Hi could I have some feedback on my Shawshank Redemption essay please?

Analyse how the purpose of the text was reinforced through the use of language features.

Frank Darabont’s 1994 sleeper-hit drama, based on Stephen King’s 1982 novella, focuses on the life of convicted felon Ellis (Red) Redding during his many years spent incarcerated at high-security Shawshank Prison. The purpose of this visual text is to display the importance and power of hope, along with the relevance of despair, and how these are integral themes in our modern-day society. The ideas of hope and despair are reinforced and referred to constantly throughout the film, as the audience is reminded of through the use of language features. These features being, lighting, various camera shots, voiceover (non-diegetic sound) and diegetic sound. Pathetic fallacy…. These film techniques allow Darabont to convey the purpose of this visual text, is to display the importance of perseverance, determination and the importance of hope, especially in today’s world that can see dark and saddening at times. Darabont conveys to the audience, as famous novelist Stephan King did before him, that in the words of Andy Dufresne, “Hope is a good thing, maybe the best of things, and no good thing ever dies.”

Those imprisoned at Shawshank are forced to live under the corrupt and immoral Warden Norton, who rules the prison with an iron fist and has built a culture of brutality, violence and despair. More specifically, the narrative follows Red’s encounters and close relationship with fellow inmate, a former successful banker named Andy Dufresne, who is imprisoned for the murder of his wife and her lover, a crime that he did not commit. Andy and Red form a close bond, and after nineteen years of hardship and brutality, Andy miraculously escapes in the year of 1967, and exposes the unlawful and criminal practices that had become commonplace at Shawshank, prompting the Warden to take his own life out of fear, for what judgement he will be brought to face. Red then is released on parole the following year, but upon release he struggles to come to grips with the unfamiliar world that he has been thrust back into, which he, like former friend and fellow inmate Brooks Hatlen, was living in crippling fear of a society through which he no longer has any place or purpose. Red begins to lean dangerously into despair, which brings the audience to believe he may take his own life, like Brooks did.

Through the film’s opening scene that introduces Shawshank prison, the audience is shown the presence of despair and hopelessness, two themes from the film first introduced through the character of Ellis (Red) Redding, who is attending one of his three parole hearings, that he is granted during his time at Shawshank. The visual language features of both low key lighting, mise en scene and a close-up camera shot of Red’s rejection stamp are used to great effect in this particular scene. The scene begins in darkness before he enters the room, setting the tone for the film and displaying Red’s belief that despite whatever he may say to prove his “rehabilitation”, he will never be granted any form of parole. As he enters the hearing room from darkness, the audience is instantly introduced to the dull, lifeless colours of the room’s walls, and also the clothes of the board members that Red is attempting to persuade. There is also a close-up shot of Red’s “Rejected” stamp on his parole form. This is in bold red lettering, representing the finality and brutality of his lifelong imprisonment. This represents that Shawshank is a place of despair, sadness and that the likelihood of Red’s parole ever being granted was a million to one. Red himself is wearing a faded blue denim jacket over his prison clothes. This is symbolic of his hope that is also beginning to fade away, and without Andy, would have disappeared completely. The visual language feature of lighting, helps to introduce Shawshank as a cruel and immoral place, devoid of hope and positivity. Darabont does this to educated the reader on the harsh realities of prison life, and how grateful we must be for our own circumstances.

Another way that the key themes of hope and despair were portrayed during Frank Darabont’s ‘The Shawshank Redemption,’ is during the second part of the opening scene of the film, where the audience is introduced to both Andy, and the Warden. This scene begins withRed emerging fresh from his parole hearing, into what is a cloudy, overcast and miserable day. Darabont uses the language feature of Pathetic Fallacy to convey to the audience the harsh reality of prison, and how much of a sullen and horrible place it can be. Once Red is back socialising with his fellow inmates in the prison courtyard, a minor character by the name of Skeeter says to him, “I’m up for rejection next week.” This use of dialogue shows the despairing attitude of those imprisoned at Shawshank, and how impossible and far off their dreams of freedom are viewed to be. An establishing shot of the entire jail then follows, turning into a high-angle and a birds eye camera shot of Shawshank in its entirety. The colours of the buildings are cold, grey and foreboding, indicative of the fact that for these men, this is their new home, they have no hope of escape. This also is done on purpose by Darabont to accentuate the harsh reality of prison.

The meaning and purpose of this visual text, the meaning of hope, was also shown during the ‘Rooftop Scene,’ when Warden Norton announces that the roof of the plate factory needs to be resealed. Most of the prisoners are chomping at the bit to be able to work outside in the fresh air, and thanks to Red’s influence, the group of friends are “selected”. Whilst working, Andy overhears the cruel and inhumane Captain of the Guard; Byron Hadley talking about his financial troubles, and Andy offers to use his background in accounting to assist him, in exchange for a couple of beers for his friends, while a bright blue sky rests above them, Darabont uses pathetic fallacy. Hadley reluctantly agrees, and the scene ends with the men sitting down enjoying a drink, with a beautiful sunset casting bright warm colours across the shot. Darabont uses two types of non-diegetic sound, music and Red’s voice over, to demonstrate the power and importance of this scene, representing the emergence of hope. Uplifting music plays, to demonstrate that there is hope, even in a place like Shawshank, and that things do get better over time. This is especially relevant for Andy, who has been the victim of two years of torment from Bogs Diamond and his prison gang. Red’s speaking through a voiceover talks about Andy’s selflessness, saying, “I think he did it to feel normal again, if only for a short while. Darabont does this too instruct the audience to have a think about themselves, and be thankful for all they have.

The purpose of ‘The Shawshank Redemption,’ to educate the audience about the power and importance of hope, is further reinforced in what is known as the ‘Music Scene.’ The scene follows Andy after he is summoned to Warden Norton’s office to discover funds from the government for his redevelopment of the prison library along with a large amount of old books and resources. Hadley instructs him to have it all cleaned up and organised, before the Warden returns. Andy decides to rebel, and locks himself in the office and after selecting a record from the gifted resources, blasts it through the prison loudspeakers, an act that results in him spending two weeks in solitary confinement. The piece that Andy plays is Mozart’s, ‘The Marriage Of Figaro,’ an opera sung primarily by two italian ladies.The sky is also bright and sunny (high key lighting), the use of pathetic fallacy. Upon hearing this record, the prisoners all across Shawshank stop what they are doing and look up at the speakers preaching their freedom. For the inmates, this is a welcome release from their tough and physical lives, and as Red says in his voiceover, “For the briefest of moments every last man in Shawshank felt free.” This is another example of Andy bringing hope to the prisoners. Darabont does this through a high-angle shot, to show the power of music, and that it can be the little things in life that matter the most.

‘Shawshank Redemption,’ further accentuates the ideas of hope and despair, during Andy Dufresne’s escape scene. Andy spent 19 years tunneling away at his cell wall with a tiny rock hammer, when the time was right during a thunderstorm, crawled through the tunnel he had ceased in his wall, and once again crawled to his escape through five hundred yards of the prison sewer. There is a high angle shot of Andy with arms outstretched looking up into the sky, much like ‘Christ the Redeemer”, because Andy is a Christ-like figure, who brings out the best in others and fills them with hope. He redeems Red, and fills him with hope. Red refers to Andy as a bird, a common motif throughout the visual text, saying, “I’ve got to remind myself that some birds aren’t meant to be caged, their feathers are just too bright.” With all of the ordeals Andy went through, he deserved freedom more than anyone. Through his voiceover, Red says that Andy “Crawled through a river of shit to come out clean on the other side.” This contains both a literal and figurative meaning. Andy’s determination, dedication and goodness demand justice, and after all he has done for others, his escape is a fulfilling part of the film. Darabont educates the audience about the importance of hardwork, dedication and that you can accomplish whatever you set your mind to.

Frank Darabont’s 1994 sleeper-hit ‘The Shawshank Redemption,’ educates its audience about the power and importance of hope, along with the reality of despair, in our day to day lives. The journey of Andy and Red, proves to Darabont’s chosen crowd that determination and hard work are invaluable, and that if you look hard enough, there is always a silver lining. He teaches us that no matter how dark or miserable our lives may seem to be at times, that it is important that we keep moving forward and remain vigilant, just like Andy did. To hold onto hope, displayed and conveyed through the skillful use of language features. To put it in the words of Andy himself, “Hope is a good thing, maybe the best of things, and no good thing ever dies.”

Kia ora

An excellent understanding with heaps of good evidence used. You are very clear on the question with some great elements of insight and a good structure.

One small improvement would be to unpack a bit of your thematic discussion a little more - for example - Darabont does this too instruct the audience to have a think about themselves, and be thankful for all they have - what else could you say about this? Who needs the message that things will get better with time? Step this through more.

Otherwise - an excellent essay overall

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