Shawshank Redemption (1994)
The social context.
The film is based on Stephen Kings 1982 novella ‘Rita Hayworth and Shawshank Redemption.’ It is set in 1946 and Andy Dufresne is convicted and jailed for the murder of his wife and her lover. Dufresne is a well respected educated young banker and continues throughout the film to protest his innocence. The film highlights the life of a prisoner in 1940s America and a struggle to free himself from his predestined future. Dufresne is a quiet character who offers his services to the prison officials by manipulating his skill for banking, while carefully and slowly develops and performs his own escape.
Motivation for Crime.
There are two crimes highlighted in this film, the first the murder. It is never fully known if Dufresna committed the murder of his wife and her lover but the overwhelming evidence unmistakeably frames him as the murderer. Consequently he is charged with two life imprisonment sentences. The second crime, the escape, draws its motivation from the upheld hope that Dufresne maintains throughout the nineteen years he remains in prison. During his time he is subjected to abuse from fellow inmates and loneliness which urges him to construct his own emancipation. There are strong religious themes running through the film of freedom and resurrection, ‘fear can hold you prisoner, hope can set you free.’
Although protesting his innocence it is never clear is his strong desire for freedom is just. His actions therefore can either be perceived as a righteous freedom or as desperation of enormous proportions. His struggle and patience to escape demonstrates his intelligence and illustrates his determination.
Roles of the institutions.
The institutions play a large role throughout the film. Firstly the court system and the role it played in drastically changing Dufresnes life and secondly the role of the prison officers. In the film the prison officers demonstrated an explosive and dominating nature who considered themselves more worthy than the prisoners. However, Dufresne was able to manipulate the system which led ultimately to his escape. The institution, in the film, acted as a counter to the hope the characters felt. From watching the film the unfavourable treatment of the prisoners made the unrelenting hope of Dufresne even more liberating.
In conclusion, the film depicts an unlikely criminal faced with a terrifying reality who rejects his fate and overcomes the odds. It is an uplifting story of redemption which highlights issues in the prison system as well as evoking powerful emotion.