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Hi! Please can I have feedback for my 'The Shawshank Redemption' essay? (:

Analyse how language features were used to create a powerful emotional moment

Directors use language features as tools in their films to create powerful emotional moments. In Frank Darabont’s ‘The Shawshank Redemption’, language features such as camera angles, lighting techniques, and diegetic and non-diegetic sound were used to create a powerful moment. ‘The Shawshank Redemption’ is a film from 1994 and is about a rich banker named Andy Dufresne who is sentenced to life in prison for the murder of his wife and her lover. As the film progresses, Andy brings hope and redemption into Shawshank prison and redeems it from drab and despairing into a place of hope and light. He meets and befriends another inmate named Red who, at the start of the film, has already spent 20 years at Shawshank prison for murder.

Frank Darabont has an affinity with the prison genre after having spent time in a refugee camp in France as a child. Other creations he has directed such as the film ‘The Green Mile’ and TV series, ‘Prison Break’ have the same hopeless prison style as ‘The Shawshank Redemption’. Darabont highlights the hopelessness of people being imprisoned and the power of hope that can come out of being trapped in despair.

Darabont uses high-key lighting to create a powerful emotional moment in the music scene, where Andy locks himself in the Library office and plays a record of Mozart’s, ‘The Marriage Of Figaro’ through the prison’s speakers. Andy’s desire for hope shines through and he shows courage as he knows he will be punished for what he is doing, however, he knows he is inspiring the other prisoners with freedom. A powerful high angle shot from the speakers outside shows the prisoners all standing still and looking up at the speaker. The speaker is “above despair” and is high like a bird in the sky - which is symbolic of freedom. The prisoners are staring at the speakers and longing for something better that is beyond Shawshank. Andy feels he can make a positive difference and starts to feel he can bring hope to a place of despair. Frank Darabont creates an emotional spark in the audience and shows them that no matter what, there is always a silver lining to the dark cloud you are facing - there is always hope, no matter how tiny of a spec it is.

The audience feels the emotional impact of language features when they hear a non-diegetic sound in the form of Red’s voiceover when he says, “… I tell you, those voices soared, it was like some beautiful bird flapped into our drab little cage and dissolved those walls away. For the briefest of moments, every last man in Shawshank felt free” This is symbolic of freedom and hope as Andy has allowed each and every single prisoner to feel free, even if just for a short moment. Although the prisoners are physically at Shawshank Prison, during the scene they are mentally as free as birds after hearing music for the first time in years. This small glimpse of hope introduces a new feeling of freedom. Andy Dufresne is a bright and beautiful bird that has brought hope to Shawshank - he symbolises freedom. Darabont is highlighting the theme of hope, through this emotional scene, he teaches the audience that no matter how unimportant or insignificant we may feel, we can make a positive difference in other people’s lives and bring hope.

Darabont uses the highkey lighting of sunshine to make the scene powerful and emotional because it contrasts to the start of the film when there was an establishing shot of Shawshank Prison with low-key lighting, overcast weather and dark shadows. This shows that when there is light, there is hope. In Shawshank Prison, Andy is the light who redeems hope from despair and inspires hope in others. As Andy is locked in the room by himself, Frank Darabont creates irony and that is that because Andy locked himself in, he enables himself to essentially be free. He willingly locks himself in the room and this contrasts to him being locked in prison which is despairing but as he locks himself in the room to play the music for the other inmates, he is triumphant over despair and brings hope. Through this powerful moment, Darabont shows the audience that simple acts of courage can bring light and hope. Andy was the light in Shawshank.

Furthermore, Frank Darabont crafts this powerful and emotional moment by using non-diegetic sound in the form of Red’s voiceover when he says, “… I tell you, those voices soared, it was like some beautiful bird flapped into our drab little cage and dissolved those walls away. For the briefest of moments, every last man in Shawshank felt free” This is symbolic of freedom and hope as Andy has allowed each and every single prisoner to feel free, even if just for a short moment. Although the prisoners are physically at Shawshank Prison, during the scene they are mentally as free as birds after hearing music for the first time in years. This small glimpse of hope introduces a new feeling of freedom. Andy Dufresne is a bright and beautiful bird that has brought hope to Shawshank - he symbolises freedom. Frank Darabont is highlighting the theme of hope, he teaches the audience that no matter how unimportant or insignificant we may feel, we can make a positive difference in other people’s lives and bring hope.

Finally, the scene has a very powerful feel when every man turns to the speakers at Shawshank as if it were the only hope for them in the world. For them, it was like a portal to something otherworldly and essentially it was, as music is only ever heard outside of Shawshank. Darabont uses a powerful medium shot of Andy sitting leaning back and relaxing at the desk with his hands behind his head. For a short while, Andy has total freedom and feels triumphant, he gives hope and that same feeling of freedom to the other prisoners. He is essentially free and has found freedom and hope in the beauty of music. This reminds the audience just how powerful and beautiful music can be and that no one should be deprived of it. For a moment, because of how powerful the music is, each and every one of the prisoners feels human again after being dehumanised and treated like animals at Shawshank Prison.

The sudden contrast of female voices heard in the opera compared to the atmosphere of a male-only prison is emotional as it gives the men hope that there is more to life than just prison and that there is a big broad world outside of the prison walls. This both reminds the prisoners and the audience that hope is not lost. After this scene, the whole mood of the film changes as the prisoners are now all clinging to that bit of hope that Andy inspired them with.

Frank Darabont is teaching the audience that any person, no matter how “unimportant” or “irrelevant” they feel, can make a difference and touch the lives of others - all they need is a bit of hope. He teaches us that no matter how hard times seem to be, if you have hope, it will always end up triumphing over despair. Hope is never lost and we shouldn’t think that just because something bad is happening that there isn’t a bright side or a silver lining to the dark despairing cloud. In ‘The Shawshank Redemption’ Andy is essentially a christ-like figure as he is the light of other people’s lives and is suffering for the sins of others (he is innocent and was falsely prosecuted). He teaches the prisoners and the audience to always find hope in the bad times and that hope always beats despair.

In conclusion, Frank Darabont created a powerful and emotional moment that really impacts his audience. He crafted this moment through the use of a high-angle shot, high-key lighting and sunshine, Red’s voiceover and a medium shot of Andy’s triumphant face. Frank Darabont shows the audience that even the smallest bit of hope can make a difference and that it always triumphs over despair.

Kia ora - welcome to Studyit, hopefully you find it useful :slight_smile:

Nice opening to your intro - I would probably set up WHAT the powerful emotional moment is explicitly here (just briefly with a sentence) to signpost where you are going. Perhaps a good place for this could be in the bit where you talk about Darabont’s career - after all it is the general hopeless prison style in this and the rest of his works that helps really showcase this scene as being different.

You seem to have one of the paragraphs (the voiceover one) in there twice.

Some great understanding of the effects of these techniques - you have some good examples and a clear understanding of how this scene fits within the context of the film as a whole.

There are elements of insight through here - I would look at perhaps being a wee bit more specific throughout about HOW this impacts the audience emotionally - you allude to it in places but could perhaps dig into why this impacts us so emotionally - do we feel shock, awe, pride for Andy, fear for Andy, joy for the prisoners, etc.

I would try to weave your discussion of the contrast of female voices (near the end) into your discussion of the men turning towards the speaker - being explicit about how elements are used together can add insight and those two points you make there would work well together.

Excellent understanding of film and especially this scene - well done.

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