Level 2 Shawshank Redemption Essay

5 checkpoints

  • Open with something interesting/thought provoking
  • Introduce the director + title of the text
  • Outline the overall plot of the text
  • Introduce the two scenes and two cinematic techniques you will examine
  • Point out your chosen directors purpose and the subsequent impact/message for the viewer and society (this is your thesis statement)


“Remember, Red, hope is a good thing, maybe the best of things. …. I have to remind myself that some birds aren’t meant to be caged… fly away, the part of you that knows it was a sin to lock them up does rejoice, but still, That’s institutionalised…”



“Hope is the companion of power, and mother of success; for who so hopes strongly has within him the gift of miracles”. During the film “The Shawshank Redemption” the director’s purpose (Frank Darabont) was to show the audience that even when you are institutionalised you can restore your hope by feeling the smallest sense of freedom. The Shawshank redemption is about Andy Dufresne who is sentenced to two consecutive life terms in prison for the murder of his wife and her lover, however Andy was not the man who committed the murder. In the rooftop scene and the music scene I will be analysing two cinematographic techniques that help represent hope and freedom. This is the sound and the lighting the director uses in both scenes.


Paragraph 1:

The rooftop scene was a very uplifting and positive moment in this film as it was one of the first scenes where we were able to see as an audience Andy’s determination and his hope of finding any sense of freedom again. The director’s purpose was to help educate us on even when you are in locked behind bars and controlled for your whole life, if you put your mind to it there are ways to feel free again. In this scene Andy, Red and a few other prisoners were selected to help put tarr onto the roof. During this process Andy overheard one of the guards complaining about financial issues and because Andy was a banker he decided to suggest some ideas that the guard could do to prevent losing money. At the beginning of the scene the guard was offended that a prisoner was suggesting ideas to him so he threatened to push him off the rooftop but Andy talked his way out of it and the guard decided to listen and give him a chance but in return he owed all of the prisoners working a box of beers at the end of a hard day. The director creates a sense of freedom by having a harmonica played in the background, whilst the inmates are being selected to work on the rooftop. The positive uplifting confident sounds of the harmonica not only uplift us as an audience but also give us hope that later in the scene there will be some reference to our favourite characters feeling any sense of freedom. During this moment their is no cloud in the sky and there is a sudden increase in bright tones and colour definition of the inmates faces. Previously throughout the film we have only ever seen the lighting to be dark and gloomy and the sky to be cloudy and miserable. The reason the director has made these lighting changes is because he wants the audience to consider that in society we associate the bright lights, clear skies, and colour increase to represent clarity which is what he was aiming for in this scene. The director has used these ideas to help us as viewers see that the prisoners have a clean slate in this moment and the most freedom they have ever had whilst they have been behind bars. The positive sounds of the harmonica combined with the bright lights work incredibly to get the director’s purpose across to the audience. Which is ultimately for this one moment to educate us that when locked away from the world you are still able to find freedom and normality no matter how long it lasts. Any second of freedom counts for these prisoners, and the more they get the more they are able to restore their hope of a new life one day. From the rooftop the prisoners are able to overlook the prison as the bleak and unbreakable walls of Shawshank dissolve away. In this moment the prisoners are focused on the bright tones and miles of land that forever continue. This represents that further on from the prison there is a life with freedom and purpose, this again gives the prisoners hope that one day they will be able to explore the endless miles of land. As the inmates bathe in the sun drinking their cold beer we are focused on the positive attitudes and hard work that they have been presenting all day which builds confidence for us as an audience that they can be redeemed and deserve freedom.This scene reminds me of the scene from the tv show “The Vampire Diaries” directed and produced by Marcos Siega and Julie Plec. When Stephen had moved away from his hometown and friends after his brother died, he got a job where he worked hard at everyday and he would come home and crack open a bottle of beer and sit on the deck and watch the sunset. This is similar to the rooftop scene because Stephen was able to move on from his old life and he had a clean slate after his brother’s death like the men from Shawshank experienced in this scene.In society being able to sit in the sun a drink a bottle of beer after a long day of work is a tradition only free men are able to experience so the fact they are able to experience this is a miracle for the inmates. During this moment the music is a slow soothing song that relates to the mood and the lighting helping us see the prisoners slowly rebuild their hope, we can also understand the emotion and joy that the prisoners are now able to feel which is a very positive scene for both the characters and audience. However the directors main purpose of this scene was to give the prisoners their first taste of what their lives could be like in the future when they are free men. This helps build the criminals hope and lust for a life again. It also helps us come to terms as an audience that the slightest taste of freedom can begin to restore a persons hope for a better life, which ultimately can change a persons outlook on life. Although Andy will never lose his hope he is determined to feel any sense of freedom he can to help build up his hope, and this specific scene has helped us see  the lengths he will go to to feel free again, even if it means risking his life. It is human nature to want to feel free and not controlled for every second of every day so by the director incorporating this scene in the film it helps us relate it back to ourselves. For example when school and work finishes at the end of the year we all celebrate the feeling of freedom we are unleashed with which is quite simply the best feeling in the world, and this is similar to what the inmates feel in this scene and what they want to feel when they are released.





Paragraph 2

The music scene is Andy and the inmates second taste of freedom in the film. The director’s purpose of this scene was to help educate us that in society music is an essential route for a mental escape no matter what position you are in it can give you hope and help you have a positive outcome on hard situations. The scene begins with Andy in the warden’s office cleaning out boxes and he is informed about his success with the library. We can see that this puts Andy in a very confident and happy mood because of the lighting, his face is glowing with the light focused on him whilst the background is dark and blurred out. The significance of this lighting helps educate us on the fact that Andy is granted with another sense of accomplishment and eventual freedom, we are able to see his hope grow from this moment. As an audience we are happy for Andy as we have grown empathy for him and because we have seen how hard and determined he has been to make the library a success. For it to go through this makes us feel a lot more compassionate and at ease for him.

This moment in the scene then provokes Andy to find the vinyl and play it over the loud speaker, Andy knew his actions would conclude with punishments but he wanted to have another taste of freedom for himself and for the other prisoners, this meant he was willing to sacrifice himself. All he wanted to do was for himself and everyone to experience a feeling of freedom to once again restore their hope. The italian women sung, “the marriage of figaro”,  their soft and beautiful voices soared further then the compound and further than any of the men in Shawshank could imagine as they froze in awe at that moment. The directors choice of lighting increased in vibrancy, the skies began to clear which once again expressed the feeling of clarity and hope for the prisoners. As the beautiful opera song played. By mixing the lighting and sounds together for this scene it was a great method that combined perfectly together to inform us as an audience that this was a positive scene for all the men in Shawshank as they were all able to feel their first or second glimpse of freedom to help restore their hope and determination to live a free life in the future. The guards see Andy looking as content and as free as ever relaxing in the office listening to the opera music, we can see this due to the lighting completely focused on him and the background blurred out but not dull anymore it is full of bright and uplifting tones. 

The prison guards are jealous that even though he is trapped behind bars he is able to outsmart them and find reasons for the inmates to prolong hope until they are granted it for real. It also reminds me of the scene from the film “Philadelphia” directed by Jonathan Demme,  when Andy uses the same song “the marriage of figaro” to help him escape from the fact that he has Aids and he is soon to be dead. This shows us that music is a key technique to helping anyone escape reality in any situation they are in.  I can relate to both Andy’s actions in these scenes because whenever i am feeling overwhelmed and trapped i listen to music to distract me from reality and it works. It completely uplifts me as i am able to relax and feel free no matter where i am and the situation I am in. Because that is the purpose of music, it has a strange inspirative power that can change your whole perspective on your situation. This is what the director’s intention was for this scene, to give Andy the freedom he deserves and to give the criminal inmates a peek of hope and what freedom feels like. From this we are able to see the directors intention of showing us that the slightest taste of freedom can restore a persons hope no matter what position they are in.



In realising Frank Darabont’s purpose in the “Shawshank Redemption”, that a person who is institutionalised can restore their hope by experiencing the smallest sense of freedom no matter how physically trapped they are. This is developed by the two cinematographic techniques lighting and sound. Throughout both scenes we were able to clearly see the directors purpose by the intricate combination of lighting and sound, these techniques are able to work together to help the audience see the directors purpose. By adjusting the lighting in a scene it can completely project the mood of the scene, for example if it was dark and gloomy this would represent the unhappiness and lack of freedom the prisoners have. Whereas if the lighting was bright and clear it would show us a sense of freedom and clarity. The sounding is essential to help show the mood of the scenes because it is able to intertwine with the lighting and we are able to understand that the soothing sounds of voices represent freedom to the prisoners. It is also a known technique that music is able to help relieve a persons stress about life and help them feel the slightest bit of freedom as the music is able to take your mind away from whatever you are going through. The fact that the director was able to combine both of these cinematographic techniques to help us as an audience see his purpose for the scenes is very impressive. Overall after watching “The Shawshank Redemption” directed by Frank Darabont society is able to understand the message from this film that is that you are able to restore your hope no matter how institutionalised you are. All you need is the slightest taste of freedom and you can feel clean and deserving of freedom. “Hope is being able to see that there is light despite all of the darkness”.

By Samantha.






A couple of sentences that introduce the scene

First example- tell us what you see and hear

Explain the example and the director’s purpose behind it, also what it does to the audience

Second example- tell us what you see again and hear

Explain the example and the director’s purpose behind it, also what it does to the audience

Think about the overall impact of this scene- what is the purpose of the idea that the director is trying to put across, how does it link to another text

Join the conversation! 1 Comment

  1. Samantha, during your editing periods:
    – look to develop your description in places of how the techniques are used. Remember to pull apart EACH detail of your chosen techniques in your chosen moments. To do this, you may want to watch the scene again.
    – make sure that your ideas around the directors intension and positioning of the audience are fully developed: You are good at stating what the intention is and a surface explanation of WHY it is occurring. Can you go deeper with this?
    – make sure your thesis, as outlined in your introduction, is consistent across all paragraphs. Make sure you keep revisiting it- how does the evidence you are supplying help to prove your thesis?
    – look for any places where your argument/ideas dance around the point you are trying to make. reading out loud might help you spot this.


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