The Shawshank Redemption
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A NOTE REGARDING SPOILERS

The following FAQ entries may contain spoilers. Only the biggest ones (if any) will be covered with spoiler tags. Spoiler tags are used sparingly in order to make the page more readable.

For detailed information about the amounts and types of (a) sex and nudity, (b) violence and gore, (c) profanity, (d) alcohol, drugs, and smoking, and (e) frightening and intense scenes in this movie, consult the IMDb Parents Guide for this movie. The Parents Guide for The Shawshank Redemption can be found here.

The name of the song Andy plays over the speakers when he is in the warden's office is "Sull'aria Che soave zeffiretto" from Mozart's Marriage of Figaro.

Very often in prisons, especially in earlier years, music and media are handled very carefully and often regarded as potentially harmful and rabble-rousing material. Dufresne knew he had to keep the guard from being able to immediately turn off the music. Another possibility is that Andy is exercising freedom and wants it to last as long as possible. He is refilling his emotional gas-tank with art and wanted to share that feeling with the entire prison population. The guard, no matter how friendly he appears to be toward Andy, would no doubt stop him immediately because it's his duty. He locks the guard in the bathroom for the same reason he locks the warden's office door to keep others out and delay the inevitable.

What was Red's crime?

While the film does not delve into specifics about his crime, Red reveals that he was "the only guilty man in Shawshank" and in prison for murder - the same as Andy. In the novel, it is revealed that Red murdered his wife by severing the brake lines on her car, causing her to die in a fatal car accident, intending to collect a large life insurance settlement. It might have been the perfect crime, a seemingly accidental death, if his wife hadn't picked up a friend and her infant child. The accident was investigated and Red was caught.

The Warden begins a project to use prisoners as low cost labor on construction projects. Since he can legally employ his men for below minimum wage he is able to offer very competitive bids on construction projects. Some companies offer him a personal payoff in order to secure the cheap labor for their projects. Other construction companies also offer him payoffs in order to NOT bid on certain projects so they can retain work.

Andy only pinned the top two corners and lifted the poster up and into the hole when he escaped. He more than likely used a daub of glue or resin from the prison labor workshop to pin the top two corners. A tack can quite easily be pushed into plaster. We know the walls were plastered because Andy dislodges a chunk when scratching his name into the wall prompting him to dig the tunnel. In real life, inmates use toothpaste to hang posters in the cells today. In the novella, the walls were made of cement that was improperly mixed in order to save costs. The result was a soft cement that Andy was able to chisel through with a small rock hammer.

Some people think that Andy leaving the tin with the money, and postcard telling Red where to find Andy was a bit risky because leaving it there for years, it could either be stumbled upon, or the area could have been urbanized and it would have been destroyed -- the latter was a very real concern of Andy's in the novella. First, Andy obviously put it there after he escaped, not before he went to prison (how else would a note for Red be there?). After Andy escapes, some time passes and Red goes for his 40-year parole hearing, upon which he is released. Andy was in prison for 19 years. So only a year or so had passed before Red got paroled and probably only a couple weeks before he decided to find Andy, which isn't too risky overall. Andy is very careful with the postcard and the note. The postcard has no message or signature, just the Fort Hancock postmark. The letter with the money is to "Red" (not "Ellis Boyd Redding") from "Andy" (with no last name). It does not mention prison, escapes, the name of the Mexican town (or Mexico at all!) or that Red knows how to "get things." It does discuss coming this far, a man of your abilities, "my project," and how hope is a good thing. It's a much safer way of getting Red down to Mexico than sending money or a check (way too traceable) in the mail, IF Andy could have located Red once he was paroled. Since he was serving two life sentences for a double murder, Andy would be subject to extradition back to the States if he were caught. Andy could certainly afford to lose the money if someone else found it or it was destroyed; it was worth that small risk to help Red.

The most likely explanation based on the storyline is that Andy, having escaped from Shawshank just the night before and not knowing the extent or progress of any efforts to find him and return him to prison, prioritized completing all local business as quickly as possible, especially the most public tasks (he could save for later things like planting the note and money for Red in the agreed upon location), in order to maximize his chances of making it out of New England and onward to Texas and then Mexico, where he could live essentially free of the risk and fear of being recaptured by authorities. At that point in the story, Andy was already in the middle of decisively playing his extremely risky hand, and he added no additional risk by leaving the package in the hands of the bankers, who would certainly remember him and his visit regardless of that choice, whereas even taking the time to go to a post office would have added precious minutes to his public appearances in the area and exposed him to more people.

The filmmakers' goal of efficient and thorough storytelling provides several more probable explanations, the most straightforward being that the choice allows viewers to see the mailing explicitly by adding only a few seconds to the bank scene. To accomplish that same storytelling goal, another means, such as a trip to the post office, would have likely required a whole extra scene that might have unnecessarily broken up the flow of the movie in a crucial phase of its story and certainly would have added run-time to the film, as well as an additional shooting location, perhaps more actors, time, cost, etc. to the film's production. Andy's decision to allow the bank to handle the mailing, perhaps unplanned and prompted only by the female bank employee's asking him politely whether they could "do anything else" for him, gave the filmmakers an opportunity not only to show the mailing itself but also to highlight, through the casual and gentle attitude he displays, Andy's confidence and aura of tranquility, remarkable (but not too surprising at this point of the film, coming from Andy) given the perilous nature and the extremely high stakes of his situation, not just for him personally but also for countless others and perhaps even for society as a whole. The brief exchange also emphasizes the dramatic shift of power almost two decades in the making that Andy had finally, dramatically brought about and was, at that moment, pointedly experiencing for himself[spoiler], having broken away from the cruel and domineering rule of Shawshank and Warden Norton and finding himself no longer society's prisoner and Norton's slave but instead the deeply respected and important customer of Norton's bank and, more importantly, the recipient of Norton's tainted fortune and the server of proper justice regarding the ironic criminal activities of his former prison. Another good point would be that any mail received from a bank or any mail being sent out from the bank would be given preferred and guaranteed treatment by all involved. A bank back then was a revered institution and the reporter upon examination of the source would be very intrigued and accepting of this source...

VERY. A few minor changes were made to tighten up the story but it mostly stays very faithful to the source. Some notable changes: (1) Andy serves a total of 27 years instead of 19; (2) Andy is not a tall, thin man like Tim Robbins, but is actually short and thin. However, he's still very intelligent and crafty like the Andy of the movie; (3) During Andy's incarceration, the prison is overseen by at least 3 different wardens, all with different personalities and motives. The last one in the novella is Norton (his 1st name is Samuel), who is the pious man played by actor Bob Gunton in the movie. The Norton in the film is a composite character of the other wardens, a way to tighten the story up; (4) In the book, Tommy is not murdered by Hadley on orders from the warden. Norton instead offers Tommy a chance to be transferred to a minimum security prison with more privileges (furloughs with his wife, increased visitation, etc) in another part of Maine if he keeps quiet about the evidence that could clear Andy's name. Tommy's story is also slightly different in the book -- he relates that Blatch told him the double murder was pinned on a lawyer rather than a banker, and Andy latches onto it with the thinking that the two professions were often confused for one another (in those days); (5) Brooks Hatlen's post-incarceration story is not in the original novella. More of post-prison life is told by Red himself after he's released. Having Brooks tell the story in the movie probably lent more drama to the script; (6) In the book, Red's search for the proper hayfield where Andy left his package is a fairly substantial piece of the plot. In the film, Red simply goes directly to the correct hayfield. Also, the book leaves it ambiguous whether Red in fact meets Andy in Mexico. The film originally did too. The scene of Red meeting Andy on the beach as he sands a boat was added after the first cut of the film was shown to focus groups, who wanted a happier ending.

The film speaks to a lot of people with its message of hope, perseverance and purpose in the face of life's struggles. These themes appeal to (and inspire) a wide array of people. The movie's themes are universal to human experience, though they are expressed allegorically in a prison setting that only a minority can truly empathize with. Stephen Kings's story has the ability to help viewers see through the prison setting to the deeper life-truths is a major attraction. As with many films that gained legendary status as years went by, such as Blade Runner and Citizen Kane, audiences acquired their appreciation of it over time. Even though nominated for best picture (and beaten by Forrest Gump), Shawshank didn't do well with audiences during its theatrical release. It prospered only after being released on video. It is perhaps worthwhile to remember that the top 250 list doesn't really measure what individuals consider the best movies of all time. It measures the collective opinion of the films in which people have the greatest positive feel when they are rating it. People are not voting for the movie against other movies. They are voting for it based on their opinion at the time have decided to rate it on IMDb.

Allen Greene was Frank Darabont's agent and also a close personal friend. He died just before the completion of the movie due to AIDS complications.

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