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The film ‘The Shawshank Redemption’ uses cinematic features and film techniques in the establishing shot and opening sequence of the film, to portray character and develop certain effects within the film.


The opening sequence of the film focuses on introducing one of the main characters in the film, Andy Dufesne. Andy is a banker, suffering from a mid-life crisis, who finds out that his wife is having an affair. Within this sequence, we find that Andy is convicted for the murder of both his wife and her lover, and that he is sentenced to undertake two life sentences at the Shawshank Redemption prison. It is important that the opening sequence involves a very somber tone. This effect is promoted with the use of both cinematic features and film techniques.


The mise en scene plays a vital part in creating effect to its audience as it refers to all that appears within the camera’s shot, including lighting, color, setting and camera movements. At the scene of the crime, we find that Andy’s face is hidden in shadow. This symbolizes his extreme anger, but also his inability to show emotion. Andy has been hiding from his true feelings his whole life and it is only whilst being within Shawshank that he learns to express his love for others. The non-diagetic music used helps create mood. The song, ‘If I Didn’t Care’ is played during the sequence. The slow rhythm and lagging voice of it’s composer, along with the deep, drawn out bass adds to the feeling that the crime scene is a place of great sadness. The establishing sequence uses the color blue to add meaning in the way that it expresses death and murder. Therefore, it shows how Andy’s anger and jealousy has led him to the point of wanting to kill. This creates a mysterious character to the audience, but also builds suspense, as the audience ask themselves, ‘will he or won’t he?’ The use of this flashback of the crime scene within the narrative structure of the sequence helps to produce a story and piece bits of the plot together. It also creates a definite juxtapose between itself and the courtroom from which Andy is given his sentence. This juxtaposition shows to the audience how Andy has been convicted of a crime he didn’t do. We also realize the juxtaposition between Andy and his wife making love, as we notice the difference in color of the two scenarios. The bright, red and yellow of the bedroom furniture, expressing passion, to the solemn blue of the background within the car, expressing the sheer depression of the character. The lighting used in the sequence shapes mood and develops Andy’s secretive character to the audience. Within the establishing sequence, we only witness natural light upon Andy’s face, which gives light shadowing, creating a flat image of the character.. The camera work within this sequence helps convey meaning and shapes character also. The low shot of the judge within the courtroom shows his power over Andy and highlights the extreme responsibility the judge has to change a man’s life completely. The various close-up shots of the gun and the whisky bottle symbolize the state of Andy’s life. His situation has lead him to depression, drinking, but most shamefully, the need for revenge. Voice over is used to build character and explain the events which lead to Andy’s conviction. The non-diagetic sounds used within the sequence help to enhance realism, for example the sound of the revolver bullets as they hit the ground. The realism makes the audience feel as if they were there, in the screen with Andy, and so builds much suspense. The cut shots to the courtroom provide a great sense of urgency and help build suspense until Andy is told the length of his sentence. When the judge dismisses the case and the hammer is struck upon the table, a reverberating, eerie sound is produced, followed by silence and a fade to black. This tells the audience that something has ended and in this case, it is the end of Andy’s normal, everyday life. A new life of institutionalism and discipline is to follow. The sequence ends as the screen suddenly fades to black, conveying the depressing, repetitive way of life to follow.


Both cinematic features and film techniques have been used in the opening sequence of the film to develop a character and bring effect upon its audience. The way in which characters are portrayed affects the film to a great extent. At the start of this film, Andy is shown to be a dis-passionate man who has lived in comfort. Throughout The Shawshank Redemption, it is his journey to express his emotions, build up his courage and withstand the ultimate battle between mind and authority in order to gain back the freedom took from him


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