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The Shawshank Redemption (BFI Film Classics) Paperback – 1 Jul 2003

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Product details

  • Paperback: 96 pages
  • Publisher: British Film Institute (1 July 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0851709680
  • ISBN-13: 978-0851709680
  • Product Dimensions: 13 x 0.7 x 17.5 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 145,739 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description

About the Author

MARK KERMODE is a film critic and broadcaster. He writes for Sight and Sound and The Independent, and providing weekly film reviews for BBC Radio 5. On television he appears regularly on BBC 2's Newsnight Review, and has written and presented numerous film documentaries including The Fear of God; 25 Years of the Exorcist and Poughkeepsie Shuffle: Tracing the French Connection for BBC1, and Hell on Earth; Resurrecting The Devils, The Cult of The Wicker Man and On the Edge of Blade Runner for Channel 4.

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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Mr. T. COLEMAN VINE VOICE on 19 Sep 2010
Format: Paperback
"The Shawshank Redemption" is a film beloved by millions; a modern classic whose twin peaks of gritty realism and transcendent hope continue to inspire movie-goers the world over. In this short book, Dr Mark Kermode goes some way into unpicking the film's almost universal appeal, with a healthy dose of analytical criticism thrown in along the way.

The book reads like a dissertation, helpfully illustrated with with full colour screen shots of relevant scenes from the movie (as do all 'BFI Film Classics' books). Broadly following the chronological order of the movie as the anchor for his analysis, Kermode focuses a lot on the Christian iconography used throughout as well as the idea of cinema as an alternative religion, offering some interesting textual observations. Though I felt he went a little too far in making some points (e.g. that Andy procuring beers for his inmate buddies whilst tarring the roof of the prison building is a Last Supper/Communion symbol - something I found a bit of a stretch) he does offer a number of interesting interpretations which I think genuinely add something to decoding this genuinely enthralling film.

On a practical note, this book is written in rather scholarly language which may not to be everyone's tastes. That said, if this is not something that bothers you there is much to take away from Kermode's arguments, even if you don't agree with everything he says. Recommended.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 8 reviews
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
Escape Into Shawshank 6 Aug 2007
By Dash Manchette - Published on
Format: Paperback
The Shawshank Redemption had a number of things going against it at the time of its release: a clunky title, the depressing subject matter of an innocent man in prison for close to two decades, prison rape, suicide. Combine that with being released the same year as Forrest Gump and Pulp Fiction and it is no surprise that the movie performed poorly at the time.

What is surprising is the movie's history after it went to video. It has been wildly successful, currently ranking number 2 on the internet movie database's list of best movies, voted on not by the critics, but by the general public who actually watch the movies for enjoyment. But even that success is not the full story. The Shawshank Redemption is, for many people, more than just a great movie. It really seems to touch people's lives in a way that other great movies do not.

Mark Kermode, the author of this BFI monograph, explores this phenomenon. He sees a great deal of The Shawshank Redemption's attraction in the religious metaphors interwoven throughout the movie. On a superficial level this may seem counterintuitive. After all, the most explicitly religious person in the movie, Warden Norton, is flat out evil. Moreover, he often uses religious icons to facilitate his misdeeds, such as using a framed woven biblical quotation to hide the books he has cooked while using Andy (the innocent man) to facilitate the scam.

But underneath this surface is another viewing of the movie. Andy inspires hope of salvation in his fellow prisoners, reminding them that there is something in each of them that cannot be taken away by the stone walls of the prison or the brutality of the guards. In several key scenes, in fact, Andy's arms are spread out, reinforcing the idea of him as a Christ-like personality to his disciples. That Andy's presence lives on at Shawshank among those disciples even after Andy physically escapes and is no longer with them is further evidence still.

Along with the main theme, Kermode introduces many lesser themes which also explore ideas of redemption, most of which hit the mark. These include movies themselves as providing a type of secular religion allowing us to escape the confines of our own lives, the music which Andy plays for his fellow inmates as demonstrating the beauty that exists within each of us (and Kermode is correct that the movie would have been better without this particular scene) and the inability of the old inmate Brooks to live without the identity he had formed after being set free.

Kermode keeps this book free of the technical lingo that has unfortunately bogged down too many BFI publications. Whether one agrees with him or not, he presents his ideas in a way that is accessible to the lay reader unfamiliar with the details of film analysis. Although most of the BFI books have been at least pretty good, one wishes that more were like this.
If you're a fan of the movie... 18 Jun 2014
By Joe Bee - Published on
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
learn WHY you are a fan. This book discusses aspects of the movie that can easily be overlooked or forgotten. After reading this book, you will TRULY be a fan of the actors, the movie, as well as the meaning of the movie.
An interesting book about the best movie ever. 8 Nov 2014
By eoz - Published on
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This book has some very interesting insights into the screenplay of Shawshank Redemption, with the changes in the movie vs the actual written story. The author comes off as a bit snooty with saying like, "In the author's opinion..." blah blah blah. Basically, the author liked the book version more than the movie.
You will learn to like Shawshank. Believe me 5 Nov 2014
By Molto Canape - Published on
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Fans: You will see Shawshank in a whole new light.
Haters: You will learn to like Shawshank. Believe me.
1 of 3 people found the following review helpful
Meh 21 Jun 2009
By Eric Bridges - Published on
Format: 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:


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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