Frank Darabont’s mysterious film “The Shawshank Redemption” is a deep meaningful representation of friendship within a prison. It shows us how hope can be encountered in a dark and deceitful place, how both literal and figurative walls trap Andy. To the end, Darabont uses symbolism in his description of setting, in his use of camera angles and Lighting.
The setting of “The Shawshank Redemption” is replete with potent symbolism.The shawshank prison is a dark, deceitful place of confinement where citizens spend their days letting their minds wonder over the little things in their lifetime. Its walls stained grey and black; its bars are rusty and cold; rooms damp, clay lines the walls in a minimalistic style. The symbolism serves several purposes. Firstly, it turns the setting into a dark hole of nothingness — everything looks drab and dull. Secondly, it betrays the fact that a reduction of hope has taken place within the walls of the prison: the thick grey walls are closing in on the minds of the prisoners changing their hope of ever returning to their normal lives outside.
Thirdly, the damp and decrypted essence of the place accentuates a sense of perishable knowledge in the minds of the prisoners. Andy – the films main character – is a banker wrongly accused of murder, he is placed in a cell dark, damp and lifeless. This symbolises the life behind bars and how it imposes on ones life. Symbolism is obvious in the clothing everyone wears inside the prison, all the same bland and unimaginative with no room for individuality. Colour is expressed in dots throughout the film when they as prisoners work outside in the lush greens of the fields, inside the prison they are trying to conjure the minds of the prisoners and take aways their individuality to convert it into labour.
To complete the scene of the dehumanisation, prisoners have no say in what they do or when they are allowed to do it such as the times they are allowed to relieve themselves on the toilet. These humans within the prison have literally been degraded in their worth. Each of these symbolic elements betray a sorry state of humanity where meaningful connection and individuality have been lost under the bloodless bars of prison life.
Much of Darabont’s symbolism is acutely refereed to the lives of us as humans. Darabont shows us this symbolism through the use of camera angles and Lighting. Andy Dufresne has the perseverance to escape shawshank and create a new life for himself outside the prison walls. At the beginning of the film there is a high angle shot panning over the shawshank prison, we are able to get a size view on the intensity of the walls of the prison and how they are over powering to the eye of us as the audience. The prisoners are in comparison to ants, as the prison overlooks them sucking them in to a damp and dark hole. Lighting collides with the camera angles giving a more dignified effect to the symbols in the film we are able to see.
Lighting plays the integral part to the deeper meaning of the film by setting the atmosphere. Throughout, there is extensive use of shadows, fadeouts, and partial sunlight to represent the cloudy mental and moral state of many of the characters. These shadows cover the majority of characters throughout the film and are there to represent the emotions the prison plays on these characters. This is created by the fact that when the sun shines, it does so only on one side of a character, this side is usually their back. This alludes to the thought that these people have the truth about them, yet are unable to truly see it.
A good portion of the movie occurs in the dark, the prison itself represents a drab and dark hole that sucks in the souls of the prisoners forming them to rely on its walls to stay alive. Lights out at the prison is an extremely dark time when the characters are left with only their own thoughts. The thoughts play upon the emotions of the characters, toiling them and twisting their minds about the ways in which they need to go to get out of the prison walls. These techniques both give us a clear mind on the symbolic elements that the film portrays to us as viewers.
The literal and Figurative walls trap Andy in his attempt to encounter hope within the prison. In the beginning, Andy is trapped by the figurative wall of losing his cheating wife, his hope starts to deplete from there having the feeling of self hate and questioning the decisions he has made within his life. When Andy arrives to prison, the prison walls trap him. Within Andy’s cell, the names of the previous inmates are carved into the walls. This acts as a reminder to Andy of his incarceration, it was as if he was an animal in captivity being tortured for the things he had not done. It also gives him the idea of tunnelling out, when he tries to carve his own name into the wall, the wall depletes as it crumbles to the ground, like the start of Andy’s life inside the prison. The walls of the old library are cracked and worn.
This is similar to the mental state of many of the prisoners, especially Brooks. Brooks has been in captivity for far to long and has grown used to the walls that have surrounded him for many of years. Originally the prisoners hate the walls. Then they get used to them. Eventually they come to depend on the walls. Their lives in the prison become cracked and worn. At times these walls do provide strength. For example, Andy leans against the wall as he is talking about his dreams for Mexico. These walls give him the strength to go through with his plan to escape, Red is to leaning on the walls as well listening, it to give’s him the hope and stability to get out of prison, start his life and live to the fullest with no more mistakes.
‘The Shawshank Redemption’ utilises definite symbolism in its deception of it’s setting, It shows us how hope can be encountered in a dark and deceitful place, how both literal and figurative walls trap Andy with the use of camera angles and Lighting these symbolic elements are seen through a clearer eye.
Courtney from Study Moose
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