“I guess it comes down a simple choice: Get busy living, or get busy dying.” The award winning film “The Shawshank Redemption” directed by Frank Darabont follows the life of wrongfully convicted inmate Andy Dufresne and how he successfully escapes from Shawshank prison to show the idea of freedom inside a place as desolate and blank as a prison. By examining the rooftop and music scene is is clear that the director uses wide and close up camera angles and non diegetic (voice over) sounds to show the idea of freedom inside of shawshank prison.

The Rooftop scene opens with a wide shot of all the prisoners listening to an announcement the warden is making about the roof needing to be re-tarred, from this shot the viewers can see how the prisoners are standing still strictly lined up in rows. Following this shot there is a number of close ups of Andy and his friends faces, you can see their faces light up when the warden makes his announcement because they might be able to get a small bit of freedom, this shows that while they are not actually freed from prison, a break in the repetitive schedule they do everyday makes them feel free. When they are on the rooftop the guard hangs Andy over the edge and the camera angles goes from a bird’s eye where you can only see Andy and the concrete of the prison below him to a medium close up of Andy with the green grass and tree behind him. The director has done this because as the shot starts off with the concrete and big drop behind any it shows how dangerous of a position Andy has put himself in and as the camera angle lowers it shows the green foliage in the background representing life outside the prison and ultimately freedom.The Voice over at the end of the scene works with the camera angles to show how the prisoners are feeling when they are given a small amount of freedom. The character Red played by Morgan Freeman narrates over the convicts relaxing on the roof he say “we sat and drank with the sun on our shoulders, hell we could have been tarring the roof of one of our own houses.” This puts into words what the director has been portraying with the camera angles, how a short period of freedom really affects someone who has been doing the same daily routine for around 20 years. This is quite realistic whilst in keeping with the films theme as people often relax after a hard day’s work, for example in the tv series “Suits” the characters Harvey and enjoy a glass of whisky after they have successfully closed a case.

“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.” After Andy spends years sending letters once a week to try and get books for the prison library he good plenty of books along with a few records. It is one of these records that he plays over the loud speakers throughout the whole prison. The close up shots of when the prisoners first hear the music playing and this shame type of shot repeated a few more times later on in the scene really show the surprise on the prisoners faces, some of which may not have heard music for 50 years. The director did this to show how freedom has been stripped from them. Following that is a wide angle shot that rises into a high/birds eye angle, this angle shows all of the prisoners stopping what they are doing and staring at the speakers in confusion/amazement. The director used this angle to show how much of an effect it had on every single inmate in the prison. The voice over by Red later on in the scene talks about how while the song was playing all of the prisoners felt free, “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.” A 2014 study by Edison Research showed that the average american listens to 4 hours of music a day The message that the director portrays is that while playing a single song may seem small and insignificant everyday task for us, for the inmates it may be the only freedom they experience the whole time whilst they are in prison.

From this we can conclude that the director uses multiple wide/bird’s eye shots of the prisoners as well as close up camera angles to show emotion on faces and as well as diegetic voice over in the rooftop and music scene to show the idea of freedom inside a place stripped of freedom. I think the director successfully represents how much a small amount freedom can affect you in a place with little or no freedom at all.

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  1. Josh, please consider the following during your editing periods:
    – Your idea around freedom needs to be more than one word. What is your overarching thesis of this essay? What is it that you think the director is saying about freedom and why?
    – You must address how the director uses his techniques to position the audience. What idea is he trying to implant in the viewers mind.
    – Your analysis of the effectiveness of the techniques and your links to the wider context/society of the text are not strong enough in places. Make sure you are going beyond the surface.


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