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Structure & Morphology: Shawshank


Treasa and I paired up for our second project for Studio: Structure & Morphology. We were to deconstruct and analyze a film or TV show and, from that, create a narrative of our own. Delivery and execution were open-ended, so we were determined to fully trust the process and see where our research would lead us.

We decided on The Shawshank Redemption by Frank Darabont.

original 1994 poster

Rewatching it with a critical eye, we created mood boards and devised a mindmap. In doing so, we explored the film’s themes and characters and attempted to decode suggestive scenes and elements.

On its surface, the film seems to have a straightforward plotline that revolves around the prevailing aspects of hope, faith, and friendship. One could easily perceive it as a film reflective of conventional tropes where the main character (Andy Dufresne) starts with a predicament, discovers hope, and finds a solution.

However, upon closer inspection, we discovered that Andy Dufresne’s character arc never wavers. He is hopeful upon incarceration and remains so as he escapes a free man. Red, on the other hand, makes a full circle. He is the narrator for a reason, and it is no coincidence that his name is short for RED-emption.

Red‘s “I am redeemed” face

From this, we concluded that Red is the actual main protagonist, not Andy — whose character functions as a diversion and an agent to Red’s full transformation as a redemptive figure. Red is The Shawshank Redemption.

mind map

Shawshank has also been cited by critics as anti-Christian, driven by Warden Norton’s affinity with the bible, juxtaposed with his hypocritical and malicious attitude. It is, however, quite the opposite. One could even recognize it as one of the most Christian films ever produced due to its myriad of Christian metaphors and its way of subliminally communicating these.

a few scenes highlighting faith and Christianity as a driving theme

Loaded with new information and theories, we began our iteration process. We spent the next week creating a total of 50 designs between the both of us. When comparing each other’s work, a trend was apparent. We both singled out aspects of the film that we found to be symbolic and synthesized them into an 11x17 poster. We were retelling the story of The Shawshank Redemption, cunningly.

We decided to continue what we were doing to flesh out our ideas. To remain concise and united, we restricted our use of color and appointed each an emotion or feeling. Black and white would be our neutrals that provided depth, Blue would represent all things good and hopeful, and Red suggested evil.

We trimmed the iterations down to 48 posters by discarding redundancies. The final posters intend to stand-alone visually but collectively express our full account of Shawshank. We printed these out on newsprint paper to keep with the time the film took place and hung them up sequentially.

setting up
a full shot of the completed wall

In Shawshank, Red gifts Andy with a smuggled poster tube; its contents, the infamous Rita Hayworth poster. Guided by this gesture, we additionally produced a magazine variant, rolled up and packaged in a similar tube.

a poster tube we smuggled in for James
day of presentation and crits