Hope is freedom: why the film “The Shawshank Redemption” became a cult
Year of production: 1994
Directed by: Frank Darabont
Actors: Tim Robbins, Morgan Freeman, Bob Gunton, William Sadler, Clancy Brown
tagline: “Fear is a shackle. Hope is freedom”
Awards and Nominations: The film has two Saturn Award nominations, two Golden Globe Award nominations, and five Academy Award nominations.
“The Shawshank Redemption”, which has been in the TOP of “Kinopoisk” and IMDB for many years, is considered the best film made in the history of cinema. This is a simple and at the same time complex story, consisting of several semantic layers.
At first glance, this is a movie about how people who found themselves in a very difficult situation managed to maintain their humanity. But in fact, the meaning of the film “The Shawshank Redemption” (“The Shawshank Redemption”) is somewhat deeper.
Film and book
The Shawshank Redemption is based on a novel by Stephen King. According to the writer, this work was the culmination of all his impressions from all kinds of prison dramas that he watched as a child.
Tim Robbins as Andy Dufresne and Morgan Freeman as Ellis Boyd. Frame from the film.
Once a woman approached the writer in a supermarket and said that she, of course, respects his work, but much more she likes the works of other writers, such as The Shawshank Redemption. The King of Horrors was never able to prove to the elderly lady that he was the author of the book she loved.
The story was also liked by Stephen’s longtime friend, director Frank Darabont, who once successfully filmed his story “The Woman in the Ward”. King sold the film rights to the book for $1, and refused the fee – according to him, it was enough for him that his story formed the basis of the film, which was destined to become a classic.
Brief description of the content of the film. A young man named Andy Dufresne is accused of killing his wife and her lover. However, Andy does not admit his guilt. Unfortunately, he has absolutely no memory of what he was doing on the night of the murder, because he was dead drunk.
Shortly before this, Dufresne convicted his wife of infidelity, but refused her request for a divorce. His wife left him that evening, and Andy went to a bar and got drunk. Deeply offended, he went to the house of his offender, wanting to take revenge, but he did no harm to his lovers. In the morning they were found dead, and all the evidence indirectly pointed to Dufresne’s guilt. The court sentenced Andy to two life terms.
The hero ends up in Shawshank, one of the most terrible prisons in New England. Andy becomes a worker in the prison laundry. Still very confused and scared, he tries to be quiet and not confront anyone.
Soon he meets another prisoner, Alice Boyd Reading, nicknamed Red. Reading, in his own words, has been in prison all his life, and can get anything from the will. Andy asks him to get a small hammer, which he does.
Clancy Brown played the role of Captain Byron. Frame from the film.
A few months later, Dufresne accidentally learns that security chief Byron Headley has inherited an impressive amount of money. Headley is extremely unhappy that he will have to give most of the money to the state as a tax.
Andy, who used to be a banker, tells Headley about the loophole – and offers his services. In return, he asks for beer for the prisoners he worked with. So he managed to achieve the love of his comrades in misfortune and some semblance of respect for the “powerful ones”.
Gradually, a calm and balanced prisoner is noticed by the head of the prison, Samuel Norton, and offers him a job in the library. There, Andy is doing almost the same thing as before the tragedy – consulting prison staff and opening accounts.
A few years later, Norton reports on the program he created, thanks to which the forces of Shawshank prisoners were to be used at government construction sites instead of private teams.
All money earned would have to be sent to a certain address: officially – for the improvement of the prison, and unofficially – into the pocket of the “God-fearing” Norton. For help, the head of the prison turns to Andy, who creates a whole network of money laundering. This is how 20 years pass.
Frame from the film.
Soon new prisoners arrive in prisons, and one of them talks about how, during one of his sentences, he met a certain psychopath who shot a couple in their house … So Andy finds out who killed his wife.
Andy, confident that he has earned himself the respect and authority of the “powerful ones”, goes to Norton and asks him to review the case. But Samuel Norton wants a smart guy like Andy Dufresne, and he turns him down. Andy loses his nerve, and he ends up in a punishment cell. A little later, he meets with Red and tells him about the place of his dreams – Zihuatanejo. He asks his friend to leave the prison and go to a special place. There, under one special stone, he will find a message for him.
The next morning, Andy doesn’t show up for formation. He was not in the cell. Beneath a poster of Rita Hayworth hanging on the wall, the warden discovers a giant hole made by Andy. During the long years of imprisonment, he hollowed it out with a rock hammer, which Red got for him …
Closer to the final, Andy manages to get out, under an assumed name, start a new life, and withdraw all of Norton’s money from the accounts. He also manages to compile compromising evidence on all Shawshank’s bosses and send it to a major print publication. The police arrest Hadley, but Norton evades responsibility – he shoots himself in the head in his own office.
Frame from the film.
Soon, Red is released from prison on parole and goes to the very place that Andy told him about. Under the right stone, he finds a box containing money and a letter from Dufresne, in which he invites him to Zihuatanejo. On the ocean, friends finally meet.
The meaning of the ending of The Shawshank Redemption is that all suffering will eventually end. Some give a religious explanation for the ending: Zihuatanejo, according to Andy, is “a place without memory” – something like paradise. The meaning is this: having passed all the tests, the heroes became completely free – both from sins and from the past.
But there is also an alternative ending. There is a scene in the script that was not included in the final cut. In it, the meeting of friends is only implied, and Red, after being released from prison, continues to remember the past. He does not feel liberated at the end of the film – his outer confinement has become inner.
The meaning of the film
The film “The Shawshank Redemption” is not only about physical liberation and the triumph of justice. There is a hidden meaning in Frank Darabont’s painting. It’s about bringing light into a dark place, punishing evil, and redeeming Alice Boyd Redding.
Before Andy arrived at the prison, Shawshank was a place full of routine. Nothing has changed and no one has changed. The prisoners existed according to one scenario, and, in the end, each of them lost his individuality. The cycle that took shape within these walls created a dependence on them for the prisoners.
One of the main ideas seen throughout the film is time and its merciless course. On the other side of the screen, months and years slip by without an audience. The meaning of this is that time means nothing if a person has not achieved anything.
The prison authorities are trying to force the prisoners to stop being human: they must forget everything they knew before and learn a new set of rules. It is about institutionalization.
The head of the prison leads an extremely hypocritical lifestyle. When no one sees, he breaks his own rules. From the Bible, he quotes only what is beneficial to him.
Prisoners come to absurdism – they are desperately looking for the meaning of life, but they cannot find it. Once outside the prison gates, they are unable to live a normal life – at large.
Frame from the film.
Arriving in Shawshank, Andy makes a major change – he turns the prison into a place of self-improvement. He does as much good as he can – and all this is rooted in the essence of the film.
It goes like this: no matter how bad your life is, what trap you are in, and how bad you feel, there is a way out: by working, everyone can make their life better.
The most important thing is to do something positive. Andy was able to improve the lives of prisoners – in addition, he was able to find beauty in places where there can be none. Andy helps Norton simply because he is in the world of evil.
He understands that in order to achieve something good, you have to do bad things. He is ready to break the rules and do bad things to improve the lives of the people with whom fate brought him together. In the end, all his bad actions led to the overthrow of evil.
If Andy gains freedom by breaking the rules, then Red achieves the same by following them. By the way, it is his story that is told in The Shawshank Redemption in the first place. Red acts as a narrator – he is also the main character of the film. Andy was the catalyst for true redemption.
The film tells the redemption story of Red and people with a similar fate. Everyone in Shawshank is institutionalized – forced to accept prison walls and consider themselves “prison people”.
Red, well aware that he would not be able to socialize, saw no reason to fight. He got along with Shawshank and lost his own importance. Andy became the conductor of personal freedom for him.
Bob Gunton as Warden Norton. Frame from the film.
Red was required to stop being like everyone else. He was able to do it. First, he gained inner freedom, and only then – external.
Shawshank produced only fully institutionalized – depersonalized people who were waiting for only death ahead. But things didn’t go well with Red. Through Andy’s influence, he came to redemption.
Once Red told Andy that he should give up all hope: he is in hell, and this is forever. But the film’s last words are: “I hope I can make it across the border.”
Hope is the only one who didn’t fly out of Pandora’s box…
Details and symbols
A good story is always told on three levels. The details and images tell the story on a deeper level that the viewer reads subconsciously.
One of the most important details in the film “The Shawshank Redemption” is the Bible. For the first time, she, like a meaningless object, appeared in Norton’s hands. Then the head of the prison gives it to Andy and says the key phrase: “Salvation is within us.” The last time the Bible appears in the final – the devout Norton casually throws it on the floor.
Like many, Andy saw salvation in the Bible, but, unlike them, he hoped not so much for God as for a small hammer, which helped him get out. He was saved by his own choice and his own actions. The message of all this is this: you can only save yourself. Don’t give up, believe in yourself and keep going. Otherwise, others will do it for you.
Another important symbol is posters that hide what others should not see. Norton has a safe behind the poster, in which he hides all his financial frauds. Behind the poster hanging in Andy’s cell is a life-saving passage to freedom.
Frame from the film.
Why is the movie called The Shawshank Redemption?
Stephen King’s short story is called Rita Hayworth and Shawshank Redemption. Domestic localizers translated the title as “Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption”. There is no preposition between the words “Shawshank” and “redemption”. The word “Shawshank” is an adjective. That is, the correct translation is: “Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption.”
In the picture, as in the original story, there are two stories. The first is the story of Andy Dufresne, “an honest man who became a criminal in prison.” His hope lay in a poster that featured actress Rita Hayworth. The second story is the journey of Alice Boyd Redding (his last name and nickname combined with the word “redemption”), this is the story of redemption (Shawshank Redemption). That is, it is about hope and redemption.
The word “redemption” can have another interpretation – it can be translated as “salvation”. In some analysis of the picture, it is assumed that it is not about salvation from somewhere, but about the salvation of the soul. It is also translated as “retribution”, but it also has the meaning of release from a burden or debt. In this case, from the burden of the soul.
Here are some movies similar to The Shawshank Redemption in meaning:
- “Green Mile” (USA, 2003). One day, an unusual prisoner appears in a prison where dangerous criminals are sentenced to death. He changes the lives of all who come into contact with him;
- One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest (USA, 1975). There’s a new guy at the psychiatric hospital. Unlike other patients, he came there voluntarily, but he does not like the orders reigning there at all;
- “Moth” (France, USA, 1973). Henri gets a life sentence for a crime he didn’t commit. He decides on a daring escape.