The Shawshank Redemption
Welcome to Earthling Cinema, where we examine the last remaining artifacts of a once-proud culture and try to understand what human lives were like before their planet was destroyed. I’m your host, Garyx Wormuloid.
The Shawshank Redemption (1994) | Directed by: Frank Darabont
Starring: Tim Robbins, Morgan Freeman, Bob Gunton
Written by: Ben Steiner
Analysis & Directed by: Jared Bauer
Starring: Mark Schroeder
Edited by: Ryan Hailey
Original Music by: David Krystal (http://www.davidkrystalmusic.com)
Opening Animation by: Danny Rapaport
Producer & Additional Artwork by: Jacob S. Salamon
Additional notes by: Tommy Cook
The Shawshank Redemption
Analyzed By Aliens
Greetings, and welcome to Earthling Cinema. I am your host, Garyx Wormuloid. This week’s artifact is The Shawshank Redemption, based on the novella by acclaimed word- person King Stephen, who ruled America with an iron fist for over two hundred years.
The Shawshank Redemption tells the story of Earthling Andy Dufresne, a suspiciously over-qualified banker who is sent to prison for the murder of his nameless wife. Once incarcerated, he befriends Red, who is known to locate certain items from time to time, and whose gentle baritone could lull me right to sleep.
Tired of doing boring stuff like sliming the tops of buildings, Andy offers the guards financial advice, which is like catnip for humans. The Warden quickly gives Andy an unpaid internship, which seems like it’s gonna be a great opportunity, but ends up just being a lot of bitch work.
After twenty years, Andy decides he’s had enough, despite the fact that he’s barely aged a day. The guys all think he’s gonna kill himself, but why bother when he’s got that sweet hole in his wall [shot of guys looking into the hole]? Later, Red gets lonely, and asks if he can go now, and everybody says ok. He easily finds Andy halfway around the world, presumably using satellite technology, and then they chill at Club Med.
Other than the value of keeping posters in your room, the primary theme of The Shawshank Redemption is freedom.
Many times we see the camera framed by doors and windows, suggesting imprisonment. Conversely, aerial shots are used to indicate liberation. In this shot, Andy experiences his last gasp of life on the outside as the limo brings him to Shawshank. Later, he plays Wolfgang Puck’s “The Marriage of Figaro” for the other inmates, using art to set them free. At the end, we see Andy and Red fully torqued on freedom.
But the movie goes even deeper. Sure, it’s about a prison and all the wacky adventures that happen there, but lurking beneath is a hefty load existential undertones. Typical Hollywood. In his essay “Existentialism is a Humanism,” Jean Paul Sartre suggests that in the absence of God, humans must define their own essence through the choices they make, and also through the shampoo they use.
In this film, instead of God, we have the Warden, who is a “perverse deity” — Satan masquerading as a holy figure. He is always quoting the Christian bible and bragging about how many passages he has memorized, yet he is arbitrarily cruel and spiteful. He has a stitchwork quote about judgement on his wall, but behind it is the vault where he keeps records of his illegal activities, and probably some nudie mags.
According to Sartre’s analogy: An artisan uses a tool to craft an object. He determines its essence, and the object has no say in the matter. Sucks for you, object! Similarly, if humans were crafted by God, that would mean humans have no say in their essence either. Sartre contends that “each man makes his essence as he lives,” and God plays no part in it.
And he was right, just a little premature: as we all know, the being known as God abandoned Earth in the year 1991.
Because of the Warden, inmates are not in charge of their own essence, or even their own bowels. The institution breaks them and the walls come to define who they are. Brooks loses his ability to live in the free world and turns to the seedy underworld of graffiti [shot of him carving his name] before ultimately calling it quits. Prison robs people of their will to freedom, and by extension, their humanity.
Sartre contrasts human beings with objects such as rocks, noting that rocks are their characteristics, whereas human beings create their characteristics, even if those characteristics are forged by wasting away in front of their television sets. Most of the prisoners become rocks — they allow their lack of physical freedom to dictate their sense of absolute freedom. In contrast, Andy doesn’t become a rock, he sculpts and breaks rocks with his trusty hammer, Thor Jr. The salvation lying within the Bible is not God, but rather Andy’s choice to embrace hope and liberate himself by any means necessary: in this case, a conveniently human-sized pipe. Andy tells Red he’ll laugh when he sees the rock hammer — in a place like Shawshank, hope is truly laughable. Plus, small things are funny.
For Earthling Cinema, I’m Garyx Wormuloid.
To sign up for your very own prison pen pal, click the subscribe button.