by colin Bernreuter
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Movie Project-Shawshank Redemption
The story starts out with the trial of Andy Dufresne, who has been charged with the murder of his wife and her lover, and is sentenced to two life terms in prison. He is sentenced despite the amount of circumstantial evidence surrounded the murder. While in prison he befriends fellow inmate “Red”, but he also makes some enemies, most notably “The Sisters”, a gang of prison rapists. Being a banker in his normal life, he helps Capt. Hadley with his tax returns and is assigned to the elderly prison librarian Brooks Hatlen. After hearing of the Sisters raping of Dufresne which sent him to the infirmary, Hadley beats their leader Bogs till he is cripples. Bogs is then transferred to another prison, and Dufresne begins to build a library. Norton the warden, begins to use prisoners as a labor force while laundering money under a fake name, Randall Stevens.
Years later, a young convict named Tommy tells Dufresne of a prisoner from another prison that told of a crime very similar to the one Dufresne was sentenced for. After hearing this and fearing that Andy would reveal corruption, the warden has Tommy murdered in the disguise of a prison escape. Andy is then put in solitary confinement. When he gets out, he tells Red that when he escapes prison, he’s going to move to Mexico. Should Red ever get out and want to accompany him, Andy gives him instructions on how to find him. The next day, the guards take role, but Andy is not there. He had dug through the wall with a rock hammer and hid it with posters of beautiful women. The night before, Andy switched Norton’s ledger with a prison Bible and took one of his suits. Later that night he crawled through the prison sewer system. He then goes to various banks getting money under the name Randall Stevens, the name used by the warden for corruption. Hadley is arrested, but the warden commits suicide before he is captured. Red is released on parole and goes to a halfway house, the same house Brooks committed suicide in. He then remembers the instructions Andy gave him before he left. Red follows the instructions and finds directions and money to get to Mexico where Andy is. The two find each other and reunite to start a new life.
The character of Andy Dufrense serves as a Jesus-figure throughout the film. One of his first “miracles” was producing ice cold beer for his friends, similar to Christ’s first miracle, turning water into wine. Just as Christ was wrongly accused by the Pharisees, wrongly convicted by Herod, died on the cross, descended into hell only to rise again, Dufresne was wrongly accused by the jury, sentenced to prison by the judge, “died” in prison, descended through a sewer pipe, only to come out with a new life. Dufresne also leaves to Mexico, similarly to Jesus’ ascension into Heaven. At one point, Dufresne plays music over the loud speaker to give hope to the inmates. Jesus also did this with His ministry and the miracles He performed. Andy is brutally oppressed for two years by the Sisters, just as Jesus suffered at the hands of the world, neither one opened their mouth. At the moment he reaches the end of the sewer into the pouring rain, he reaches outs his arms and yells to the sky much the same way Jesus did when he died. Andy is also a banker. Bankers are not as esteemed as other positions in our society, much the same way being a Nazarene like Jesus was not esteemed. “Philip found Nathanael and told him, “We have found the one Moses wrote about in the Law, and about whom the prophets also wrote-Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.” “Nazareth! Can anything good come from there?” Nathanael asked. “Come and see,” said Philip.” (John 1:45-46)
The warden and Red both believe Andy to be dead, so they go and check his cell, much the same way the disciples did after Jesus’ death. Neither Andy nor Jesus was in their tombs when people arrived. They were alive.
Andy’s friends also mirror Biblical figures in the movie. Red, Brooks, and eventually Tommy are befriended by Andy during their stay in prison. If we assume that Andy mimics Christ, then these people mimic the Apostles. They go to great lengths to try to understand Andy. Red can be identified with Peter, “the rock on which to build”. He is the only one Andy singles out to come to Mexico with him, just as Christ singled out Peter to start and head the Church. Brooks can, in a sense, be identified with Judas Iscariot. Brooks at first was friendly to Andy, took an interest in him, and learned from him. When released from prison however, Brooks abandoned what Andy taught him, and decided that the outside had no use for him. In the end, Brooks hangs himself. Tommy can be compared to all the Apostles who were martyred. Tommy was murdered after he found out the truth about Andy’s conviction. Just as the Apostles died for what they believed in so did Tommy.
Hope. That is the center around which this film revolves. Shawshank is a terrible place, but worse than the corrupt warden and sadistic guards, worse even than “the sisters”, its walls and bars do more than just keep men inside, they change those they contain. Spend enough time in prison and it no longer matters why you’re there; guilty or innocent, there comes a time when you no longer have an identity. You lose your autonomy. Sin does the same to a person’s soul. If left unrepentant and unforgiven sin can build up inside and take over. It can render us incapacitated.
There is only one thing that can save a man in Shawshank – hope. Andy knows that, whatever men may do to the body, they can never kill the soul. Referring specifically to music, he says you need it to remember “there’s something inside that they can’t get to, they can’t touch.” Twice, he risks his life and position to show his friends what hope means. In one case, he gladly accepts two weeks of solitary confinement for broadcasting opera over the prison loudspeakers. Jesus did the exact same thing. He risked His life, and ultimately lost it, to give us hope. He performed miracles, preached, and died to give us hope. For what Andy realized is that real hope is not about closing your eyes to the evil around you. True hope, paradoxically, comes by actively dying to yourself. “Get busy living, or get busy dying,” he tells Red, for it’s only when you willingly risk everything, that freedom becomes possible. Jesus actively risked His life. Not because He wasn’t a daredevil or a maniac, but because by risking His own life, we may use it as an example. “For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.” (Matthew 16:25)
Red is healed from his despair by Andy’s hope in the face of suffering. This is also the “redemption” of the title; that one man is redeemed by the suffering of an innocent man who takes on the suffering of prison. Andy writes Red a note which is strikingly similar to another quote from Jesus. “My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.” (John 14:2-3)
Christ took sin, as an innocent man, suffered, and died for us, horrible sinners. We are redeemed.
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