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Thursday, May 14, 2009
The Shawshank Redemption is a movie about hope, faith and friendship. The friendship that is depicted in it is of a different kind as compared to most of the other movies. It is a story about two friends, Andy Dufresne (Tim Robbins), a white banker wrongly charged with his wife’s murder and Ellis Boyd ‘Red’ Redding (Morgan Freeman), a black convict.
The movie starts with Andy being convicted with the murder of his wife and her lover. He is sentenced to a double life imprisonment and he lands up in Shawshank prison. Here he meets Red who is also serving a life sentence. Red is a guy who is ‘known to locate certain things from time to time,’ i.e. get things for a price in prison. The ‘sisters’, a bunch of homosexual guys, take a liking for Andy and are always after Andy. Andy lives the usual prison life without ever losing hope. Red, on the other hand, says to Andy that ‘Hope is a dangerous thing. Hope can drive a man insane.’
One day Andy uses his knowledge to help one of the officers in saving some taxes. Thus, begins a new chapter in his life. News spreads about Andy’s expertise in taxation matters and he starts doing the tax returns for all the prison guards. Warden Samuel Norton (Bob Gunton) comes to know about Andy and engages him in his own financial matters, bulk of which involved covering the illicit money which he earned from various sources. If I say any further I will be spoiling your experience of watching the movie. So all I want to say is go and see it for yourself.
The Shawshank Redemption is an adaptation of the novella ‘Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption’ by Stephen King. Like all the movies adapted from books this arouses the question as to which is better. I have had the opportunity to read the novella as well as watch the movie (the latter a great many times). I liked the novella as well as the movie but I find the movie better. The novella fails to maintain the suspense which is brilliantly done in the movie. Also, the novella isn’t as successful in depicting the friendship of Red and Andy.
The Shawshank Redemption was nominated for 7 Oscars but was unable to win any of those. The best film award went to ‘Forrest Gump’ that year. There has been a lot of debate about which is a better movie and whether Shawshank should have won the Oscar instead of Forrest Gump. I will present a few facts here which or may not mean anything. American Film Institute has ranked Shawshank at number 72 in the list of all time top 100 movies while Forrest Gump has been placed at number 76. IMDb, which is an internet database of movies and ranks movies based on the ratings given by millions of users, puts Shawshank at number 1 (till last year it was at number 2, second only to The Godfather) while Forrest Gump is around 42.
Shawshank was a flop at the box office. There can be many reasons which can be attributed to this. The name in itself was considered to be inappropriate for a movie; most of the movie being shot inside a prison didn’t inspire people to go to the theatre and watch it. As word spread around that this was a really good movie people started renting the VHS and the following year it became the highest rented movie of the year.
Most of the people who have seen the movie will agree with me that for almost 3/4ths of it you enjoy the movie but the last half an hour simply blows you away. Most of the movies which have a twist ending end up not being seen twice but that’s not the case with this movie. When I saw the movie for the first time I liked it but my respect for the movie has been growing with the number of viewings. The more I see it the better I feel about it. There was a period of 4 months when I saw it 3 times. Also, I loved the movie so much that I went on to buy the book ‘Different Seasons’ which contains the novella. By this time I guess most of you would have understood that Shawshank is my favourite movie of all time and I believe that there can never be any other movie which comes close to this.