"The Shawshank Redemption," which came out in 1994 feels like one of those movies, along with "Planet of the Apes" that is endlessly airing on cable TV. The thing is, until last night, I had only seen snippets as my husband and I channel surfed. Last night I sat down with my husband and our 15-year-old son and watched the movie from start to finish. The movie is rated R for its language and for prison violence.
This movie affected me deeply. I am a big believer in redemption, which the Catholic Encyclopedia defines as: "The restoration of man from the bondage of sin to the liberty of the children of God through the satisfactions and merits of Christ." If we understand the price Christ paid to redeem us, we cannot help but be moved by the possibility of being forgiven.
"The Shawshank Redemption" begins in the 1940s at a Maine penitentiary and stars Morgan Freeman (at left) as Red and Tim Robbins as Andy. These men, convicted of violent crimes, are serving life sentences. The movie is based on Stephen King's novellla "Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption." As it happens, our son is studying the novella and the film in a "Cinema and Fiction" class he's taking at his high school.
To tell much of the plot would be to spoil the movie for those who haven't seen it. But suffice to say this movie, without being preachy, speaks to us about the human soul, about what freedom, hope, and beauty look like. It holds out the hope that Beauty can set us free.
At one point in the story Andy manages to find and play a record of an aria by Mozart. He connects the phonograph to the prison's loudspeakers.
Red, who narrates the film, tells us:
"I have no idea to this day what those two Italian ladies were singing about. Truth is, I don't want to know. Some things are best left unsaid. I'd like to think they were singing about something so beautiful, it can't be expressed in words, and makes your heart ache because of it. I tell you, those voices soared higher and farther than anybody in a gray place dares to dream. It was like some beautiful bird flapped into our drab little cage and made those walls dissolve away, and for the briefest of moments, every last man in Shawshank felt free.