It has enough memorable lines to merit a coffee table book, and enough melodious music to carry your emotions. It is like any other textbook commercial success - the good guys are put through injustice and torment and win in the end, the bad guys have a great time and are punished by paralysis, the judicial system and a hole through the head. But there is a difference. Not every movie can become a metaphor of one's life.
It wasn't the first time I'd seen The Shawshank Redemption, but I can't think of a more fitting time to have seen it. The last time was three years ago, when I was watching one Academy Award winning film a day, and had plenty of time and very little money, a combination that leaves you without much inclination to introspect.
The Shawshank Redemption makes an impression on the collective conscious of the intellectia because, at some point, we realise we're all Reds or Andys. The pseudo-intellectia like it because the intellectia relate to it. Maybe some of us are Brooks, and some of us are Jack the Raven. We never go to say hi to Brooks, who saves us and sets us free, but cannot save himself, or set himself free outside prison. But most of us are Reds, or Andys.
We all feel we've got raw deals from life, got double-life terms for crimes we didn't commit, find the people who could have been our salvation snapped away from us, and often, find we have to chisel away at a wall for twenty years because a judge and jury sentenced us for no fault of ours, and a nasty policeman wouldn't allow testimony to our innocence, for fear of getting into a soup, and oh hell, we've all been fucked in the arse by imbeciles who didn't qualify as human. We watch the maxim Good things always happen to good people, proved wrong, because who is going to make certain of that when the laws of the cosmos are veering against us?
We all feel too, that we can get up there and tell the parole officer decade after decade that we do feel rahabilitated, yes, we have been changed by the time we've done and we will not be a danger to society, and see our parole applications rejected again and again, until we come up with a theory to justify our slipping into our comfort zones - where prison is our salvation, and we have become, to quote Morgan Freeman's spittle-ridden bark:
Some birds cannot be caged, says Red, because their feathers are too colourful. Perhaps he should have added, perhaps he should have realised, that it is not that some birds have feathers that are too colourful, but that they have not allowed the dust and the grime to clog them together and make a discoloured mess of their wings. That those are the birds that will get out early, after building libraries and building lives, to leave for a warm place with no memory. While the ones that have forgotten the vivid colours of their own feathers will wait, till they "don't give a shit" because that boy whom they could have told "this is how it is", is not there anymore, and all that is left is an old man who "doesn't give a shit", an old man who is beyond redemption.
There are Andys who will crawl through nearly half a mile of sewage to come out clean on the other side, and Reds who will wait for nearly half a century before they figure out the right lines to tell God, or Life, to get parole and get to the other side of the prison wall. There are Andys who will spend their lives mending boats so they can take the visitors to their hotels out on a cruise, and there are Reds and Brookses who don't want to be there any longer, and see their salvations in a neatly-pressed suit and a firmly-strung rope...a rope that can be used to die, or to tie up the possessions that will give one the licence to live.
But the good thing is not every Red has to be busy dying while the Andys are busy living - every Red could find that note and those dollar bills, come far enough to maybe go a little further, and get to Sijuantanejo, where that chessboard and that Andy will be waiting.