Analyse how one or more moments highlighted an important idea. “Idea” may refer to character, theme, or setting.
An important moment that highlights the significant idea of freedom and hope in ‘The Shawshank Redemption’ is the scene in which Red, a newly released prisoner, goes as instructed by protagonist and friend Andy to visit a tree located in Buxton. The themes of freedom and hope during this moment are portrayed through the use of lighting, birds and music.
‘The Shawshank Redemption’, directed by Frank Darabont, is a 1994 film about a man named Andy Dufresene who is sentenced for life in Shawshank prison for the muder of his wife and her lover. Whilst in prison he, as the title suggests, redeems those imprisoned and fills the drab institution with hope, particularly inflicting these outlooks upon Red, a inmate who befriends Andy.
Throughout the film, it becomes apparent that Red has completely lost hope over the course of his imprisonment. This is suggested throughout multiple conversations held with his friend and confidant Andy Dufresne, where he reminisces about his former passion for playing the harmonica. “I played a mean harmonica as a younger man. Lost interest in it though. Didn’t make much sense in here”. When Andy gifts Red with a new harmonica, Red becomes sombre, refusing to play it, shooting an indigent response at Andy as to how he feels he couldn’t play it while in prison. The harmonica represents hope to Red, or rather his lack of hope. From the moment he put down the harmonica when he first entered Shawshank, the last dregs of hope faded from his mind, and he began to live in ceaseless despair.
As Red makes his way to the tree as instructed by Andy, the sound of a harmonica is introduced to the film’s score for the first time. This moment is the pinnacle of hope for Red as he enters his new life of prolonged freedom. The idiosyncratic sound of the harmonica reignites hope for the audience, but most of all for Red. Therefore, the non diegetic sound of music is used by the director to convey the idea of hope and freedom in ‘The Shawshank Redemption’ during the tree scene. This is the conclusion of Red’s character arc, from a lost, despairing soul, to a man full of life and hope in the wake of his parole release.
Birds are also used in the tree sequence to exude the ideas of hope and freedom through the use of background bird noises. These diegetic sounds are heard when Red sits below the cooling shade of the tree to retrieve the object placed on site by Andy. The sweeping calls of multiple native birds are heard, as well as the soft chirps of songbirds. Throughout the film birds have been an anchor in reinforcing the themes of hope and freedom, though the use of birds is made ever so present in the tree scene. The use of birds has been a symbol not only in the use of film techniques, but also in the dialogue of the film’s characters. During a previous scene that parallels the tree scene in the sense of its thematic value, Red’s voiceover makes a poetic statement: “It was like some beautiful bird flapped into our drab little cage and made those walls dissolve away… for the briefest of moments, every last man in Shawshank felt free.”
With that quote being taken into consideration, it is clear to see why birds hold so much significance in ‘The Shawshank Redemption’. The imagery of birds flying through the air evokes ideas of freedom, and from freedom flows hope. Red, after his release, is able to rekindle his sense of hope, as he is released from Shawshank prison, his metaphorical bird cage. Therefore, the sounds of the birds in the tree scene highlight the important idea of hope and freedom in the moment of the tree scene.
Finally, the tree scene highlights the important ideas of hope and freedom through the use of lighting techniques. Throughout literary history, bright light has been a staple in reinforcing the idea of goodness, purity, and hope. A stark contrast from the dull atmosphere of Shawshank Prison, the tree scene is flooded with natural light. While the prison was dark and full of remnants of suffering, the scene in which Red goes to the tree to retrieve a gift from Andy is bright and sunny, a reflection of the hopeful mood. This use of lighting techniques is a direct filmmaking choice made by the director to once again emphasize the idea of hope and freedom.
The Catholic elements of the film are also implied through the use of bright lighting techniques. Jesus was seen as the light and hope of the world; Andy represents the Christ like figure in the film due to his redeeming qualities towards the other prisoners, particularly Red. Red finds salvation because of Andy, and when he goes to the tree in Buxton to fulfil his promise to Andy, the sunlit environment makes it feel as though Andy is looking down upon him, like Christ from the heavens. Andy’s letter voiceover mingles with the warm ambience of the scene as he utters the most powerful line of the film: “Remember Red, hope is a good thing, maybe the best of things, and no good thing ever dies.” Therefore, the technique of bright, sunny lighting in the tree scene helps to highlight the main ideas of hope and freedom.
Majority of the tree seen at the Buxton hayfield is shot from a wide camera angle. This large scale view gives the audience a clear image of the scene. The wide open space is expanded upon through the use of this particular camera shot, making Red’s feeling of freedom seem encapsulated by a sense of physical freedom, with lots of space to roam in comparison to the confinement of the prison.
Furthermore, the central ideas of hope and freedom in ‘The Shawshank Redemption’ are portrayed through the use of lighting as well as motifs like birds and music, all aided by complementary film techniques like voiceover, lighting techniques and background music/ sounds. These three factors are put on full display during the tree scene in which Red goes to a hayfield in Buxton under the command of Andy, in the case of him ever being let out of prison on parole. This scene emancipated Red with a feeling of freedom, and he regains his sense of hope through his redemption from Andy Dufresne.