Friday, February 26, 2010

"Get busy living, or get busy dying" ...The SHAWSHANK REDEMPTION

Hope. This word brings me back to my original inspiration for writing about film...Stephen King. A film is only as good as it's villain...and in this extraordinary film we have the most insidious bad-guy ever on the screen...DESPAIR. This is the greatest strength of Mr. King(in my humble opinion)...to find the hope in the horror...to create situations where the human response can only be tragic or terrified...and yet...

I had the rare privilege of a triple feature in october of '94...Quiz Show(good movie)...Ed Wood(great movie)...then Shawshank...
My friends went to see The Specialist as a fourth feature...I went to a local pub and talked about the three films I just enjoyed, and made people promise to see Shawshank(I'm pretty sure we came up with a shooter called "the hardest screw" but the details are hazy)...then met said friends who immediately declared me "smarter" than them...I just couldn't taint that experience...

And it still stands...It's a cool october day every time I watch it...and I'm alone with my own spirit.

The Shawshank Redemption is perfect. This is the best teaming of Director/Writer in the canon of SK films, and though The Green Mile and The Mist are fantastic(as are Misery and Stand by Me), Shawshank is simply in a different category. Frank Darabont seems to pull a Mike Nichols in that his director's presence feels invisible...feels more like a prism focusing the story and performances. He seems to have no need to stamp this film, like say Kubrick who destroyed The Shining then rebuilt his version...but rather subtly guiding something that has a life of it's own. Now, I'm sure Shawshank is Frank Darabont's vision but it almost feels like both he and SK were in the higher service of hope itself...that this tenet is the drive of every moment here. I love the expression on Andy's face when he answers, as though any other thought is foolish...

That there are things in this world
not carved out of gray stone. That
there's a small place inside of us
they can never lock away.. that they can never get at ..hope.

.. I do have to note Darabont's slow push here...in on Andy as he reveals what he really is...and though Red is offended by his belief(their one and only clash) he knows that Andy is daring to look at something bigger than them all...and that dangerous pain that the knowledge of something better can carry...extraordinary. We feel Andy's leadership here and I do hope we've all had the experience of watching someone and not understanding their strength. I've had this experience...offended people who thought I should be sadder when my life was difficult... fuck-you.

This story isn't just a favorite film...it's my philosophy...that there is something inside that cannot be taken by anyone or anything. And that true hardship...true despair...leads to the truth - to what is really important. In this, I think The Mist functions as a thematic sequel to Shawshank with the truest horror coming out of the result of true despair...the final lack of hope.
Shawshank also sums up my philosophy on suicide...this and Bill Watterson's Calvin and Hobbes "..that's the funny thing about life, it's never so bad it can't get worse..." ..or better. I've never understood that belief that this moment is worth dying for...to truly believe it'll never be good again...nuts to that.

Twenty people could have twenty reasons for loving this movie...
There's Tim Robbins' beautifully understated Andy Dufresne, the exceptional supporting cast, the claustrophobic stone walls of a real prison, the timeless feel, the menace of exceptional human villains(and ask yourself this..do I take more pleasure from watching evil gets it's come-upance? ..or from watching each supporting character evolve in Andy's light)...and then there's Morgan Freeman:
We all love Morgan Freeman...he's like that uncle who always had time for you but didn't put up with yer shit...his voice has intelligence and sadness in it...and hope. This is the story that made every filmmaker on earth want a Morgan Freeman VO...

Every time I watch this I'm saddened by Brooks' death...I hope that Red will get to the rock...and I cry when he does. I used to want to watch the next 2 hours of Red and Andy's story, but in this, too, is a lesson...
As we get older there is an immeasurable value to shared experience, especially shared pain. That beautiful end shot from high up...I wanted to see them up close...smile, hug...whatever, but it took a couple more viewings to realize we don't deserve to be there on that beach with them ...they earned it. If those of us watching want a moment so profound...we gotta go make 'em...we have to get busy living...

4 comments:

hullclyf said...

The Green Mile? That's 3, and counting.
C.

~Val~ said...

Great post!! Makes me want to watch it right now!!!

~Val

Allana said...

Hope is one of the most facsinating human experiences. I love the exploration of hope in Shawshank (story and film). It's an intelligent and difficult film and it becomes more interesting and beautiful on re-watching. On the subject of hope..have I ever told you about my theory that 28 Days Later is an allegory of hope??

To paraphrase Viktor Frankl, the only answer to the question of life is "yes".

April 27, 2010 3:44 PM

Blanca Rae said...

Great Arthur! This is one of my favorite movies.