Hope Is A Dangerous Thing
In the obligatory After Movie Discussion, my wife, the lovely and equally picky, Dawn, and I asked each other, “What is the overarching theme of the movie?” There were a number of possible answers to that question.
Was it about Revenge? It was, but only momentarily. Loneliness? Or was it about the effects on a person of prolonged confinement? Or was it just about Survival?
After much talk, and several beverage refills, we decided that the answer was Hope. Hope that can be lost and found again. Hope that can be given and then snatched away. Hope that is both the carrot and the stick.
Hope is what has the person stranded on a deserted island scanning the horizon for rescue, year after year.
Hope is what has the painfully shy teenage boy dreaming that the prettiest girl in school might say “Yes” and be his date for the Prom.
Hope is what drives the engine of the lonely soul.
In “The Shawshank Redemption” the two lead characters have hope that comes and goes. In the prison yard there are hundreds of people brought together by circumstance, but they are all there by themselves – as alone as if they were adrift in a lifeboat on the ocean. No place can be more lonely than a crowd.
For “Red,” played by Morgan Freeman, there was the hope for parole, but after forty years that hope had been replaced by the fear that he would be eventually released into a world as alien to him as Mars. Red had stopped hoping.
“Andy Dufresne,” brought to life by Tim Robbins, a man falsely imprisoned, had hope come and go over time as well. It was dangled in front of him, so close he could taste it, and then it was savagely taken away.
I see it that the hope that comes back to both men was not for revenge or to be reunited with their families, but to be alone – but on their own terms. Decades in prison with the constant clamor of people in agony had made quiet something to be dreamt about. Their hope was to be gone from that prison to a place where they don’t have to hear someone screaming or crying.
Inside Shawshank, with their hope restored, Andy and Red were able to see a real future instead of just an endless string of Todays.
Andy’s hope was to be on a beach in Mexico where he could find a small boat to restore so he could sail out on the ocean. Other things could wait, but first he wanted quiet and solitude – on his terms.
Andy made a gift of these two things to Red, whose was given his parole only after he had lost all hope.
The closing shot in the film is of these two survivors hugging each other on that Mexican beach. Two men alone and together by choice. Two men alive because of Hope.