This great film, THE SHAWSHANK REDEMPTION is about Hope and the sacramental foretastes of redemption that can occur even in the most hellish of the World's dark places.
Reviews by David Bruce,
Steven Michael and
John Schuurman.
The movie poster.
THE SHAWSHANK
REDEMPTION

(1994)

Fear can hold you prisoner.
Hope can set you free.

This page was created in 1998
This page was updated on May 17, 2005

MIT says this is "A Christ allegory...The Shawshank Redemption transcends its short-story basis to yield a lasting message of inspiration and renewal."

ShawRed&Andy.jpg (16869 bytes)Andy Dufresne: Tim Robbins,
"Red" Redding: Morgan Freeman,
Warden Norton: Bob Gunton,
Heywood: William Sadler.
Written and directed by Frank Darabont.
Based on a novel by Stephen King.
Running time: 144 minutes.
Rated R (for language and prison violence).

shawshank1.jpg (23479 bytes)
Andy is innocent of a double murder. Nevertheless, he is convicted and put in a state prison to serve two life terms back to back. The story evolves into a contest between the legalistic warden (the law) and the Christ-like Andy (hope).

By a perversion of justice he was taken away.
Who could have imagined his future?
For he was cut off from the land of the living,
stricken for the transgression of my people.

-Isaiah 53:8 NRSV
shawshank2.jpg (27625 bytes)
The story is about the developing friendship between Andy and a fellow prisoner named Red. They become good friends. This great friendship is placed against the brutal world of the prison including a two year sexual brutality of the worst sort committed on Andy.

He was oppressed, and he was afflicted,
yet he did not open his mouth;
like a lamb that is led to the slaughter,
and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent,
so he did not open his mouth.
-Isaiah 53:7 NRSV

shawshank3.jpg (25687 bytes)
Andy, over many years, is able to get certain benefits for the prisoners, like an occasional beer, music and even a library.

The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy.

I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.

-John 10:10 NRSV
shawshank4.jpg (21297 bytes)
The warden painfully abuses Andy through torture, solitary confinement and the murder of a friend. Andy realizes he needs to choose life. "Get busy livin' Or, get busy dying."

I call heaven and earth to witness against you today that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Choose life so that you and your descendants may live.
-Deut. 30:19 NRSV
shawshank5.jpg (29408 bytes)
Secretly, behind a large pin up girl poster in his cell, Andy over the course of two decades tunnels his way out. It is as though he re-enters a woman (the pin-up girl) to be born again. Freedom comes at a cost, he must go through a human waste sewage pipe. The way up is sometimes down. Sometimes we must confront our own dung (and of others), and work through it to be truly free.

He drew me up from the desolate pit,
out of the miry bog,
and set my feet upon a rock,
making my steps secure.
Psalm 40:2 NRSV

shawshank6.jpg (25454 bytes)
There is a lot of symbolism in this film. The warden learns of his fate, his last judgement, through the Bugle newspaper. Sort of a last trump, as it is called in scripture.

in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed.
-1 Cor. 15:52 NRSV

shawshank7.jpg (21166 bytes)
shawshank8.jpg (23528 bytes)
In time, Red is released from prison. He is reunited with Andy, but only after learning the importance of hope.

Proverbs 23:18 NRSV
Surely there is a future,
and your hope will not be cut off.


Romans 8:24-25 NRSV
For in hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what is seen? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.
Review by
Steven Michael

zxcv123@pop3free.com

The reviews of most films nowadays are filled with meaningless hyperbole: "The greatest ever…", "awesome", "unbelievable". In the case of The Shawshank Redemption, it is only now, in the fullness of time, that the greatness of this film is finally coming into public consciousness as it takes its rightful place as one of the greatest films of all time.

Based on the screen adaptation of Stephen King's story Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption.the theatrical release (1994) starring Tim Robbins and Morgan Freeman, is a powerful portrayal of the triumph of the human spirit in the face of utterly impossible odds.

Nominated for seven Academy Awards® including Best Picture--two Golden Globe nominations and one nomination for Screen Actors Guild Award in 1995. Nominated for best music, original score by Thomas Newman. Shawshank has found redemption in the court of public opinion.

According to an April 30, 1999 article by Stephen Schurr, Staff Reporter of The Wall Street Journal, [t]he hugely popular site [Internet Movie Database], acquired by Amazon.com last year, is visited by more than three million separate visitors every month, according to Colin Needham, imdb's founder and managing editor.."Shawshank" has been among the top ten ever since its release in 1994, and has been No. 1 for nearly two years, save for a brief surge by "Star Wars" after its re-release and an occasional eclipse by "The Godfather."

The film's writer and director, Frank Darabont, has made superb use of double entendre--there are several scenes in the film where the audience is left pondering the obvious outcome when in fact, the director has something entirely different in mind. As such, the director has made use of his dramatic license and provided the audience with an artistic touch that borders on sheer brilliancy.

If there is one scene that captures the spirit, grandeur and majesty of the Shawshank Redemption, it is the scene were Andy Dufresne has fallen out of the sewer pipe and stumbles in the drainage ditch in the rain. Amid heavy lightning and thunder, removes his shirt, then undershirt and raises his hands and arms to the heavens. It is as if God himself has given sanction and ordained the event. The music itself crescendos to a majestic fever pitch and the audience is witnessing, if for only a very brief moment, a divine event wrought by the hand of God.

It is possible, that no single scene in the entire history of cinema so completely captures the spirit and essence of an entire film, as this one did.

One of the most compelling aspects of The Shawshank Redemption is, as the end-credits confidently assure us that the film is pure fiction and any similarity to any name or incident, or the character or biography of any person, is purely coincidental and unintentional. Yet one can confidently say, no person has ever walked away after seeing The Shawshank Redemption without wondering in the back of his or her mind, if this is a true story or at least based on small part on a true story. Is there some aspect of the film that is in fact true?

A 1993 congressional study by Representative Don Edwards, then Chair of the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Civil and Constitutional Rights, found that since 1973, 48 people were subsequently found innocent and re- leased from death row. Since 1993, an additional 45 people have been exonerated because of their innocence, bringing the total to 93 in the last 27 years.

Shawshank then, in one sense, is a resplendent allegory-a tool for looking at oneself and examining the truth.

The Shawshank Redemption is certainly one of the leading contenders, on a very short list, for the greatest movie of all time. A short list that includes The Godfather, Citizen Kane, Casablanca, Titanic (11 Oscars® out of 14 nominations-tied most nominations of all time). While somewhat overlooked in 1995, Shawshank is an utterly brilliant film, a crown jewel, which cannot and should not be missed.

The degree of civilization in a society can be judged by entering into its prisons - Fyodor Dostoyevsky, (1821-1881, novelist and scholar).

JohnReview by
John Schuurman.
Pastor Wheaton Christian Reformed Church and family man, (one church, one wife, two kids).  Born and reared in Denver, Colorado.  Life-long Bronco fan.   Education: A.B. English/Speech/Education M.A. Theater Arts M.Div Biblical Studies Career experience: High school teacher, Actor/director for legitimate theater, raconteur.
EATING AND DRINKING
THE FUTURE AT SHAWSHANK

    Hope, in Christian theology, is rightly contrasted with wishing. Both deal with a good and blessed future that is as yet unrealized. But whereas wishing is all full of chance and likelihoods of a possible happy turn of events,
hope is certain because in Christ the good future has already been begun. In the NT, hope is based upon the resurrection, (1 Cor 15:19-20). The firstfruits of the restored new creation have already been brought in, via Christ's resurrection and gift of the Spirit. Those in him, are even now experiencing elements of the future. Such experiences are rightly called sacramental.

     Just as the sacrament of the
Lord's Supper, is a bridge between heaven and earth, between this world and the good future, so too there are other signs and seals of what surely will come in full.

     Whether unwittingly or not, (I think not), the great film, THE SHAWSHANK REDEMPTION is about Hope and the sacramental foretaste's of redemption that can occur even in the most hellish of the World's dark places.

     Andy DuFrane is wrongly convicted for the murder of his wife. He is sent to Shawshank a maximum security prison run by brutish guards and, (in the only glaring flaw in an otherwise wonderful movie--WHY does Hollywood insist on doing this?), an outrageously hypocritical-Bible-quoting warden.

    As in any prison movie, the walls and bars and fences are virtually characters in the film. They are the symbols (signs and seals?) of hopelessness and oppression. Early on in the movie, they are featured especially prominently.

    Conversely, light and expanse (symbols of hope), are rare.

     As the film progresses, we have several scenes, which for a time, make the walls disappear. Through Andy's agency, he and his brother inmates work on a roof and enjoy a couple of beers at the brutish guards expense, beers that "Dissolved the walls. We felt like men. We felt that each man was on his own house. "And for a time, the sky is blue and you can see for miles.

     Another time Andy gets some Mozart records and plays an aria over the prison loud-speaker system. Like the beers, the music, dissolves the walls. Red, Andy's friend says, "I don't know what those ladies were singing. It was so beautiful, so deep, it couldn't be expressed in words. Made the walls dissolve. Every last man felt free."

     But such moments get you in trouble. We hear,
"Hope is a dangerous thing," several times. Andy gives Red a harmonica to make his own music, and make his walls disappear, but Red does not dare play. The elixir of freedom and hope would be too strong and too painful. The prison is designed to take away hope and any who dare to try to have it get savaged by the system.

    Finally, "time, pressure, and a big girly poster" combine and Andy escapes.
In an amazing reversal of the crucifixion/resurrection story, Andy first crawls through the grave, (Sheol perhaps), a 500 foot long sewage pipe, and upon his "resurrection," standing free and clean in the open night air, he does a crucifixion pose.

     The Pacific Ocean is the place of bright and blessed future, the place hoped for.
It is a sort of heaven. All light and expanse. To Mexicans Pacific is "Place of no memory."

     As is always true (on this side of "the other side") there is the tragic mixture of walls and expanse, darkness and light; and in the case of The Shawshank Redemption, violence and peace. There is a fair amount of violence and brutality in Shawshank. The language is also harsh. But this movie could not have been made with an absence of those elements. We *are* talking about a redemption from a hellish place. The movie is admirably restrained in this regard however. The camera does not linger lovingly on the dark side, it shows just enough to help us understand that hope in this kind of place would be a great and dangerous thing indeed.

     This is a GREAT film.

Click here to visit John Schuurman's film review site

 

BULLETIN BOARD

CHRISTIAN UNDERTONES AND OVERTONES
Subject: The Shawshank Redemption
Date: Wed, 26 Dec 2001
From: Kim

Thank you for your automated response to my guest book signing :) A question off the bat (so to speak) is will there be a Web review at Hollywood Jesus?

Secondly, how are you?

I first discovered Hollywood Jesus by watching a secular TV program that focused on Web reviews. They gave HJ 8/10 :)

Also I watched you comment on "The Shawshank Redemption" as my national Channel 4 ran through the 100 greatest movies (viewers choice). I find it funny how people (generally) are attracted to Christian undertones in films like Shawshank, Superman, Star Wars, Lord Of The Rings etc, and yet any film that brings Christianity to the surface / forefront seemingly turn people away and bring out anger and conflict (that meant to come out as an opinion; I hope it did lol).

Oh, a friend of mine told me recently that The Chronicles Of Narnia has just gone into film production. Should be fun :)
Lots of love Kim

FOOL'S GOLD
Subject: ShawshankRedemption
Date: Thu, 8 Nov 2001
From: Masaki Matsuo

Something about Shawshank redemption draws me. My heart soars as I watch hope and redemption unravel. It is a story about the "extraordinary power of the human spirit." I approach it as though pure gold.

But it isn't. If only we were capable of such amazing hope and perseverance. If only we could bear pain without crying out, to persist in hope when walls bind us. Unfortunately, we are incapable as men and women to bear what Andy did. No "extraordinary power" exists in the human spirit. In the end, our potential is nothing without the unlocking of that real power in the Holy Spirit. I challenge everybody to be honest with their situation. Oftentimes, we can't even bear traffic without crying out in rage and indignation. At who? At what? Then how much harder to bear two life sentences for a crime you did not commit in a prison? Rape? Systemic injustice?

Tell me how salvation lies within a poster and a rock hammer? What is the poster and rock for the injustices committed against women or minorities daily? Can they escape to "Mexico" using their own "extraordinary human spirit" and "rock hammers" through a pipe of "human dung" to escape into "Shawshank baptism"? No, this kind of injustice persists in the world regardless of place. In mexico we will still find racism. Andy will still remember the grave sexual injustices committed against him even in the "place of no memory."

All of these "symbolisms" taken for Christ are only cheap imitations of the real thing. If you really experience the redemption of Christ, then the picture of a rock hammer in a bible becomes cheap and synthetic. Hope cannot exist without a rock to stand on. There is no rock based on your own flesh, your own "human spirit."

What draws me to Shawshank is my own desire to take what I cannot control, and free myself. It draws me with it's picture of hope, strength, and freedom. But when I walk down the road today and see the injustice in this world manifested in homeless people, broken people, I realize that Shawshank redemption is still a quaint idea, a dream and a wish that cannot be, never could be, and never intended to be: in the end, just fool's gold.

Thanks for your site. I like the content. I hope that my review might add a different perspective that might help. I love the movie and it does raise spiritual issues that are good to deal with.
Masaki Matsuo

SHORT COMMENT ON THE MOVIE
Subject: Shawshank Redemption
Date: Mon, 15 Oct 2001
From: Andrew

Dear David thanks for the 'site - it's helped me see a few more things in the movie. One thing not mentioned by your other contributors is the way in which Andy is himself changed for the good by the prison experience.. shortly before the escape he tells Red about his love for his late wife but also reflects on his own shortcomings in the relationship. This acquired self-understanding is another aspect of 'redemption'. (OK, it could be offset by his admission in the library that he'd never broken the law before coming to prison, but I think it still stands).
best wishes Andrew Waugh
Reading, Berks, UK
please do not display my email address

CLASS REPORTING ON THIS FILM
Subject: my point -Shawshank Redemption
Date: Mon, 27 Mar 2000
From: Jameel

I just recently watched this film with classmates in my class, and we have to do a movie review on it. I have veiwed some of the far out topics and opinions of certain souls. Most of them have only focused on the seemingly negative images that they think that hollywood has portrayed on Christains. For example, (the warden), simply, one that is not humble. He is a pharisee-modernized. I see nothing wrong in Andy's character at all. TO THAT GUY THAT SAID THAT ANDY'S CHARACTER SHOULD HAVE STAYED IN PRISON. For many of my peeps in the streets of the hood- that is prison; we aint gotta be in jail to be in prison, you know? I'm from the Chi. Already Christainity is all symbolizm, so look at it(THE MOVIE) as just a way of ANDY escapin' life's holes, through perserverance and trust and hope in GOD. Once again, until you are put into that role of Andy (being innocent in prison), you dont know if you would stay. Everytime I see that movie i just look at it in the way I see a lot of lost peeps out there that are blinded from the Truth, but I still am reaching out to them with the Word of God, and God is working with them to bring them out and free them from the prison cells that we live in this society. Escaping through Jesus Christ is the way. Finding that kingdom of heaven that is within us all, if only we'd just tune within and ask that christ mind to dwell in us. Romans 8:10-11. Find that Christ mind that is within you. and dwell in that sacred place of the Most High. 2 Thessalonians 3:18
Peace shdw

SHAWSHANK IS BEST
Subject: Great film!
Date: Sun, 27 Feb 2000
From: Antell

'The Shawshank Redemption' is my most favourite film of all time - the only truly GOOD film i've come across. As i think someone said before, all the elements which make a good film come together in it wonderfully, particularly the end, which is always the most critical part of a film. It does have some important, deeper messages in it which are also put across in a skilful way, but if people pick holes in it's deeper meaning, then they should just enjoy it as the great film that it is - and it is!!

Love the site - just what I've been looking for but never found until now!!! Keep up the good work!!!
P.S Please don't post my e-mail address

SHAWSHANK BAPTISM
Subject: Baptism
Date: Sat, 8 Jan 2000

Tomorrow is the first Sunday after the Epiphany, western calendar. Traditionally we celebrate the Baptism of Jesus on this date. I am using as a film clip the scene Where Andy is crawling through a sewer pipe to escape. The scene ends with Andy standing up and with eyes and arms stretched heaven ward. And the water of the rain washing him clean. What a marvelous image of what Baptism does in our lives. It is the Cleansing Bath and that is what we will celebrate tomorrow. As we renew our Baptismal Covenant. When I first saw this movie in Birmingham Alabama. I was impressed with the symbolism of the film. I do not care that the Warden is a jerk -- all have fallen short of the glory of God, even we Christians. A great film that is inspiring
Jonathan W. Smith
Trinity UMC, Amherst NY
trinintyumc@pcom.net

ABOUT THE POSTER
Subject: Pin up poster
Date: Mon, 3 Jan 2000
From: THEART

After leaving his cell through the hole in the wall, how did the guy put the pin up poster back so neatly? Robbins is 6'5"!!
My response: It's only a movie where story comes first, not small details concerning a poster.

SOME THOUGHTS ON SHAWSHANK
November 6, 1999. I love this movie but am amazed that Christians critique this movie in such a similar fashion as the surrounding culture. So I'm gonna do a little rebuttal to make my point :) I saw little true redemption going on, I would say it was "Synthetic Redemption". Now it has been years since I saw the film but I remember what I thought was the pivot point in the movie. That was when the "fundie" warden visits Andy in his cell and picks up the Bible that he had given Andy. And Andy had even memorized some scripture (something out of John I think?) But alas, Andy only has scripture on his
lips (perhaps to please the warden and assure his own survival?) and not on his heart, (albeit he really does seems like a nice guy who does some cool stuff for the prison) as he missed the narrow gate entirely! He proceeds to embezzle the wardens corrupt money by rearranging the books and merely uses the Bible to store a pick for his worldly escape. I think Andy totally sells out. He comes into jail as an innocent and becomes corrupt while in jail. He then takes things into his own hands when he sees that the warden won't free him. So Andy ends up in Mexico physically, but has had no encounter with God. I was really hoping that if Andy had encountered God via scripture, he would have stayed in prison as salt and light. He would have shown true freedom via transformation rather than mere escape to Mexico. He could have had a ministry in prison so prisoners would be set free even if they are in jail for life. I know I'm talking pie in the sky for a Hollywood flick but it amazes me when Christians claim Andy as a messiah figure when he really missed the whole shebang! God wants to change our hearts, the worldly approach is to rearrange creation (i.e.; change location, gain status etc....) so we don't have to repent! The redemption Andy portrays is the way of worldly redemption. He relies on his wits and works. And he ends up in Mexico, not heaven! If Stephen King meant his movie to reveal what I've just discussed on purpose, I'd say this is an incredibly subtle and brilliant film. But I really think King probably thought Mexico was redemptive, which makes the film a fine but predictable affair, the ol' "noble man overcoming hostile circumstances" theme. From a sentimental point of view, you can't help but fall into the "eye for an eye" motif and want to cheer for Andy, I can understand that. But for me, after the Bible scene I mentioned above, the movie was a disappointment of sorts since it became apparent that Andy was going to go the "salvation via works" route. LOL.. It really could have been a profound movie if Andy had stayed in prison as a "prophet/healer" rather than bailing out. That would have been true sacrifice and true freedom. It would have made the audience think rather than just cheer. It could have been a profound movie, instead it was just "warm and furry". It is one of my favorite movies tho. But it concerns me when Christians proclaim the wide gate as the narrow gate and miss the narrow gate altogether. Shouldn't we be "seeing through" what the culture throws at us as a "messiah"? We gotta stay on our toes, and encourage one another eh? This is a great web site. Thanks for the chance to give opinions and feedback!
My response: Ahh, just take it for what it is: A secular film with spiritual overtones. That's all. It was never intended to be the gospel message

THROWING STONES AT SHAWSHANK AND HOLLYWOOD JESUS.
August 30, 1999.  Imagine this film with any other religion as the warden's. If he were a practicing  Jew, or Buddhist, or Muslim - and after each scene of worship he went out to vent his cruelty and viciousness - there would be outrage.. Only Christians are so vilified. And it is condescending and disrepectful to respond to genuine inquiries with your sarcastic, "Aw gee," and "Lighten up." Your attempt to find Christian intent (not merely symbolism) is weak, and reminds on of the "Paul is dead" discoveries of the hippies in the Beatles music.
     Of course there is Christian symbolism! All of Western society is based upon it. The very nature of a "story" is Judeo-Christian! (See The Gift of the Jews, by Cahill.)
     The film offers "within" and "the future" and other nostroms as the basis of hope. Counterfeits, all. This movie does not stink, but is candycoated poison.
Bill Eberwein

My Response: Aw gee, Bill, lighten up. You are on the winning side there is no need to throw stones at Shawshank or me. There is already too much that separates people in this world. Too much anger and hate and disgust. Why add to it (read John 8:1-11)  Try looking for common ground (read Acts 17:22-34).  For too long Christian have been known for throwing stones at those we disagree with in our culture. We have replaced Jesus with Moral Grides (again, John 8).  When we disagree with other we should show them our love and concern not our stones.  "And they will  know we are Christians by our..."  --what is the next word Bill?  Read Philippians 4:5-9 and remember God loves you, and I, and everyone connected with Shawshake Redemption, in fact, the whole world (John 3:16). Now, smile.

FILM INSPIRES EACH TIME I WATCH IT
May 21, 1999. This is quite simply one of the best movies that I have ever seen. My private collection of movies on video consists of "The Shawshank Redemption" and "Dead Poets Society" - and apart from "Life is Beautiful" (when it comes to video) I do not at this moment know of any other films that I would gladly add to this. This film inspires me every time I watch it - and that is a lot of inspiration, because I have watched it a lot of times!! It has so many beautiful moments, it is hard to recall them all. Yet it is not detached or removed in any way from the struggle and pain that real life is full of. In fact the very fact that such beauty is found in such a desolate and horrendous place is a hope in itself. The beauty is magnified to unimaginable proportions by the contrast it presents with the brutal and degrading surroundings. Someone managed to criticise this film because it manages to make us sympathise with criminals who have committed horrendous crimes: that is the very strength of this film. We are spiritually crippled by our inablity to identify ourselves with such people. They are we and we are they - if we are to take the gospel message seriously, we all stand equally guilty of the horrendous crime of rejecting God, and choosing our own way. I was amazed to discover that this emerged from the mind of Stephen King! He has gained himself a new respect in my eyes on the basis of this film. If you've not seen it, go rent it now - and don't let anyone tell you anything about it or else they will no doubt spoil even more of the story-line for you than reading these reviews have!!

IT'S ANTI-CHRISTIAN
April 30, 1999. You folks have got to be kidding! This movie is another Hollywood/Stephen King work designed to show how Christians (the warden) are hypocritical thieves and murderers. Only by fighting back against and getting even with the hypocrites (Christians) will people be able to get rid of them...
Just another sad Hollywood attempt to put Christians down. Seems like you're all falling for it and giving it acclaim based on "it's deeper meaning."
-Jim California

My response: Ah gee, Jim! No e-mail address? Let's see here, the warden = all Christians. Hmmm. Do you think that's what's going on here? I think not. But, even so, as a Christian and a sometimes hypocrite and sinner I take no offence. Jim, as a Christian are you beyond temptation and sin in your life? Lighten up, Jim. There is no conspiracy in Hollywood to rid the world of Christians. Believe me. Hollywood is a community of all kinds of people, Jews, Christians, Buddhists, atheists, etc.  Warmly, David Bruce

CRIMINALS, PORTRAYED AS VICTIMS?!?
March 28, 1999. Shawshank Redemption is a great film. I only have one problem with the movie. One felt a lot of remorse for the older gentleman who was paroled and subsequently committed suicide. There, however, is not much emphasis on the fact that even that older gentleman at one time committed a horrible crime with a victim, yet we feel sorry for the criminal. Throughout the whole movie we see criminals who are portrayed almost as victims.--Raphael

A GREAT STORY
Jan 29 1999, I am so glad there are others who also recognize the greatness of the shawshank redemption - it is a great testament to the extraordinary power of the human spirit, it is a film that teaches us to appreciate the simple things in life that we often take for granted-(a cold glass of beer on a hot day, a beautiful song, and above all the people u share your life with) it is the only truly great film that I have ever seen- everything about it is fabulous- the screenplay, the acting , directing, cinematography, music- everything flowed so smoothly and complimented each other to tell a great story - thank u for this great site!!!!! eyelash200@aol.com

 

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