Review of The Shawshank Redemption: The Test of Belief and Hope

By Si Fan, South Korea

The Shawshank Redemption scene
The image originated from

The Shawshank Redemption is an American film released in 1994, and directed by Frank Darabont. Since its release, it has been well received by many film fans, becoming a classic work.

The film tells a story that the banker Andy goes to prison for his being wrongly judged that he murders his wife and his wife’s lover. The theme of the film revolves around hope and freedom. Through the shots, the director thoroughly shows how the authorities, under the system, strangle the freedom of people, which brings moviegoers great enlightenment.

Living in the Shawshank Prison long makes the seed of freedom in people’s hearts buried deeply in the soil forever. People there are so used to being controlled and manipulated that they have lost the desire for freedom, enthusiasm for life and lost themselves. These are the permanent wounds that the authorities leave on people’s mind using power and violence. The people bound hand and foot become the puppets toyed with by the authorities and the tools they can torture wildly. In this prison, people have lost their dignity, personality and right as a human; they live in that cage, isolated from the rest of the world.

The death of Brooks in the film proves how horrible and fearful it is living under the system. After living in the prison for fifty years, he gets a chance to be paroled, but he, used to being controlled, has developed a deep dependence on the prison. That is so-called “institutionalization.” He knows that he can’t get used to the outside world at all if he is released, so he even wants to commit a crime to stay forever in the prison. Well, at last he was still released out of prison and lives a free life people long for, escaping from that cage. However, as for him, he doesn’t feel happy about all this. Finally, because he can’t get used to the “freedom,” he chooses suicide. He once longed for the life outside the prison, the life of freedom, but why does it make him feel horrible and uneasy? Who is it that annihilates people’s desire for freedom in their hearts? And who is it that cruelly treads one’s right to be a human? The fear authorities bring people is more painful than the torment of their flesh. What the authorities strangle is people’s soul and what they tread humanity. The time they give you freedom is the time you die. The freedom in their eyes is the weapon to kill people whereas the freedom you desire is just a beautiful dream, a distant dream. This is the sorrowful state of people who live under the system.

Andy is a pursuer of freedom. His determination, braveness, composure, and faith save himself and purchase the freedom and life he deserves. At the same time, it also brings people hope and throws open the door of freedom for the Shawshank Prison.

Here, I remembered a Christian film A New Life out of Tortures. The film shows the CCP government’s persecution of Christians in flashback. Under its system, there is only violence, blood, torture, and the strangulation of freedom. In order to force the heroine to speak out the information about the church and sell out other Christians, the CCP uses both carrot and stick. What impressed me most was that when the prison guards know that the heroine is a pregnant woman, they don’t treat her well according to the most fundamental human rights and laws, but torture her to make her baby die in her womb. The scene is extremely cruel. Their ferocious looks and colorful curses make people feel resentful about what authorities do and also have great sympathy for what the heroine suffers. At this time, freedom of belief, protection of human rights—what sarcastic words they are! As the protectors and enforcers of human rights, they wear police uniforms and shout the slogan of people’s police serving the people, but they simply tread and scorn the law even if they know well about it, as if they are proclaiming “Submit to me or perish,” which makes people’s blood run cold. The scene of them killing the baby in the heroine’s womb are surprisingly similar to that of the prison guard beating the fat man to death in the film The Shawshank Redemption. Authorities hold the power and status given by the nation, but they arbitrarily use violence to restrict the people. Can it be the despotism of the dictatorship?

It is not fearful to lose freedom. But if one loses hope in the heart and is willing to be the funerary objects of the “institutionalization,” this is the most fearful.

The heroine of the film A New Life out of Tortures also reveals determination, unyieldingness, and justice. Even though she is in the prison, she shines with a kind of spirit, which is the trust in hope, and the loyalty to her belief. When the heroine stretches her arms to embrace the sky, there is a light smile on her face. Here a fact is confirmed: that freedom, love and hope cannot be locked. One is possessed of freedom as long as he has belief in the heart. Just as a classic line in The Shawshank Redemption says: “Some birds aren’t meant to be caged; their feathers are just too bright.”

In the Bible, the Lord Jesus said: “And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free” (John 8:32). Then what is freedom? Now, many people aren’t bound hand and foot; they have freedom and can advance higher and further, but their hearts are bound. Perhaps they are busy running to and fro for the sake of money, or rack their brains for fame and fortune…. Not knowing when, they have lost their freedom long ago, reduced to slaves and living servilely all day long; they have shut themselves in an invisible prison, willing to be trodden by others arbitrarily. The Lord Jesus told us the truth shall make us free, and that when we gain the truth as our life, we will become a free person. Just as Job, because he feared God and shunned evil and had God in his heart, no matter what trails came, he didn’t complain against God nor worried about the gains and losses of his property but obeyed God’s arrangements from his heart. Based on his faith in Jehovah God, Job defeated Satan and stood witness for God in the trails. At last, he became a free man and died full of days.

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