Analyse how language features were used to foreshadow important events.
Multiple award-winning film The Shawshank Redemption, directed by Frank Darabont displayed the protagonist named Andy Dufrense as an innocent man who is in imprisonment serving two consecutive life terms with the erroneously alleged charges of murdering his wife and her lover. It takes a while for Andy to settle down into the idiosyncrasy environment of the prison and form relationships with his inmates who are all convicted as criminals in one way or another. Be that as it may, Andy grasps onto hope and works towards his objective of retaining freedom and redemption. This is best explained through Andy’s famous dialogue, “Get busy living, or get busy dying.” Throughout the film, Darabont makes use of several language features such as cinematography, sound, irony, symbolism, lighting and setting which all encapsulated together foreshadow important events such as suds on the roof, Brooks leaving Shawshank, aria over the loudspeaker, and Red leaving Shawshank.
One of the important events that were foreshadowed through the use of language features is suds on the roof. Darabont utilised a medium close-up shot to highlight Andy’s emotions over his diminutive yet significant triumph. This is an important event as the medium close-up shot emphasises Andy’s look of contentment on his face and how he has dispersed a taste of hope and freedom to prisoners; something which they had not experienced in a very long time. This is the first time Andy shows emotions and is projected in a way of him being the leader and offering redemption. The importance of this event is also foreshadowed through the use of setting and backlighting. The bright and vibrant colours outside of the Shawshank compared to the grey and aridness inside the prison, create a more hopeful, and blissful environment that shows the rays of hope and freedom. The bleak and dreary walls of Shawshank dissolve away for the men as they sit in the sun and drink cold bottles of beer. This is aided by the content expression on Andy’s face strengthening his appearance of retaining freedom and hope. Voice over is also used to foreshadow the importance of this event as it further highlights Andy’s leadership of offering redemption. During this event, the voice-over of Red plays a significant part - “We sat and drunk with the sun on our shoulders and felt like free man…We were the lords of creation” and “You could argue he’d done it to curry favour with the guards…Me? I think he did it to feel normal again, if only for a short while.” Andy gave the prisoners an experience of a lifetime, which made them feel like the lords of creation, many would this to be in the good books or in this case to shorten their sentence of imprisonment but Andy executed this act only to obtain the slight ray of hope provided to him and his fellow mates which allowed him to feel normal again by giving back to the people. This is an important event as Darabont’s purpose during this event was to draw and develop Andy’s character. The content expression on his face shown through the medium close up shot symbolises Andy’s achievement and a pillar of strength and hope for his inmates. In modern-day society, many amazing leaders find ways to give back to society and perform actions under harsh circumstances that make them role models for many others around the world. For example, Jacinda Arden has taken the number 1 spot in Fortune’s 50 world’s greatest leaders, as a result of her actions shown through the aftermath of a terror attack, the deadly eruption of a volcano, Covid-19 and her adoption of world-leading climate and gender-equality policies, which has made her a role model and inspiration for many others around the world. During this event, the aspects of lightning and voice-over work together to help the audience visualise that Andy is symbolic of Nelson Mandela who turned from a shrewd politician to a leader symbolic of hope for his people. Likewise, Andy who is a convicted murderer is symbolic of hope and redemption to his other inmates. The aspect of a medium close up shot reinforces his down to earth and humble nature even though he stays confined amongst the world’s cruellest individuals. The importance of this event is signified through another of Darabont’s purposes which is to make the viewers empathise with Andy and his methods of retaining hope and freedom. Leaders such as Mahatma Gandhi, Martin Luther King Jr and Nelson Mandela have all fought for freedom and rights through peaceful and non-violent methods. The Martin Luther King Jr. “I have a Dream” speech oozes hope. He recognised the plight of the African Americans’ and kept their eyes on the brighter road ahead. His words and legacy continue to inspire millions around the world today. Andy fought for freedom and his true inner self peacefully without causing any havoc. Language features such as setting, cinematography, lighting, body language and voice over were used to foreshadow suds on the roof as an important event as it draws and develops Andy’s character, making the viewers sympathise with Andy while communicating the themes of hope, redemption and freedom.
Another important event that was foreshadowed through the use of language features is Brooks leaving Shawshank. The importance of this event is foreshadowed through the use of symbolism which conveys how Brooks is feeling as he lets his pet raven free. The metaphors of the bird’s presence and its symbolism is very significant. It is symbolic because when Brooks held his pet raven, he was clasping death and he foreshadows his own death. Brooks has gained freedom from prison, however, he cannot find his freedom in the outside world, thus he becomes the trapped bird. The importance of this event is also foreshadowed through the use of key lighting which encapsulates the bird being free from a prison-like window. The rest of the room is shrouded in darkness and it implies that Brooks has now become the trapped bird and is not yet free. The darkness in this shot represents the darkness in his life and the hopelessness he feels while the light on his face In biblical terms, could be the light of heaven that shines on him promising that he could soon be free. The expression on Brooks face highlights the utter dejection and hopelessness he feels. Being all alone in the outside world feels too hard; he can’t see a way out for himself. Invisible chains shackle him to the world of Shawshank from which he can never be free. The raven is associated with the dead and with lost souls. It is depicted in the Bible as a living symbol of death. The black color is often assigned to grief and sorrow so it’s easy to understand how this bird has been used as a form of symbolism in this event. From this bird, we can see Brooks’ nurturing spirit but also how it becomes a symbol of the differences between freedom and incarceration. A bird typically flies and has its own will to be free, but during this event, we see a bird that has been taken to the confinement of a prison and the protection of a keeper. The bird also symbolizes Brooks’ relationship to the prison, because although the prison is a structure that oppresses and suppresses him, he becomes attached to the way it provides a purpose for his life. The symbolism of the raven harks back to Shakespeare’s Macbeth where reference is made to the raven by Lady Macbeth in the scenes moving up to Duncan’s murder. ‘The Raven Himself Is Hoarse that croaks the fatal entrance of Duncan into my battlements’. Ravens are symbolic of death, and in relation to this scene from Shawshank, the raven here represents imminent death. The importance of this event is also foreshadowed through the use of a slow zoom-in of a mid-shot to Brooks sitting on the bus as his hands can be seen clutching the bus railing. This emphasizes his frailty and helplessness as well as his great fear and anxiety of life outside Shawshank Prison. The importance of this event is also foreshadowed through the use of Mise en scene which explores the idea of hope and expresses the tone of the scene, the composition and the characters emotions. An element of mise en scene that is used in this frame is the composition. Frank Darabont has organized elements in this frame to highlight Brooks’ fearful face and unfamiliarity with the outside world. Brooks is travelling by bus when he is released from prison, and as he does this, it becomes the transport to his link to the real world. The people at the back of Brooks all look focused on what’s outside of the window whilst Brooks’ emotions show how he is caught up in a colossal cloud of fear. The composition of this frame pours out hopelessness because the people on the bus are ordinary people in the ordinary world, and as things go, you don’t notice other ordinary people, this point of view shows how Brooks has already become invisible. Darabont’s purpose here is to arouse the audience with empathy. Another element of mise en scene used in this frame is the lighting. The windows all around Brooks show us a aestival sky which adds light into this frame and this shows the freedom of life beyond the prison. It is significant as it shows us how Brooks still has hope for life and everything isn’t so gloomy and dark as it was in prison. However, Brooks is not seeing any of this. He is oblivious of everything around him and he is inside his head thinking that he might as well be dead than to come out and live in this unfamiliar world. People in the bus look quite relaxed except for Brooks whose face shows anguish and that he is scared for the outside world that awaits him. All of these emotions are being highlighted by the aspects of mise en scene and the powerful contrast is drawn in this shot between the secondary characters in this scene and the character of Brooks. The handle bars that he is tightly gripping onto bear so much similarity to the bars of his prison, and from this, the audience can conclude that it almost offers him comfort, that it reminds him of imprisonment and anchors him, temporarily, to what he is familiar with. It demonstrates his fear and anxiety of life on the outside. It is devastating that though the sun shines through the windows, Brooks is oblivious to the world around him such is his hopelessness. The importance of this event is foreshadowed through the use of non-diegetic sound which also supports the use of mise en scene as it shows how bereft Brooks feels in the world without anyone. Through the soft piano music throughout this frame from the scene, we feel immense sympathy for Brooks and it highlights his emotional state. The use of minor-key chords we are hearing from the music gives us a sense of melancholy and it amplifies emotions felt by the audience within the frame. Darabont’s purpose here is to arouse pity for Brooks as it embodies the hopelessness ex-prisoners feel after spending a lifetime behind bars, only to be paroled out into a society that has little time or patience for old crooks like them. Life was already short for Brooks when they gave him the freedom of parole, however, that freedom only served to deliver him into a darker emotional prison from which he could only escape by serving his death sentence upon himself. Language features such as symbolism, cinematography, lighting, sound and mise en scene were used to foreshadow Brooks leaving Shawshank as an important event as it provokes questions in the audience’s mind regarding the system, making the viewers sympathise with Brooks while creating a dispiriting ambience.
Another important event that was foreshadowed through the use of language features is the Aria over the loudspeaker. The importance of this event is foreshadowed through the use of irony as The Marriage of Figaro (Mozart) is regarding a servant who outwitted his master. In Shawshank, Andy can be represented as a servant who outwitted his master the Warden. The importance of this event is also foreshadowed through the use of a mid-shot and structure which reveals Andy’s face with the same look he had earlier on the rooftop, this signifies that he is offering freedom once again. Darabont purposely places this event subsequently to the suds on the roof event as it highlights the recurring theme of hope, redemption and freedom while emblematizing Andy’s development. There is also a crane shot of the prisoners in the yard and a close-up of the men’s faces as they fall in awe of the rare phenomenon as the camera pans around. The mid-shot also reveals Andy’s hesitation in choosing to obey the Warden’s demand or to act upon his free will. The importance of this event is also foreshadowed through the use of a composition technique called the rules of thirds which divides a frame into 6 identical grids, subjects that are lined up in the intersection of these grids attract the attention of the viewer. Darabont lines up Andy’s face with the top-left intersection, giving Andy the attention of this frame. This technique is used to support the mid-shot as the rule of thirds directs the audience to pick up on Andy’s facial expression, putting on a very apprehensive look as he is contemplating his decision. This heightens the event as Andy’s tense emotions suggest that his final decision would be consequential. The importance of this event is also foreshadowed through the use of diegetic sound to add intensity and increase the audience’s attention to Andy’s upcoming action. The source of the diegetic sounds are from the banging on the door by the Warden, and his taunts to Andy, “I am warning you Dufrense, turn that off!” The diegetic sounds create a sense of urgency and seriousness. The audience gets a feeling that the Warden is on the verge of breaking in, therefore, increasing the stress and intensity of the scene. Voice over is also used to foreshadow the importance of this event as it further highlights Andy’s leadership of offering redemption. During this event, the voice-over of Red plays a significant part - “I tell you those voices soared. Higher and farther that a person in a grey 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.” This is an important event as Darabont creates a heightened atmosphere with the motive of causing the audience to anticipate Andy’s choice of following his own free will or obeying the Warden. Camera angle, composition and sound work together to provoke a question within the audience’s mind: What is the cost of freedom? Darabont embedded these techniques together to draw the audience’s attention to Andy and his contemplation over his choice, while the diegetic sound of the Wardens’ constant banging on the door and threats to break in adds intensity to the situation and implies the importance of Andy’s decision. By drawing so much attention to Andy’s decision, Darabont intends for the audience to realise that Andy is not simply choosing to follow rules but he is contemplating the worth of freedom. The audience knows that the consequences for Andy’s actions will be grave, but will Andy pay that price so that just “for the briefest of moments, every last man in Shawshank felt free.” Language features such as irony, cinematography, sound, structure and body language were used to foreshadow aria over the loudspeakers as an important event as it draws and develops Andy’s character, creating a pleasant mood while communicating the theme of hope, redemption and freedom.
Another important event that was foreshadowed through the use of language features is Red leaving Shawshank. The importance of this event is foreshadowed through the use of Red’s dialogues scarcely before Brooks left: “He’s just institutionalised”, “This is all he knows. In here, he is an important man. Outside he’s nothing”, “These walls are funny. First you hate ‘em, then you get used to ‘em . Enough time passes you get so you depend on ‘em. That’s institutionalised”, and “They send you here for life; that’s exactly what they take from you.” Brooks is the representation of what prison life does to a man over time, he was completely institutionalized and it ultimately took his life. Institutionalisation is a substantial part of Shawshank, so substantial that Brooks could not survive on the outside and if he had a choice to live the rest of his days in prison and in the course of time die there, he would have chosen it without blinking an eye. Even though Brooks was free from prison, it would be controversial to state that Brooks saw himself as being liberated even more from what he was afraid of in the first place, freedom within society not freedom from imprisonment. These dialogues mentioned earlier help us to realise that Red is probably just as institutionalized as Brooks. Later on, we see Red asking for permission to go to the bathroom from the store manager which indicates that even though he is unfettered from the clutches of Shawshank, it will take a very long time for him to unravel some of the institualization that has been permanently stored within. The importance of this event is foreshadowed through the use of structure. Red can be recognised as a parallel to Brooks. They can only be differentiated at the end as one progresses the path of hope while the other capitulates as a result of “institutionalisation”. Darabont cleverly incorporates the order of events to prioritize key events, highlight meanings and indicate a development while engaging the audience by building dramatic tension. Red leaving Shawshank is identical to Brooks leaving Shawshank. As Brooks leaves Shawshank, there is a long shot to highlight Brooks body language. This is an important event as the long shot emphasises Brooks body language as he is seen from head to toe, shaking the hands of the guards with companionability while his placement between the guards displays a sense of belonging within the prison. When Red leaves Shawshank, the camera is placed within Shawshank as we only see the outside of Shawshank. The importance of this event is foreshadowed through the use of a long shot which reveals Red leaving Shawshank with acceptance of letting go of his past determined by his farewell to the guards. The importance of this event is also shown through the use of lighting. As Brooks sets to leave Shawshank, the inside of Shawshank seems to be more appealing as there is a bright light from within the prison compared to the darkness of the outside. This once again signifies a sense of belonging within the prison rather than the obscurity on the outside. As Red sets to leave Shawshank, the outside of Shawshank is all we can see which is full of ambience and bright light compared to the bleakness inside Shawshank. The importance of this event is also shown through the use of background music. As Brooks leaves Shawshank, the background music is rather slow and soft, which sets an unpleasant and saddening tone within the audience despite Brooks being granted freedom. As Red leaves Shawshank, the background music is rising and lifting spirits bit by bit, signifying the rays of freedom and hope which sets a complacent tone within the audience who are eager to anticipate what occurs next. Likewise, a mid-shot of Red on the bus reveals that Red is considerably spontaneous. The windows around Red show us a summery sky which adds light into this frame and this shows the freedom of life beyond the prison. It is significant as it shows us how Red still has hope for life and everything isn’t so gloomy and dark as it was in prison and he can still fulfill his promise given to Andy. Darabont’s purpose here is to arouse the audience to contemplate a pleasant ending for Red rather than suffering the same fate as Brooks. Life did not have much amusement to offer for Red when they gave him the freedom of parole, however, that freedom and rays of hope kept him alive to fulfill his promise and begin a new chapter of life. Language features such as sound, lighting, and structure were used to foreshadow Red leaving Shawshank as an important event as it enlightens the ending of the film, creating a dramatic tension within the audience’s mind while communicating the recurring theme of hope, redemption and freedom.
The Shawshank Redemption directed by Frank Darabont incorporates multiple language features such as cinematography, setting, irony, sound and lighting which were used to foreshadow important events such as suds on the roof, Brooks leaving Shawshank, aria over the loudspeaker, and Red leaving Shawshank. All of these events were determined as important events as they achieved Darabont’s purpose of drawing and developing characters, creating a certain atmosphere, making the audience sympathise with characters and linking back ideas to the real world, while repeatedly invoking the themes of redemption, hope and freedom which is best explained through Andy’s famous dialogue, “Get busy living, or get busy dying.”