Shawshank Redemption

2/27/2011


Shawshank Redemption can be considered as one of the better films in Hollywood, not only because of the beautifully written plot but because of the way it tries to deliver a certain message to the viewer using abstract concepts of justice, power and redemption. Darabont's ability to focus on one of man's greatest needs (freedom), combined with the film’s brilliant musical score and Red’s (Morgan Freeman's) excellent narration made the film so touching, it can drive the viewers to tears. This powerful combination was able to make the audience feel exactly how the characters in the film are feeling, making them understand how it is to be caged and bound for the rest of your life. 
   




Corruption, one of the biggest problems in society, is one of the underlying themes of the movie. Warden Norton (Bob Gurton) exemplified your typical politician, resolved to doing anything for power and money. He made, profit out of the prisoners’ labor and ordered Andy (Tim Robbins) to launder money using a fictional identity. It also showed a subtle critic of the government when Andy needed to persistently write to the US Congress just to be able to get a decent budget for his library. It deals with the fact that sometimes we forget that criminals, despite their sins, are still human beings who are entitled to facilities that can help them reform and improve their lives. 

Social justice is also an underlying concept in the film. Several times in the movie, prison guards are shown as maltreating prisoners, putting them in the “hole” for an indefinite period of time and treating them as vermin. The murder of Tommy (Gil Bellows) just because he was ready to tell the truth regarding Andy’s case makes the viewers think of the injustice that usually happens in society whenever a person gets in the way of powerful personalities. Honestly, it reminded me of the Ampatuan Massacre where innocent people were killed just because a politician wanted to maintain power in Maguindanao. The power structure in the film prods the viewer to think of the existing status quo in society and the serious problems that come with it.

It also deals with institutionalization and how people eventually rely on it in the long run. Brooks Hatlen’s (James Whitmore) touching story of life outside prison is an allegory of the sociological concept of “anomie”. Brooks was so used to an institutionalized life where laws are laid down before him that when he was freed, he found it hard to adjust to the sudden change in surrounding which ultimately led to him taking his own life. 
One of the uncanny things that I noticed in the film is the symbolism in the way Andy carried himself. On the earlier part of the story, you can see how Andy differed from the other prisoners because of the way he buttoned his shirt, closed and corporate-like, a symbol of how he kept his dignity intact. But as the story progressed, we can see how Andy slowly becomes part of that society as he changes the way he carried himself. He became more loose and relaxed. It reminded me of how a person adapts in a new society and tries to find his own function as a part of that group.

The beauty of the film lies on its ability to show tough criminals as being actually capable of real human emotions. It makes the audience reach out to them despite the horrors that they have done in the past. It displays a quite accurate picture of what reality really is: a hard and brutal arena where you have to battle your own inner demons in order to be emancipated. It gives the viewer a familiar feel of your typical prison drama where the hero always gets the better of things in the end but it's blunt predictability makes it so unpredictable and original that even after the movie the viewer's will be left thinking of the message that it tried to convey. The movie may have given off a certain feel good feeling because of the resolution of the issues but it did not fail to spark hope in the hearts of the audience that in the end, it is only ourselves that can set us free.

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