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1 of 5 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Meh, June 21, 2009
This review is from: The Shawshank Redemption (BFI Film Classics) (Paperback)
This needs to be said in capital letters so that it will grab people's attention and hopefully stop them from rating this book what they would have given King's novella:

THIS BOOK IS NOT KING'S NOVELLA (RITA HAYWORTH AND SHAWSHANK REDEMPTION), WHICH THE MOVIE WAS BASED ON. IT IS A CRITICAL ANALYSIS OF THE FILM WRITTEN BY MARK KERMODE AND RELEASED BY BFI MODERN CLASSICS.

With that said, on with my actual review.

This is well written, in terms of actual writing style and readability, but ultimately lacking. Mark Kermode basically goes through the movie from beginning to end and attempts to translate a lot of the scenes and actions into symbols and themes. A lot of the conclusions he draws seem like a bit of a stretch to me. For example, Kermode writes, "Although Darabont has subsequently informed me that no such parallels were intended, it is possible (should one so wish) to find powerful echoes of the Last Supper in [the roof-tarring scene:]...a head-count of the inmates depicted in this sequence clearly reveals thirteen prisoners on the roof...More strikingly still, both King's source and Darabont's adaptation make it clear that, having provided the blessed beer, 'Only Andy didn't drink', a detail which fits neatly with the biblical descriptions of Jesus blessing, giving, but crucially not partaking of the wine..." (32). It seems to me that these two, what more likely are coincidences, don't provide enough substantial evidence to open up this scene to any necessary parallels between it and the last supper. I understand that he is, I guess in some way -- maybe time and effort -- sacrificing himself to do the paperwork to get the beers that he hands out. And that because of his sacrifice they are all able to celebrate and enjoy the reward together, ultimately giving hope that there is life amongst the death of the prison. And that that event leads to the beginning of Defresne (Tim Robbins) being seen as a sort of legend that lives on through the passing of his story from one person to another (or as Kermode would say, from one disciple to another). However, when you study this scene in terms of the bigger-picture impact it has on the course of the film in comparison to what the last supper meant, and how it impacted the bigger-picture ministry of Jesus Christ, the parallels break down (and to be noted, some of the parallels that I listed above Kermode doesn't even go into.) Excuse me for getting theological, but some clarification on the first communion need to be made. The last supper was about Jesus Christ breaking bread and taking wine as a symbol for the giving over of His body and blood (meaning his death on the cross) for the disciples, and essentially the world, and the promise that we too would have to go to this cross if we were to believe in Him. As Christ's blood bound together the disciples in that moment, so would Christ's blood, shed through the giving of his follower's lives by way of the cross, bind together the Church in the future. None of this is evident in the roof-tarring scene. Andy's sacrifice is merely a way through which he can work the system in order for him and a couple guys to feel more human again. His sacrifice doesn't provide the way through which the other disciples will learn to live: other prisoners don't start trying to subvert the system and undermine authority because of him. And also, Kermode's second claim that Jesus didn't drink from the cup at first communion isn't as clearly stated in the gospels as he would have you believe. A lot of the gospels give slightly different accounts of this event, and even the gospels that he cites, Matthew and Mark, don't clearly state that Jesus didn't drink from the cup. Jesus's language about not drinking from the wine again until his second coming, leads me to believe that he drank from the cup the first time. There is the possibility that he drank wine during the meal, and then didn't drink wine during communion, being that some gospels list him saying he passed the cup after the meal, but there is no way of really telling. At best, we could say that it isn't conclusive whether he did or didn't. I don't mean to get overly religious, but I wanted to give an in-depth critique of one of his claims to show what I meant when I said many of his claims are a stretch. Much of the book gives analysis in the same way: concentrating on very specific, seemingly correct, but ultimately superficial connections between the movie and the Christian worldview. Kermode never really connects the dots between a lot of his claims which leaves the reader with great things to throw out at someone if your citing off references as to what this movie is "really" about, but leaves them paralyzed to offer any serious, well-thought out and congruent arguments. It's as if Kermode didn't have an all encompassing thesis for the book, but instead decided to analyze each scene individually and make connections where he could. If one knows a little something of the bible and what's in it, it becomes more obvious that Kermode's argument is lacking. I don't want to act like religious parallels cannot be made. I do believe there are some religious themes in the movie (an innocent man, condemned for a crime he didn't commit, is placed into a world he never belonged in, and helps the other prisoners, through what he does and how he lives, see that humanity and another life are still possible if we learn to subvert the system and always continue to have hope.) However, Kermode doesn't do a great job of presenting these themes. Also, I don't want to act like there is nothing I took from this book (I did give it three stars, not one). Kermode gives an interesting interpretation having to do with the church of cinema and how Dufresne escapes through that and also gives a lot of little interesting tidbits about the movie along the way. Overall, the book is a short read, and a pretty easy one at that, and even with it's problems it might be worth reading just to get thinking more critically about the movie. However, if you're looking for a thorough and insightful analysis of this movie, especially in terms of why it worked, you might have to look elsewhere.
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Showing 1-1 of 1 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Dec 19, 2009 7:16:20 PM PST
Last edited by the author on Dec 19, 2009 7:30:59 PM PST
Duh, of course it's not the novella. Next time read the product description, and please note the "author" (Kermode) and content (analysis and contextualization of the film). The film's Christian allegory is of the class consciousness ilk. Shawshank Redemption illustrates how the every-man is exceptional, even the "common" Red who becomes the narrator/primary point-of-view of the film, and how the "exceptional" Andy is redeemed through his imprisonment. Indeed, he comes to understand the workings of capitalism only too well (the film's a brilliant analysis of the rise of the modern prison-industrial-complex). In other words, this isn't an evangelical read, but rather making reference to the film's use of Christian symbols as a way illustrating the way in which the Everyman sacrifices each day, or becomes a pawn in a larger, unethical system. Btw, there's no such thing as a "real," especially when one is analyzing a narrative/fictional film. The "real" is the *effect*. And, Kermode analyzes the film's resonance, why it appeals to so many fans (and thus, its ideological underpinnings), most of whom have been raised via the ideology of Judeo-Christianity. It's not a film about Christianity. Instead, the film uses Christian symbols as a way of making the life of the downtrodden divine.
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