The Shawshank Redemption
The Shawshank Redemption’, directed by Frank Darabont tells the story of Andy Dufresne, who is falsely accused and imprisoned for the murder of his wife and her lover and is sent the Shawshank prison. Darabont uses many important scenes throughout the film to show certain key ideas and themes to the viewer. He uses camera shots, lighting, voice-over and dialogue to help develop these ideas of freedom. One of the key scenes in ‘The Shawshank Redemption’ is the rooftop scene which uses a number of these film techniques. An important technique used in the rooftop scene is the range of camera shots.
It shows the prisoners all in one frame drinking beers. The camera in the scene has used a wide shot technique to show the contrast between the expansion of the roof and the confinement of the jail. The audience is used to seeing the prisoners either in their cramped cells or out in the court yard where it’s still quite crowded. Seeing them lying down, looking relaxed on top of the prison is an important part in conveying the scenes idea of liberty. Another camera shot used in this scene is a close up shot of Andy sitting by himself while watching the other prisoners drink beer.
This particular shot is used to show the emotions on the characters face and in this case it shows Andy looking content as he has brought freedom to the other prisoners. The fact that he is sitting away from the rest of the prisoners shows that he is different; he retains hope and wants to retain a sense of freedom. The last camera shot I have analysed is when we hear Red’s voice over the camera is on Red but he is seen with the guards in the background blurred over his shoulder. This technique shows that no matter how ‘free’ you feel, there will always be the ‘institutionalised’ mentality to these prisoners.
Aw for the audience, you also feel sorry for the prisoners. Even though they aren’t in their cells, the guards watching them in the background gives you the feeling that they’re still trapped and they aren’t as free as they feel. The lighting in the beer on the roof scene plays an important part in conveying the idea of freedom and the difference of being inside the prison and out on top of the roof. The scene is clearly set near the evening as it gives off a warm yellow lighting on top of the roof. The sudden sunlight urrounding the prisoners in the rooftop scene appeals to human empathy and causes the audience to share the joy and relief felt by these metaphorical ‘freemen’ as they hold on to this hint of normality. The sun gives a golden effect to the scene and reinforces the voice over from Red, “We sat and drank under the sun on our shoulders and felt like free men”. The director has combined the voice over of Red and the warmer, home-like light tells the audience that this is an unusual occurrence for the prisoners as we are so used to seeing them in the dark lit prisons.
Red’s voice over in this film is important to express the thoughts of the prisoners for the audience to understand how free they felt on the roof. As Red talks, it’s almost as if the camera pans around the roof to the pace of his voice to make the audience feel relaxed like Red. Red’s voice over offers and guides the audience an insight for example when he says, “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”, but even in the voice over, Andy’s true thoughts are something of a mystery.
One of the most important pieces of dialogue in the rooftop scene is when one of Andy’s inmates offers him a beer and Andy says “No thanks, gave up drinking”. This line is very significant as it shows that is was purely a selfless act from Andy to make the prisoners feel free and have hope for once. He stood to gain nothing from giving them beer and this helped him achieve some status with the guards and the other inmates. Also, on the night of his wife’s murder, Andy was drinking and that piece of evidence played a part in him being sent to prison.
Darabont has made this link to why he doesn’t want to drink; he was not of his right mind when he was drinking. In conclusion, the rooftop scene is definitely one of the most important scenes in ‘The Shawshank Redemption’ as it is the point where his plan to escape begins. He’s gaining the trust of the guards and the warden, which allows him the liberty to do what he wants. It is one of the only scenes in the film in which the camera shots, lighting, voice over and dialogue all come together to present the ideas and themes of liberty.