Audio-Visual Construction of Narrative: Imaging for Impact – ‘The Shawshank Redemption’

Topics: ArtPhotography

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Last updated: April 3, 2019

‘The Shawshank Redemption’ is an emotive and gripping motion picture.

The scene that I have chosen to analyse is central to the film, its overall atmosphere, psychology and emotion are consistent throughout the picture.This particular scene is extremely powerful. It begins in complete darkness, a total blackout.

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It seems to the audience that it is a point of view shot, with doors being opened in front of the camera while it takes a steady path forwards into the light. This symbolises the hope that the character ‘Red’ (Morgan Freeman) has in his parole hearing. The shot develops from a point of view shot into a wide angle group shot where the audience see the full horizon of the judgement board. These factors all add to the vast sense of tension felt by all parties within the scene, I am sure that this was the primary objective of the Director of Photography.

The movement from darkness to light certainly signifies the hope that is felt by the character ‘Red’ who is up for the possibility of parole.The initial POV shot has deceived the audience as ‘Red’ camera/screen right in a long shot with his shadowy fa�ade in full view of the audience. This seems a rather unconventional technique as the audience are now some what confused, although this is quickly rectified by the change of position and angle of the camera and subsequent shot. The shot has now moved to a low angle medium shot from the point of view of the parole board towards ‘Red’, this gives the audience a much better relationship with the character while he is intensely quizzed over his rehabilitation.

As the questioning becomes more concentrated the shot zooms in on ‘Red’s’ face to a medium close-up incorporating the character’s head to his shoulders. The expressions of sadness and incompetence are clear to see on ‘Red’s’ face, he is a grown man whose future lies in the hands of a body of five strangers. Morgan Freeman’s acting ability coupled with the clever and well planned use of a diverse mixture of camera angles and shots produce a complex psychological and emotive message that the film conveys.The scene then cuts to an extreme close-up of ‘Red’s’ parole application, almost like a still picture of this potentially life changing document. The audience link this to a still photograph because of the use of stills in previous scenes and also because the shot lasts for around three seconds while nothing else is happening, until finally a prison guards hand appears from camera/screen right. The guard forcefully stamps the application ‘rejected’ in large bold red coloured letters.

When thinking about the decision actually put this sequence in the final cut, it becomes apparent how much impact it has on the audience. The topic covered affects all peoples; it is concerned with the basic human ‘instinct’ of hope that exists in many contexts.

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