‘Shawshank Redemption’, directed by Frank Darabont, is about a young and successful banker called Andy Dufresne, played by Tim Robbins.
He was wrongly accused of murdering his wife and her lover. He was put in the prison of Shawshank, where he met an inmate named Red, played by Morgan Freeman. While in prison, Andy shows off his intellect by doing all of the guard’s taxes and gains trust from Norton, the Warden.
The setting in the film is an essential feature of ‘Shawshank Redemption. Mise-en-scene comes from the French language, which means “placing the stage”.
It refers to everything and anything in front of the camera. The setting is important as it helps to explore the theme of isolation. The prisoners have no communication with the outside world and get put in solitary confinement in ‘The Hole’.
The men are institutionalized inside the prison, which means that they are so used to prison life that they can live without it. Finally, the prison setting explores the idea of power and corruption as the prisoners are at the bottom of the pecking order inside the prison.
The setting or surroundings of an event is called the mise-en-scene. Mise-en-scene is a French phrase that translates to ‘placing the stage’.
Shawshank Redemption is set in Maine but is based on the Ohio State Reformatory (OSR) located in Mansfield, Ohio. The OSR was a running prison up until 1994.
The director probably chose this prison as he wanted the prisoners to be isolated. Another scene where the setting makes a difference is the closing sequence of scenes.
In the book by Stephen King, which the movie is based on, the last scene is where Red is on a bus going to Mexico with the hope that he sees his friend, Andy, whereas, in the film, the ending is much happier as Red finds Andy on a beach in Zihuatanejo.
The setting helps to explore the theme of isolation. Due to the prison rules, women are not allowed to be prisoners in Shawshank.
The rules make the prisoners, all of whom are men, isolated as they have no one of the female genders to talk to apart from the female guards if there were any.
‘The Hole’ makes the prisoner feel isolated as it symbolizes our cruelty as outside the prison, there was no solitary confinement. There is also no communication to the world outside the prison walls.
The walls make the prison more isolated as they would not know what was going on outside the prison or what their families were doing. However, Red somehow knew how to buy items and bring them in; he is the man who gets the prisoners anything they need.
Interestingly, the men’s isolation also makes them reliant on the prison and the walls of Shawshank.
The definition of institutionalization is the action of establishing something as a convention or norm in an organization or culture. Red says, “These walls are funny. First, you hate them, then you get used to them.
After long enough, you get so dependent on them. That is ‘institutionalized’.” The metaphor describes the nature of Shawshank – the walls of the prison influences the freedom of prisoners.
The prison also makes the prisoners institutionalized and even puts them in a bad mental state, controlling their minds and bodies by making them part of the prison itself.
In conclusion, the setting is crucial as it helps the mise-en-scene, isolation, and the institutionalisation of the prisoners impact the film’s setting.
The mise-en-scene refers to everything and anything in front of the camera. When properly used, mise-en-scène helps improve the film. There are many isolation levels inside Shawshank, from the large, enclosed recreation yard to the smaller work crews down to the cellblock, cells, and, finally, solitary confinement.
Also, the institutionalization of the prisoners affects the setting by making the prison so used to prison life that the prisoners could not live without it. For example, Brooks killed himself as he had difficulty living outside.