Shawshank

I saw this movie for the second time, a few days ago. I began with the intention of analysing it – of ‘reading’ it, like a novel, or perhaps more like a poem. Pulling apart its technique, its voices, its tensions, like sifting through your hand through tiny clockwork pieces of machine. Gears. Screw-heads. Wires. Motors. I gave this up, ten minutes in. The narrative is so compelling, even in its minor characters; Tommy, Brooks Hatlen. It seemed to fit together so rightly, in its pacing and movement, its series of small victories; the roof-tanning, the diploma, the empty cell, escape. It was long, longer than I would have expected, but even its side-notes, the scenes that weren’t necessarily part of its main narrative – Andy Dufresne’s descent, transformation of, and escape from Shawshank Prison – even they captivated: other, well-lived rooms in its many-roomed house. Brooks Hatlen’s journey, outside, for example. Red’s similar journey, and its different, hopeful conclusions. Even those.

The first of these, Brooks’ time in the halfway house, in the grocer’s packing bags, in the park looking for Jake, his one-time companion, were for me the film’s most emotive, perplexing scenes. Perhaps, it was the difference in tone, emotionally, between these and the main body of the film. Most of the film’s scenes are triumphant, in its depiction of Dufresne’s victories, over the warden, the gaurds, over Shawshank. Or, they depict the dark, ugly realities of prison life – beatings, assaults, brutality, the closing down of escape-routes, which serve to heighten the catharsis of Dufresne’s series of victories. Such scenes, violent, cruel, or hope-filled and triumphant, operate as an organic whole. Bruce’s scenes seem disconnected, almost. There isn’t a task to be completed, outside. No need to redeem one’s surroundings, as in Shawshank. Bruce Hatlen drifts through ordinary, friendless days, anonymous. His story is the quieter, sadder note in the film’s triumphant movement which, for me, gives it its resonance; its power to stay in the mind long after the film’s close.

I don’t have a whole lot to say about this film, yet at least. It seems to work, as one, integrated piece of work. None of its rooms seem any way superfluous, as if they don’t contribute to the effect of the whole.

One more thing: Captain Hadley reminds me of an older, slightly less comic incarnation of Biff, from the Back to the Future Films. It’s the eyes, I think. And the smile.

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