All these days, when I was writing about the world movies I liked, it’s true that they were my favorite movies. But, there is one particular film which I can never forget. The film which made me to realize about serious cinema. The film which pulled me in to the world of good films. The one film which made me to realize that there are such films too, apart from the ordinary action masala stuff which I was watching till that time. Till date, it remains to be my most favorite film. I first saw this movie in 2000, when HBO brought a new wave in to the Indian television. Till that time, Star Movies was reigning as the single English movie channel, but HBO, like a bang, brought in a flurry of good movies that within a short time, it overtook Star Movies. From that day, I have seen this film 12-13 times (the last time I saw it was yesterday night), but it remains to be fresh and new. It’s unique, and it has something in it which has made it special even after 15 years of its release. Till this date, this movie remains to be the number one in IMDB’s movie rankings, and it remains to be at the top spot in the movies rented in video and DVDs in America. A very special film, which portrays the power of hope.
The Shawshank Redemption.
Prison. A unique world with its own citizens. There are all kind of people in it, the good, the bad, the psychotic, the stern, the desolate – and the innocent. Imagine a sudden twist in life, when we are arrested with the charge of killing someone. What will happen if an innocent guy gets arrested for murder? The experience he faces inside the prison forms the story of The Shawshank Redemption.
The period is 1947. The film begins with the shot of Andy Dufresne, a Vice president of a bank, sitting in his car, with a loaded gun. He is drunk, and is waiting for his wife and her lover. He is waiting to murder them both. The scene shifts to the courtroom, where the D.A argues that Andy has murdered them both, and he has to be severely punished. Andy tells that he is innocent, and after waiting for his wife and her lover, he was getting sober, threw his gun on to the river and returned to his home. But the D.A tells that after searching the river for three days, they were not able to find the gun, and the neighbors too have heard him shout at his wife that he will see her in hell. The D.A argues that eight shots were fired in to their bodies, four apiece. This is cold blooded murder, and Andy must be given the highest punishment.
The judge tells that he is afraid even to look at Andy in the face, and he orders Andy to spend two life sentences back to back. Andy is brought to Shawshank, a maximum security prison.
In the prison, we see Red, a local con who can bring anything inside the prison. He has some friends, and while they were talking, the new prisoners are brought in. Each man bets on a prisoner whom they think will be the first person to cry. Red bets on Andy.
We hear Red telling the story all through the film. We see the film on Red’s perspective. Red tells that he lost his bet, and Andy didn’t even make a sound on his first night in the prison. He tells that Andy was different. He walked like he was having a stroll in a park, and was moving like he didn’t have any worries at all. Slowly, Andy becomes a friend to Red. He asks Red to get him a Rock Hammer. Andy is a specialist in rocks, and he wants to carve little pieces of art from the rocks he collects in the prison. Red stresses that using the Rock Hammer, Andy might try to dig a tunnel to escape, and Andy laughs. After looking at the Rock Hammer, Red realizes that it will take 600 years for a man to dig a tunnel using it, as it is very small.
In the prison, Andy encounters ‘the sisters’, a homosexual gang. Andy was able to defend himself some days, and sometimes, he becomes their victim. Two years pass by. One day, Red, Andy and some of their friends gets selected – by Red’s influence - for the tarring of the roof of the license plate factory of Shawshank. It is a task for a month, and for the whole of the month, they get to breathe outside air. While tarring, one day Andy overhears Captain Hadley, the captain of the prison guards that he has inherited wealth from his brother, and he has to pay a lot for the income tax. Since Andy was a banker, he offers help to keep the income with the captain, tax free. The captain tries to throw Andy from the roof top initially, but eventually accepts Andy’s financial advice. As a result, Andy was able to get three beers apiece for all the friends tarring the roof. Slowly, one by one, Andy helps in filing the tax returns for all the prison guards.
Immediately after the incident of Andy offering help to the captain, the leader of ‘the sisters’ gets beaten severely by the captain, and spends the rest of his life ‘in a wheelchair, drinking his food through a straw’ – Red tells us. From that day, Andy becomes free from ‘the sisters’.
The warden of the prison, Mr. Norton too gets the financial advice from Andy. The warden is a highly corrupt fellow, who, with Andy’s help, invests all the black money in separate accounts, created in a bogus name. Andy requests Red one day to smuggle Rita Hayworth, the then superstar, in to the prison for him. Red gets a life size picture of Rita and Andy sticks it inside his cell. Red tells us that Andy did everything to drive out his loneliness.
Since the warden himself is using the services of Andy, Andy is allowed the special privileges of keeping those posters as well as his tiny rock sculptures. Andy is given a special ‘office’ in the prison library. Andy starts writing one letter per week to the state senate, for allocating funds to make the library bigger with many books. He receives $500 two years after he started writing letters, and Andy starts sending two letters a week for more funds. Finally, the government decides to fund the library every year, and as a result, Andy is able to transform the library in to a better one.
Years slowly pass by. A young prisoner, Tommy, comes to the prison in 1965 – 18 years after Andy was sentenced. He casually once tells the story of his previous stints in other prisons, and out of it suddenly comes the news about a man who was the inmate of Tommy, telling that it was him who murdered a banker’s wife and her lover, and the banker got punished instead. Hearing this, Andy runs to the warden and tells him everything. The warden dismisses the story as a joke and places Andy in a solitary imprisonment, fearing that if Andy is released, then all the warden’s corruptions will be leaked. While Andy is in the confinement, the warden makes Captain Hadley to murder Tommy and declares that Tommy tried to escape.
The warden meets Andy in the solitary confinement, and Andy tells he will not help the warden hereafter. The warden gives another month of confinement to Andy and tells that he must be back, else the library will be destroyed and he will no more be protected from the homosexuals. Finally, Andy gives in.
Immediately after Andy is out of the solitary confinement, he talks to Red about a hayfield in Buxton, and that Red must go there, look under a tree, and must take whatever is buried there and keep it with him. He also tells about the name of a city in Mexico where he wants to spend his life. Andy dejectedly tells about there is nothing more like hope. Red fears that Andy might go for a suicide, as Red’s friend tells him Andy borrowed a six foot rope the previous night from him. Andy slowly walks to his chamber, and Red keeps looking at Andy from his cell. Red tells that it was the longest night he ever faced, as he was certain that Andy is gonna do something like a suicide.
The next day, during the regular roll call, all the prisoners come out except Andy. Prison guards shout at Andy to come out, but there is no response. The guards run to Andy’s cabin, as a dejected Red peeps out through the bars. The expression on Red’s face tells us that the inevitable has happened – Andy has committed suicide. The guard opens Andy’s cabin door, and let’s out a shout – ‘Oh my holy god!’.
******* Now, I ask the readers who have not seen the movie to leave this page, as it will break the suspense. The final part of the movie is the most exiting one, and if you want the suspense to be broken, continue reading. Else, leave this page. *******
Inside Andy’s cell, it’s completely empty! Andy has vanished ‘like a fart in thin air’. The warden becomes mad after hearing the shocking news. He comes to the prison, enquires Red, and in a mad flurry, picks up all the stones Andy has kept in his cell and starts throwing it at everyone. He also throws a stone on the giant blowup of Raquel Welch on the wall, and the stone pierces the picture and goes inside. The warden pokes his finger in to the hole and slowly his entire hand vanishes inside. The poster is tore apart, and at the wall, there is a huge tunnel! Andy has escaped through the tunnel!
In the beginning, we hear Red say that it will take 600 years to dig a tunnel using the rock hammer he gave to Andy, but Andy has done it in less than 20 years. On the night Red watched Andy move slowly in to his cell, Andy uses the six foot rope to tie down all the important documents about the deposits of the black money which he thieves from the Warden to his leg, and ‘he crawled through 500 yards of shit smelling pipeline and emerged clean’, as Red says.
Andy goes to Mexico, after withdrawing all the $350,000 which was the Warden’s black money. Red finally gets released from the prison in 1967 after serving 40 years. Red goes to the hayfield in Buxton which Andy referred, and under that particular tree, finds a letter with some money. In the letter, Andy mentions that if Red reads this letter, it means that he has come this far. So, he also can come a little farther to Mexico, where Andy is now living in the town he mentioned earlier. Red realizes that all the while Andy was mentioning about this tree back in the prison, he had the idea of placing the letter here for Red.
Red goes to the town, and he finds Andy in the sea shore, mending a boat. Finally, the two friends are joined together. The movie ends.
Shawshank Redemption is a touching tale about the Andy and Red’s redemption in the prison. The movie tells through Andy that ‘hope is a good thing, maybe the best of things, and no good thing ever dies’.
The movie is made with a lot of touching scenes, and the best scene is the one where Andy and Red talk at the end, just before Andy is about to escape. Where Andy tells the dialogue about hope. There is yet another scene when the old Brooks, after getting released, is unable to compete with the fast moving outside world, and hangs himself.
There is a wonderful scene, when Andy locks himself in the warden’s room and plays Mozart’s music in the loudspeaker and the entire prison getting mesmerized about the music. Andy sits casually in the chair hearing the music while the Warden and the captain try to break the door.
Red refers to this incident as ‘I have no idea to this day what those two Italian ladies were singing about. Truth is, I don't want to know. Some things are best left unsaid. I'd like to think they were singing about something so beautiful, it can't be expressed in words, and makes your heart ache because of it. I tell you; those voices soared higher and farther than anybody in a gray place dares to dream. It was like some beautiful bird flapped into our drab little cage and made those walls dissolve away, and for the briefest of moments, every last man in Shawshank felt free.’
The movie is filled with such great dialogues. The movie was released in 1995. It was directed by Frank Darabont who also wrote the screenplay. It was adopted from a short story by Stephen King named ‘Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank redemption’. The movie was nominated for 7 Oscars, but lost all those awards to Forrest Gump, which was also released in the same year. The movie also had a mediocre run at the box office, but later, after gaining critical acclaim, this movie holds the record of the maximum number of rentals for a film through video and DVDs. The film was voted #1 on Empire magazine's 500 Greatest Movies of All Time (2006) and is #1 in IMDB’s list of all time great movies.
See Shawshank redemption and feel the magic!
See the trailer here.