Monday, December 6, 2010

"The Shawshank Redemption", Cinematic Adventure Style


Throughout the course of this movie, I was fairly shocked at how closely tied it was to the original elements of the short story. Its plot was probably the element that strayed the most from its initial foundation, and even then, it wasn't too far off course. The varying details I found seemed to be fairly subtle. To start, one character that differed from the short story was Brooks. He was the old man in the prison who had a pet bird that he fed and nurtured from a previous injury. When he was eventually released, the story didn't elaborate much on what happened to him in his life beyond prison. It did, however, mention that his bird ended up dying after he set it free because it wasn't capable of taking care of itself. In the movie, Brook's troubled adjustment period back into society is shown. In fact, he comes to the point where he can no longer cope with his new life and he ends up hanging himself to end his misery. He said that he was "tired of being scared all the time" in the outside world and just wanted it all to end.
Another larger variation involved the character of Tommy Williams. In the short story, Warden Hadley had Tommy transferred to a different prison while Andy was in solitary confinement so that he wouldn't be able to testify for him. I wish that was the case in the movie as well, but sadly it transpired contrastingly. Warden Hadley lured Tommy to the grounds to talk to him, and it was there that he had Tommy shot and murdered by prison guards. That way he knew for sure Andy's innocence couldn't be proven. After this took place, he lied and told Andy that Tommy was shot because he tried to escape. Due to the warden's evil character, I can't say that I'm surprised.
The last and most significant difference I chose to analyze was the whole escape-ending of the story. Because the narrator in the short story is Red, he could not be sure about some of the details of Andy's escape. How he had changed from his prison clothes to regular clothes for instance, was a mystery. Contrarily, this is accounted for in the movie. The movie showed Andy with a plastic sack filled with clothes and essentials tied to ankle as he crawled through his man-made tunnel. Also, in the short story the ending was crafted as a cliffhanger where the reader is left to wonder if Red ever ended up finding Andy. The movie ends a little more certain and more optimistically than the original story. According to the movie, Red completed his journey and was reunited with Andy in the end. Andy was exactly where he said he would be, meaning he was in Zihuatanejo, Mexico.
In my opinion, these differences made the story stronger rather than weaker. I thought they added to its overall value and made it even better than it was to begin with. I liked the differences in the characters because it made them seem that much more real, or complex. Brooks' inability to cope, the warden's sheer cruelty, the unraveled mysteries of Andy's escape; all of these were significant added elements to the blueprint of the plot.

Point of View

The point of view remained unchanging between the short story version of "The Shawshank Redemption" and the film version of the story. Red was the narrator in both, and it was through his insight that the reader gained information about Andy and those surrounding him. However, in the movie some parts were shown that could only be conjectured upon before. Andy's escape would be my greatest example of this. Whereas Red could only imagine the level of repulsion Andy must have experienced crawling through the sewage tunnel, in the movie the audience got to see Andy wretching inside the tunnel and pushing himself to keep going.
Once again, I liked this small change because it made the story slightly more effective. Since I am a visual person, being able to see events that had only been described to me before heightened my understanding of the story and allowed me to empathize with the characters.


I think that the characterization remained the same in both the written and film versions of this story. Andy and Red acted exactly as they were portrayed to, and there were even times where conversations between the two of them were directly quoted from the story itself. That was one of my favorite aspects of the movie; the fact that it didn't try to change any details or alter the characters as they had been written. Because of this, I thought that the movie remained effective in its storytelling. I was appreciative that the producers had maintained the characterization so well, and I could often tell who characters were supposed to be before they were referenced by name. To an extent, I was sort of surpised by this. If I had to guess, I would have thought that the characterization would have been an aspect that varied more greatly between the two before watching the movie.


Identically, the setting was kept consistent in both the story and film production of "The Shawshank Redemption". This contributed to the value of the story because it added to its accuracy and strengthened the links between the two. Perhaps most important; however, was the fact that the hidden box that Andy left behind for Red remained in the city of Buxton. It was nearby a haystack and northern stone wall, just as he'd said it'd be. Furthermore, Andy traveled to Zihuatanejo, a factor I didn't leave unnoticed. I think that the consistency between the settings made the story have more validity and made it seem more real to the reader. The time period was also well portrayed; the advancements made in society during that time period were evident and accurate.


While I still found hope to be a prevalent theme in the film, I also picked up on some religious themes as well. At one point, Warden Hadley instructed Andy, telling him that "salvation lay within". In the most literal sense, I found this ironic because his salvation actually lay within his own prison cell, the very means by which he was supposed to be confined. On another note, Andy also came up with the idea to hide his rock hammer between the pages of his Bible. This was significant because salvation was literally held within the texts of his faith. The Warden never thought to question it, and for that reason his hiding place was ingenious. I especially liked how the Warden got what he deserved in the end. He was an incredibly cruel man, and for all the religious talk he gave he was certainly one heck of a hypocrite in my opinion. Either way, I saw religious references sprinkled throughout the movie.

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