“It is mine to screw up now” – Quentin Tarantino
I think I can build a post out of some beautiful lines from the film itself. And I think I should. It would be a crime if I don’t.
Andy Dufresne: If they ever try to trace any of those accounts, they’re gonna end up chasing a figment of my imagination.
Red: Well, I’ll be damned. Did I say you were good? Shit, you’re a Rembrandt!
Andy Dufresne: Yeah. The funny thing is – on the outside, I was an honest man, straight as an arrow. I had to come to prison to be a crook.
To begin with, this is Frank Darabont‘s first film. The film is an adaptation of a Stephen King story named Rita Hayworth and Shawshank Redemption. The film is written and directed by Frank himself. I feel these details are important to mention because I can’t even imagine how difficult it must be for a new director to get the rights of a renowned author.
Stephen King sold the film rights for his novella, Rita Hayworth and Shawshank Redemption, for $5,000. He never cashed the check. Years after Shawshank came out, the author got the check framed and mailed it back to the director Frank Darabont with a note inscribed: “In case you ever need bail money. Love, Steve.”
It took Frank Darabont 5 years to complete the script. And the journey was not a smooth one at all. Just like the film itself, that’s all it takes, pressure and time.
Every man has his breaking point: The film, if you look at it closely, is full of narration. A person from the school of thought that preaches cinema being a visual medium would regard this film as a disgrace to the medium. And as we look it it right now, nearly 20 years from its release we can say that Morgan Freeman‘s narration is the factor that drives the film forward. It helps us connect with the characters to a deeper level. As my cinema teacher once said, in cinema, there are no absolutes. There is no right and wrong. It is all relative. The maker had his breaking point. He was skeptical about keeping the narration throughout. He had doubts if the audience would appreciate it or not. He explains in an interview that Martin Scorsese came to his rescue. Not in person but through cinema. Frank watched Goodfellas and realised that the film is all narration. If he could then it shouldn’t be all wrong.
I was in the path of the tornado: (well almost) The location where the film was shot “had a date with the wrecking ball,” as the director himself explains. He believes that there is no other place in the world where the film was possible otherwise.
Get busy living or get busy dying: A friend of mine said that the film is all about boredom. I respectfully (?) disagree. The film is not about boredom. Look from any character’s point of view. Although the treatment seems to suck every ounce of happiness out of your body, the film in all sense is about hope. How can anyone misinterpret the basic message of the film that Hope is a good thing. And no good thing ever dies.
Kevin Costner, Tom Hanks and Brad Pitt were all offered the role but turned it down due to scheduling conflicts with Waterworld, Forrest Gump and Interview with the vampire respectively. Kevin Costner would later regret that decision.
Honorary mentions to some of the smart lines in the film:
Morgan Freeman calls Tim Robbins‘ plan of having a hotel in Mexico “shitty pipe dreams.” Well he means it literally without realizing it. Foreshadowing!
The salvation lay within. At least the tools of salvation did.
“I have no idea to this day what those two Italian ladies were singing about. Truth is, I don’t want to know. Some things are best left unsaid. I’d like to think they were singing about something so beautiful, it can’t be expressed in words, and makes your heart ache because of it. I tell you, those voices soared higher and farther than anybody in a gray place dares to dream. It was like some beautiful bird flapped into our drab little cage and made those walls dissolve away, and for the briefest of moments, every last man in Shawshank felt free” – Red (Morgan Freeman) The music player scene was added by the director and it does not exist in the original story by King.
The film did not get a warm reception worldwide on its release. The feeling of being in a prison for the entire movie may not attract a lot of positive vibes. And it is not an action movie, not in the slightest possible way. The film was nominated for seven Academy Awards in 1994. It didn’t win even a single one. But it brought it again in the spotlight. The film’s initial gross of $18 million didn’t even cover the cost of its production. It did another $10 million in the wake of its Oscar nominations but the film was still deemed to be a box office flop.
Yet, Warner Bros. shipped 320,000 rental video copies throughout the United States, and it became one of the top rented films of 1995 and currently it holds the 1st position in the IMDB top 250 list. Some redemption at last!