Shawshank Redemption Essay - Please could I get some feedback on this essay

Question: Analyze how film techniques were used to create a powerful emotional response in the audience

In order to create a powerful emotional response in the audience, Fran Darabont uses multiple film techniques in his film ‘The Shawshank Redemption’. Film techniques that were used include; camera shots, dialogue, lighting, sound effects and voiceover. Darabont cleverly uses these to contrast the beginning of the film, which is full of despair, with the end of the film, which is brimming with hope. Hope is the expectancy that something good is going to happen, whilst despair is the loss of all hope.

‘The Shawshank Redemption’ is about a successful banker named Andy Du Fresne, who is wrongly accused of the murder of his wife and her lover. He is sentenced to spend the rest of his life at the brutal Shawshank prison, where he meets new friends, experiences horrific trials and learns about the importance of holding onto hope in a place with none.

This film is based on the novel ‘Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption’ by Stephen King. Darabont goes to great lengths to create emotion within the audience as he highlights the importance of holding onto hope during a time of utter despair. Hope is a light that can guide anyone out of the darkest of valleys.

The beginning of the film starts with Red’s (a 65-year old man who has been imprisoned at Shawshank for most of his life) parole hearing, in which he is questioned by members of the Board, who ultimately hold his fate in their hands. A feeling of despair and sympathy arises in the audience when the film technique of a close up shot displays the big, red REJECTED that is stamped onto Red’s papers. This indicates that Red will remain a prisoner, bound by the shackles of Shawshank.

The film technique of dialogue is used to create a powerful emotional response in the audience when Red leaves his parole hearing and converses with some of his fellow prisoners. One of these prisoners says “I’m up for rejection next week”, whilst another comments “I got rejected last week”. This use of dialogue emphasizes that the prisoners have no hope of freedom. They have given up all hope and have accepted the fact that Shawshank is their future. This invokes despair, as the audience comes to the realization that most of the prisoners will never get a second chance in the outside world.

An establishing shot is used to display the looming, grey manse of Shawshank prison. This film technique shows the audience a place of darkness, gloom and dismal despair, creating a fearful atmosphere. The prison is built with dark stones and has a foreboding presence which highlights the brutality of it. Overall the beginning of the film showcases the main theme of despair as it creates a despairing emotional response from the audience.

The ending of the film begins when Red embarks on a journey to fulfill his promise to Andy, This journey takes him to a hayfield in Buxton, where he finds the oak tree from Andy’s description. As Red searches for the rock that Andy described, the film technique of lighting is used to create a hopeful and warm sensation in the audience. The lighting is bright and sunny, foreshadowing that whatever Red finds will bring him happiness.

Upon approaching the oak tree, the film technique of sound effects is used to create an emotional response in the audience as it relates to the symbol of birds. Birds are used as symbols of freedom throughout the film as they are free to live unburdened by the worries of the world. Therefore, the sound effect of bird calls, that can be heard during Red’s discovery, invoke a sense of freedom and joy amongst the audience.

Lastly, the film technique of voiceover inspires hope into the hearts of the audience members. “I hope I can make it across the border. I hope to see my friend and shake his hand. I hope the Pacific is as blue as it has been in my dreams. I hope…” is Red’s voiceover as he journeys to find his friend, Andy. This emphasizes that Red’s hope has been restored and that he has found a new purpose for his life that was once filled with despair.

Frank Darabont cleverly contrasts the main themes of despair and hope through the beginning and ending of the film. He creates an emotional atmosphere within the audience as he reveals how hope can triumph over even the darkest valley of despair. Each and every one of us will have to overcome trials that seem insurmountable, but if we hold onto the knowledge that no valley lasts forever, then we can conquer anything.

In conclusion, Frank Darabont used multiple film techniques in his film ‘The Shawshank redemption’ on order to create a powerful emotional response in the audience.

Kiā ora
You set up the question clearly in the introduction and then provide a series of examples of techniques which illustrate a time when an emotional response is generated in the audience. This shows an understanding and you clearly know the film well. To develop the response further you could look at linking the examples a little more cohesively. Run with the underlying theme and why the audience is affected by it and what they learn and then have the techniques spill out from this discussion, with the examples. JD