Analyse how at least one setting helped you better understand one or two characters or individuals. !! In the film, The Shawshank Redemption the director, Frank Darabont, uses the prison setting to help the audience to better understand the inmates of Shawshank State Prison. Darabont uses an array of film techniques to illustrate his purpose of institutionalisation and the importance of hope. !! The nature of the prison is cold and oppressive. The prison is lit by blue/grey lighting that complements the blue and grey backgrounds of the walls, adding a claustrophobic ambience to the already disheartening prison. Darabont cleverly uses the prison setting in The Marriage of Figaro by Mozart Scene to help the audience understand how the inmates have become institutionalised from everyday prison life. Not only does this scene uncover institutionalisation, but also how the prisoners respond to the feeling of hope and therefore exposing its importance.
Andy Dufresne, a former vice president of a bank who was wrongly accused of murdering his wife and her lover, is shown excitedly going through a box of records. He comes across a certain album, Mozart’s The Marriage of Figaro, he pulls it from the stack and plays it on a phonograph. Andy works up his courage and broadcasts the duet to the entire prison.!! Darabont effectively uses the technique of soundtrack to convey how the inmates have become institutionalised to benefit the audience’s understanding. Soundtrack enables the audience to understand the toll prison has had on the inmates, as said by Red Redding, a longtime inmate of Shawshank State, “they send you here for life, and that’s exactly what they take. The part that counts, anyway.” We understand that the inmates feel that they are defined by the walls of the prison and have accepted that there’s “no way” they’re “going to make it on the outside” as quoted by Red Redding.
As the music plays, the inmates stop still, hypnotised and overcome by its beauty. Inmates either go up to the windows or look up at the sky in an attempt to look beyond the prison walls. This shows how they have become institutionalised as they are transfixed by something so simple. The inmates melodramatic response to the sound of music enables the audience to understand how much they are missing out on life. We better understand the inmates by learning that even though they essentially resented prison regime, it quickly became part of their life and soon depended on the prison’s rules and came to believe that they could not function without it.
The inmates have ultimately lost their independence. !! Other techniques in this scene include dialogue and voiceover. These techniques are effectively used to show the necessity of hope to the inmates. During this scene, we see shots of the inmates either looking out windows or up at the sky, complemented by Red’s voiceover he says, “I have no idea to this day what them two Italian ladies were singing about… I tell you those voices soared. Higher and farther than anybody in a grey place dares to dream. It was like some beautiful bird flapped into our drab little cage and made these walls dissolve away and for the briefest of moments every last man at Shawshank felt free.” Red speaks for the rest of Shawshank’s inmates as he metaphorically uses the “beautiful bird” to symbolise hope.
He states how it made the prison walls “dissolve away” and allowed every last man at Shawshank to feel free. Hope enabled them to withstand the drudgeries of prison life and gave them the will to live. Another technique used is dialogue which directly addresses the importance of hope. Near the end of the scene, we see Andy and fellow inmates having a conversation in the prison cafeteria where Andy says, “we need it (hope) so we don’t forget… that there are things in this world not carved out of grey stone. That there’s a small place inside of us that they can never lock away, and that place is called hope.” Andy enlightens his peers by teaching them that hope
cannot physically be taken away. Its something that you decide whether you take it into account or not. We can a better understand of the inmates as we learn that hope is not only wishful thinking, but never giving up and more importantly it is the foundation for motivation. Inmates know that hope is fundamental to prison survival and know that whatever prison or oppressors may do to the body, they can never kill the soul. !! From the prisons setting we gain a better understanding of the prison inmates. We gain insight about the inmates and how institutionalisation slowly crept in their lives, but also how hope serves an importance purpose to their welfare. Hope is very significant in today’s society; hope gives us motivation or strength to withstand adversity. Hope is something that carries a person through life just like it does for the men of Shawshank Prison. Darabont uses the film techniques of soundtrack, voiceover and dialogue to help the audience gain a better understanding of the prison inmates in the film.