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ARTS - June 2012

Shawshank Redemption was on TV on Sunday night. It’s been a lot of years since I saw it (1994) so I settled down to watch … and what a great film it is. It must be one of the best films that Morgan Freeman (Red) and Tim Robbins (Andy) ever starred in - tho' another of Tim Robbins films is right up there with it amongst my favourites - Bull Durham.

As I remember, Shawshank was not spectacularly well reviewed on release. Seems ironic given that it now features regularly on many people’s top ten favourite films of all time. Who could ever be impervious to that Mozart aria … sound soaring gloriously across the prison courtyard as all, inmates and wardens both, froze mid-action to listen?

Red: [narrating] I have no idea to this day what those two Italian ladies were singing about. Truth is, I don't want to know. Some things are best left unsaid. 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. I tell you, 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.

Some of the words have a more personal resonance for me this time around because of the limitations to my life that illness has imposed on me. I often find myself making reference to ‘feeling like I am in prison’ or ‘the walls of my prison’ or ‘being contained’. Like the prisoners in Shawshank, I do find it hard to hold onto some of the attributes that I have always considered part of ‘me’ - attributes I like and don’t want to lose but which seem redundant in my current circumstance.

Andy: … there are places in this world that aren't made out of stone … there's something inside...that they can't get to, that they can't touch. That's yours.

Red: What are you talking about?

Andy: Hope.

Red: Let me tell you something my friend. Hope is a dangerous thing. Hope can drive a man insane. It's got no place here. Better get used to the idea.

Along with the poignant, it is impossible not to laugh when Red and Andy are talking about how Andy ended up in Shawshank and he says:

Andy: [Just] bad luck, I guess. It floats around. It's got to land on somebody. It was my turn, that's all. I was in the path of the tornado. I just didn't expect the storm would last as long as it has.

[glances to Red]

Andy: Think you'll ever get out of here?

Red: Sure. When I got a long white beard and about three marbles left rolling around upstairs.

True of so many of life’s twists and turns! And, then, of course, the beauty of the escape:

Red: [narrating] I have to remind myself that some birds aren't meant to be caged. Their feathers are just too bright. And when they fly away, the part of you that knows it was a sin to lock them up does rejoice. Still, the place you live in is that much more drab and empty that they're gone. I guess I just miss my friend.

So sad. I cried, remembering friends no longer here, the release that death may be from suffering and thinking of my own situation and how desperately I wish to escape from it. Happy endings are so rare in this life and it would be a curmudgeonly critic (or atheist) who resented Red his:

Red: [narrating] I find I'm so excited, I can barely sit still or hold a thought in my head. I think it's the excitement only a free man can feel, a free man at the start of a long journey whose conclusion is uncertain. I hope I can make it across the border. I hope to see my friend, and shake his hand. I hope the Pacific is as blue as it has been in my dreams. I hope.

A beautiful film that made me hope too.

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