“Everything that is done in the world is done by hope”- Martin Luther King Jr.
Shawshank Redemption follows Andy Dufresne through his two consecutive life terms in prison for the murders of his wife and her lover. However, only Andy knows he didn’t commit the crimes. Andy befriends Red (Morgan Freeman) and lives through the brutality of prison. Frank Darabont’s purpose throughout this film was to show hope inspiring freedom. He did this through many techniques including non-diegetic sound and camera movements. The audience becomes immersed in the film. Non-diegetic sounds and cameras movements work hand in hand to stress the importance of remaining hopeful in prison.
The rooftop scene shows the men working on the roof. Andy gets into a heated argument with the guard as he is mistaken for being rude. Hadley marches Andy to the edge of the roof and threatens to push him. As the guards voice rises the camera moves up on a crane. This emphasises the desperation of the situation. Hadley then becomes more understanding, they are beginning to see eye to eye and the guards voice has become less enraged. The camera drops down again to show them equally. The director has done this to emphasise the intensity of the situation and show the audience the climactic feel of the argument. To Andy this is ‘life or death’. Andy however did not mean any harm, he simply wanted to help Hadley as a ‘normal man’ gesture. Doing this makes Andy feel like himself again as he was a banker before prison life. Prison guards have no care for the inmates well-being, whether they die or live does not concern them. So Andy’s attitude and intelligence comes as a shock to the guard. Andy asks the guard for beers for all the prisoners working on the roof in return for his help. When the men are drinking the beer peaceful, soothing music plays. As this music plays the camera pans over the men, they look uplifted. The camera movement is slow and flows well. This gives an opportunity for the audience to truly observe the emotions shown on the inmates faces. Red also does a voiceover explaining the mens situation. Red speaks in a ‘god-like’ manner and comes across as calm and composed. This scene leads the audience to feel happy for the men. The harsh walls of Shawshank have dissolved away and the inmates now just look like a normal bunch of men sharing a cold beer in the sun. This illusion of freedom gives the men a feeling of hope. The non diegetic sound of Red speaking about Andy’s actions combined with the camera slowly moving over all of the prisoners satisfied faces work together and show the audience how hope has sparked deep within them. Martin Luther King once said “We must accept finite disappointment, but never loose infinite hope.” This stresses the importance of having hope in your life, even through unfortunate circumstances. This relates directly to the prisoners as they sit, drinking cold beer feeling hopeful and satisfied for the first time in a long time. It is important that the inmates take this hope with them so that they can persevere and still live a quality life, even if they are behind bars. The audience gains a clear understanding of the importance of hope and how it inspires freedom for the men in this scene as a result of non-diegetic sounds and camera movements.
During the Mozart scene Andy plays a record over the prison loud speaker. Music is something that is not allowed in prison.We first see non-diegetic sounds and camera movements work together when the inmates and guards all stop in shock and confusion. There is a montage that goes through all of the rooms within the prison and watch everyone’s first reactions of confusion. It looks as though the inmates have been metaphorically ‘awoken’. Billy Joel, a famous musician, once said “I think music itself is healing. It is an explosive expression of humanity. It’s something we are all touched by. No matter what culture we’re from..” Music reaches out and expresses what cannot be expressed through talking. The music in this scene is very contrasting against these ‘manly’ worn looking men. Yet the men connect to its sweet melody. It shows the inmates soft side, intertwined with hope. Potentially, these men may struggle to talk about their feelings, therefore the music allows them to acknowledge their feelings, such as hope. The camera pans over them as they stop in their tracks in awe. They seem mesmerised. This shows the viewers that the things we take for granted outside of prison can open up a world of hope to those in prison. The music was something from the outside world that they could connect with. The prisoners grasp a tiny bit of hope when they hear this music. It reminds them of beautiful things that are normal outside of prison. If music begins to play outside of prison, it is seen as a normal part of life. As the music swells, the camera goes to a crane shot above the prisoners. They are all looking up as if they are looking towards the ‘heavens’. It give the dramatic feel. The prisoners look completely stunned and captivated. The director has done this to show the full effect the music has had on the inmates. The music allowed the prison walls to metaphorically disappear for a short moment. This is reinforced by Red saying “I tell you those voices soared. Higher and further then anybody in a grey place dares to dream. And for the briefest of moments, every last man at Shawshank felt free.” during his voiceover. This shows the hope the men are feeling in relation to freedom. The voice over came towards the end of the scene, Red talked about how beautiful the music was. His voice was steady and calm, almost melodic with the music. ‘The Marriage of Figaro’ itself is a beautifully composed piece. It was an instant success for Mozart. It is angelic and layered with emotions. The camera movements become more dramatic as the music unveils. The director has done this to show how the inmates feel in regards to the music. Seeing these inmates react to the music makes the audience want to offer them a second chance. They are relating to music, and music is designed to promote healing and emotion. We often believe that people in prison can only relate to crime and inhumane behaviour, but here we see them from a new ‘normal’ perspective.
Throughout both the mozart and the rooftop scene the director, Frank Darabont, effectively uses both non diegetic sound and camera movement to express hope within the prisoners to the audience. This hope inspired moments of freedom during these mens life in prison. Non-diegetic sounds are defined as sounds you can not see, for example music and voice over. These sounds are usually used for a dramatic affect, we usually see a reaction or climax point that relates to this sound on screen. Camera movements are self explanatory, they are simply movements that a camera makes to show the audience certain elements of a scene. These two techniques are so compatible because they often are directly relating to one another. The mozart and rooftop scene express the same strong message of the prisoners finding hope in their day to day lives and how this hope inspires freedom. These scenes present to society the overall message of a ‘silver lining’ becoming clearer in life if you remain hopeful. The audience can clearly see the development of hope within the individual main characters. As a viewer, this message of hope led me to look at the men differently because at the end of the day they are still men who hope to live stable and peaceful lives. Hope is the most universal of all human possessions and it is something that I, personally believe is best kept close to heart.
‘Never deprive somebody of their hope, it may be all they have’ – Unknown