the shawshank redemption
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The Shawshank Redemption

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The Shawshank Redemption. Challenges for the film as a commercial enterprise. a problematic title respected, but not major, stars 142 minute running length prison films are a hard sell to women viewers a detached, somewhat aloof protagonist the threat of sexual violence

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challenges for the film as a commercial enterprise
Challenges for the film as a commercial enterprise
  • a problematic title
  • respected, but not major, stars
  • 142 minute running length
  • prison films are a hard sell to women viewers
  • a detached, somewhat aloof protagonist
  • the threat of sexual violence
  • perceived to be a “downer”
unusual qualities of the film
Unusual Qualities of the Film
  • Telling a slow, sprawling drama story with a protagonist who has no obvious external goal for over half the length of the film. (YES, Andy is our protagonist, but what does he want, and what makes him tick?)
  • Using repetitive actions (the various violent beat-downs on multiple characters) for crucial narrative reasons that never actually feel repetitive. Notice that these scenes record beatings, but do not exploit them.
  • Developing several characters to create a rich ensemble of personalities and dramatic conflicts.
  • Devoting whole sections to supporting characters (e.g., Brooks and Red) in which the protagonist does not appear. The protagonist is absent for the entire final act of the film, existing mostly as a symbol of hope.
unusual qualities continued
Unusual Qualities, continued
  • Taking a well-trod genre, the prison movie, and giving it new life, unique turns and pathos while still shocking us with incredible brutality.
  • Relying heavily upon voice over narration.
  • (Yes, there’s a lot of amazing lines in Morgan Freeman’s narration, but there’s also a nice amount of excess in there, too, yet we don’t mind because he truly gives us the “voice” of the story as he weaves crucial setups seamlessly into his poetic verse that will pay off in big ways, later. Besides, he’s Morgan Freeman!)
unusual qualities continued1
Unusual Qualities, continued
  • The central character’s point of view remains largely unknown. Rather, he is seen through the eyes of other characters.
  • The Redemption, when it comes, is more Red’s than Andy’s.
  • Pacing is deliberately slow. Shots are allowed to linger and scenes are allowed to build. Roger Ebert describes the film as being “as deliberate, considered, and thoughtful as Freeman’s narration.”
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