Planning to watch these two polar opposite movies back to back in the near future. One is about the triumph & perserverance of the human spirit through the power of hope and the other just shows how easily we can get f***ed up badly by fear and desperation. Both of these movies were directed by the same man and adapted from books by the same author: Frank Darabont and Stephen King.
(Click the posters for trailers)
**this post contains spoiler from both movies. So if you haven’t seen either of the two movie then it’s recommended that you should not continue. Just go watch the two movies, it’s really good 🙂 **
Shawshank Redemption (1994) is about Andy Dufresne (Tim Robbins), a hotshot banker sentenced to life imprisonment for the murder of his wife. He is actually innocent but this isn’t an action movie where Andy escape and tries to clear his name while being pursued by the police. Instead, he stays there and develop a friendship with fellow inmates especially Red (Morgan Freeman), a man who has lost faith in the outside world and doesn’t believe in hope. Andy’s arrival changed the face of prison and led Red on the road of redemption. The movie was nominated for 7 Oscars but didn’t win any, a decision that many saw as the biggest Oscar snub.
The Mist(2007) is about a town being covered by a mysterious mist that hides many deadly creatures. A group of survivors takes refuge in the local supermarket where they have to fight against any of the deadly creatures (eg. giant bats, poisonous giant flies, large tentacles, etc) that attempts to break in. With each passing moment, hopes of survival diminishes while fear takes over. This led most of the survivors to turn to the religious fanaticism of Mrs Carmody. Some of the survivors found that their greatest threat does not come from monsters but from among themselves as the worst of mankind is brought to light when desperation and fear reached critical level.
One thing I notice is the contrasting relation between the setting and the theme in each movie. Redemption is set in prison yet the characters find hope and redemption within in it. In contrast to the Mist, where the supermarket (a place where you can find everything you need) became a place of chaos.
I see that these contrasting relations between setting & theme reinforce the idea of the strange nature of humanity and civilization. The relation between us and civilization is a tricky one because I see it to be paradoxical. We are a social species and the only way to ensure our survival is create a society/civilization governed by rules. Simple as that, it’s Sociology 101. But here’s the catch, civilization is also the seed of our destruction. What I mean by destruction is not that we’re going to explode and die; it’s more like how we start losing the real strength that’s within us as humans get too dependent on the construct of civilization. What if we took out those things that we are heavily dependent on? People get scared and when they do…well…just watch how things get ugly. Here’s some quote from the The Mist:
Amanda Dunfrey: You don’t have much faith in humanity, do you?
Dan Miller: None, whatsoever.
Amanda Dunfrey: I can’t accept that. People are basically good; decent. My god, David, we’re a civilized society.
David Drayton: Sure, as long as the machines are working and you can dial 911. But you take those things away, you throw people in the dark, you scare the shit out of them – no more rules.
Ollie: As a species, we’re fundamentally insane. Put two of us in a room, we pick sides, and start dreaming up reasons to kill one another.
Yes, this sounds like JJ Rousseau’s views on Humanity and society. He believed that society corrupts mankind but not along the line of ‘wild man = good, civilized man = bad’. It’s more to do with the difference between a man that strives to survive with the power of reason and a man who are bogged down by ‘artificial’ construct of society. In a situation like the one that happened in the Mist, the later wouldn’t fare well. Unfortunately, most people are in the later group. When the rules change and don’t apply anymore, they seek some other means to make them believe that the normal rule still applies. Hence, they turned to fanatical religion of Mrs. Carmody. She seemed to know better at what’s going on and what to do.
In Shawshank Redemption, Andy Dufresne isn’t bowing down to rules. He did not start a prison riot or anything but discovered something more powerful. He realize that there is something incorruptible within all of us and it’s the endurance of human spirit or hope. Take this quote from the movie:
Andy Dufresne: That’s the beauty of music. They can’t get that from you… Haven’t you ever felt that way about music?
Red: I played a mean harmonica as a younger man. Lost interest in it though. Didn’t make much sense in here.
Andy Dufresne: Here’s where it makes the most sense. You need it so you don’t forget.
Andy Dufresne: Forget that… there are places in this world that aren’t made out of stone. That there’s something inside… that they can’t get to, that they can’t touch. That’s yours.
Red: What’re you talking about?
Andy Dufresne: Hope.
Red refuses to believe in hope and he has also accepted his predicament as governed by the society he lives. He calls it being ‘institutionalized’; admitting defeat to the labels that you are given by a society. Here’s Red’s explanation:
Red: Would you knock it off? Brooks ain’t no bug. He’s just… just institutionalized.
Heywood: Institutionalized, my ass.
Red: The man’s been in here fifty years, Heywood. Fifty years! This is all he knows. In here, he’s an important man. He’s an educated man. Outside, he’s nothin’! Just a used up con with arthritis in both hands. Probably couldn’t get a library card if he tried…these walls are funny. First you hate ’em, then you get used to ’em. Enough time passes, it gets so you depend on ’em. That’s ‘institutionalized’…They send you here for life and that’s exactly what they take, the part that counts anyway.
Later, Red finally redeemed himself when he gave a piece of his mind to the Parole guys.
1967 Parole Hearings Man: Ellis Boyd Redding, your files say you’ve served 40 years of a life sentence. Do you feel you’ve been rehabilitated?
Red: Rehabilitated? Well, Now let me see. You know, I don’t have any idea what that means.
1967 Parole Hearings Man: Well, it means that you’re ready to rejoin society…
Red: I know what *you* think it means, sonny. To me it’s just a made up word. A politician’s word, so young fellas like yourself can wear a suit and a tie, and have a job. What do you really want to know? Am I sorry for what I did?
1967 Parole Hearings Man: Well, are you?
Red: There’s not a day goes by I don’t feel regret. Not because I’m in here, or because you think I should. I look back on the way I was then: a young, stupid kid who committed that terrible crime. I want to talk to him. I want to try and talk some sense to him, tell him the way things are. But I can’t. That kid’s long gone and this old man is all that’s left. I got to live with that. Rehabilitated? It’s just a bullshit word. So you go on and stamp your form, sonny, and stop wasting my time. Because to tell you the truth, I don’t give a shit.
Lastly, I want to talk about the ending. Shawshank’s ending is still one of my favourite movie ending, it gets me everytime I watch it. As for the Mist, it’s great!! Giving a happy ending to a grim movie isn’t the right way. You need a big ‘F You!’ type of ending and it delivered.
Quotes from movies courtesy of IMDB