pessimistic, resigned-to-eternal-life-behind-bars Red, played quietly, but incredibly, by Morgan Freeman. ‘Get busy living, or get busy dying’ is Andy’s motto. Both men end up acting accordingly.

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