“Hope is a good thing, maybe the best of things, and no good thing ever dies.”The Shawshank Redemption is an award winning film, grasping the attention of the audience through the theme of hope inspiring freedom. The Shawshank Redemption, directed by Frank Darabont, explores the lives of the inmates in Shawshank, especially that of Andy Dufresne who was wrongfully convicted for the murder of his wife and her lover. Being the only one in the prison with hope we watch as Andy inspires those around him and see his hope pay off when he finally escapes from Shawshank prison. Two scenes where we see Andy’s hope inspiring the idea of freedom for his fellow inmates, is the rooftop scene and the music scene. Darabont uses sounds, such as voiceover and music and camera angles to develop this overall theme and captivate the audience through Andy’s journey to freedom.  

 

Hope inspiring freedom isn’t introduced into “The Shawshank Redemption” until the rooftop scene, it is here that Andy finally speaks up and forms more friendships. The high angle of the longshots in the rooftop scene, while the Warden is speaking and while the guards are watching the men work show their superiority over the inmates at the prison. It gives the illusion that the guards and Warden are higher up than the workers. In society, those more important often sit higher up so when we see the inmates further away and smaller than the more superior we know immediately that they will always be seen as criminals and be disrespected no matter where they work, or stand in the prison. There is another high angle shot when Andy is standing on the ledge of the building in the hands of Hadley and does not seem phased at the thought of dieing while teetering on the edge of the roof. Instead he continues talking about the problem Hadley is faced with. A common theory is that god looks down on people and protects them, as the audience, seeing Andy at this high angle gives us the feeling that we should protect him, and that we are connected to him in a new way. We see low angled closeups of each of their faces, showing in this moment in time they are equals, they each have control over the other person, and stand on equal terms. This is a major revelation for Andy, we finally see him standing up for himself. We finally see his hope come to the surface. Instead of continuing mopping the roof Andy was brave and his courage gained him respect and friends, it also moved him higher up the ranks within the prison, the guards and the Warden no longer look down on him, instead they need him. As the audience our protection payed off.  As well as effective camera angles, non-diegetic violin music plays while they are on the rooftop . This music is a relaxing change from the dramatic, mechanical noises we hear when inside the prison. It stops however as the guards begin talking. Not only does this allow the audience to listen in on the conversation but it also proves that in Shawshank the guards break the peace. This violin music does not play again until Andy has come to terms with Hadley and we see the men sitting on the rooftop, drinking cold beers, with the sun on their backs. This selfless act of providing beers for his friends, accompanied by the soft music, shows that Andy’s hope will never be diminished and he will never surrender to the walls of the prison and become institutionalised, he will instead inspire others to have freedom behind the bars. While Andy watches his friends drink the beer we see an audacious look on his face, he seems unphased of his new life in the prison and this reflects on to the other inmates as they drink beer like free men. The relaxing music that plays while the inmates are drinking beer is paired with Reds voice over. The use of Morgan Freeman’s voiceover in “The Shawshank Redemption” helps to unveil the course of events occurring. The voice over is clever in the fact that it does not assist the movie in a storytelling context it instead provides an insight for the viewer and another perspective. Red goes on to explain that as they are sitting on the rooftop, drinking their beer, they feel like free men. Darabont effectively combines camera angles and sound scape during the rooftop scene to portray Andy’s hope inspiring the other inmates with freedom. This scene is the first scene that we see Andy given favour over the other prisoners and selflessly pass that on to his friends. We see Andy develop as being noticed as an educated man. Andy gifting other prisoners with the feeling of freedom, in terms of standing up to Hadley and providing them with beer in this scene opens up a whole new perspective for us as the viewer on Andy. We no longer look down on him as a prisoner, but instead stand next to him as a friend to the other inmates. In society we tend to let greed take over our perception of good humanity, it is then that we convey to selfishness. Little glimpses of hope can introduce a whole new feeling of freedom. This is what I believe Darabont was trying to convey in this scene, he wanted to show the audience that Andy broke a chain of selfishness and inhumanity with one small act of kindness to inspire freedom.

 

The music scene comes as an unexpected turning point in the film. At the beginning of the scene Andy slowly lifts up a specific record and curiously smiles at it after finally being gifted supply’s for the library he has created. As the viewer we understand that Andy is proud of what he has achieved but see the same audaciousness that we see in the rooftop scene when there is a close up on Andy locking himself into the Warden’s office and locking the guard in the toilet. Andy’s true courage shines through when he plays the music over all the loud speakers throughout the prison. There is very minimal diegetic sound at the beginning of this scene to enhance the power the music has over the prison, because as it plays it is the only sound that can be heard. The minimal use of sound in this scene is effective as it shows that a daily thing outside of prison, such as music, is such a big deal in the prison as it is a form of freedom. It is a form of freedom because when you listen to music it makes you relax and it helps you block out your surroundings, and for an inmate in the prison who is banned from listening to music, hearing Mozart over the loud speakers opens up a whole new perspective for them. The camera shifts outside to a bright courtyard and cranes up to pan the whole courtyard, these two camera techniques work in conjunction to show the fixation the inmates have on the speaker. As the audience, we know that the prisoners in the courtyard are not in Shawshank during that moment in time but instead in the song, they are free. This relates back to Darabont’s intention which is to show Andy’s hope inspiring freedom to the other inmates in Shawshank, because by listening to the music everyone feels free. The camera moves around the prison at a mid height showing everyone standing together, including the guards. The lack of high angles when capturing the men listening to the music in this scene shows that one small act of selflessness can unite a community in its entirety, it not only engaged the inmates and the guards, but the audience as well. It is here that as a viewer we are aware of Andy’s courage and true motive to pass on his hope to the others trapped within the walls of the prison. As the audience we are aware that such an act inside Shawshank leads to serious punishment that Andy so narrowly avoided on the rooftop, but instead he sacrifices himself to inspire the other inmates in the prison with freedom. Andy’s selection of music in this scene is Mozart’s “The Marriage of Figaro.” The song tells a story of a loving couple, Figaro and Susanna fighting together to prevent the soon to be wife, from being molested by the superior. This songs meaning immediately relates back to Andy’s hope inspiring the inmates with freedom, he is working against the Warden to help his friends, just like Figaro helped Susanna. Darabont’s combination of camera angles and soundscape in this scene are effective in the fact that they both are used minimally to provide full impact. The simplicity of diegetic sound in this scene brings to light the freedom that Andy has inspired, because such a simple act had such a big impact. This is also represented through Red’s voice over at the end of the scene where he discusses the impact Andy’s act had on the other prisoners “…I tell you, those voices soared higher and farther than anybody in a gray place dares to dream. It was like some beautiful bird flapped into our drab little cage and made those walls dissolve away, and for the briefest of moments, every last man in Shawshank felt free.” Andy allowed the prisoners in Shawshank to truly connect with something you only experience in the outside world even though they are not yet rehabilitated. They found freedom in the music and Andy’s hope made that possible.  Because Frank Darabont portrayed the idea of hope inspiring freedom effectively with camera angles and soundscape, Andy’s journey in Shawshank was shown clearly. As the audience we sat in the forefront of Andy’s courageous acts and were truly impacted by his decisions. In society courage is often lost because people are too busy trying to fit into the ideals. Small things, like inspiring freedom through hope can gain you friends, happiness and most importantly, respect, and Andy did exactly that.

 

Andy never lets his spirit be confined by the walls around him, he inspires his fellow inmates and never lets his hope fade, which pays off for him. The idea of freedom diminishes as time goes by for the prisoners, but Andy’s selfless acts, like getting them cold beers while tarring one of the prison roofs and playing Mozart’s ‘The Marriage of Figaro’ inspired the inmates to retain this idea. The rooftop scene and the music scene in “The Shawshank Redemption” are used effectively in conjunction by Frank Darabont to portray the idea of Andy’s hope inspiring freedom to the other inmates at Shawshank through the use of similar camera angles and sound. Darabont uses Red’s voice over and high camera angles during both scenes. Red’s voice over not only engaged the audience but also gave a more in-depth perspective of the events and gave a more personal view of Andy’s impact on him. High camera angles showed the superior nature inside the prison and how through courage Andy made himself more superior over the guards. “Fear can hold you prisoner. Hope can set you free.”

 

Melanie Telford

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  1. Mel, during our final periods of assessment I hope you will consider:
    – developing your analysis of the positioning of the viewer
    – making clear and direct references to the directors intentions
    – ensure that your thesis about “freedom” is explicit and consistent throughout your essay
    – look for areas that you have gone “off track” and pull them back in.

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