Andy Dufresne is sent to prison, goes through a lot of shit to get out again.
This is the first story from King’s Different Seasons collection of novellas, listed as Hope Springs Eternal. The same collection also contains the stories which went on to become Apt Pupil and Stand By Me; the final story, The Breathing Method has yet to be adapted in to a film.
As I think I’ve said with all of these comparisons thus far, the thing I like most the written word is the depth of character we get to inform actions. We’re told what Red had done to get himself thrown in Shawshank and we get a lot more of Andy before his incarceration. This gives the audience a real sense of the baggage which characters carry with them at all points in the story and, not to be too on the nose about it, but what they’re in Shawshank to redeem themselves for.
The idea of Andy having this secret hope for the life he could have out of the U.S. is much more prevalent in the novella. This ties in with the idea of this being the Hope Springs Eternal part of the Different Seasons. The entire time Andy was in prison, he had this element of hope that kept him going through his time on the inside. It’s only when he lets it slip to Red that we get a real insight to who Andy is, which much closer to the calculating image that the court safe in the opening of the story. While this doesn’t make him an evil character, it shows that he’s been playing the long game. From putting all this assets in a fake name, to taking that first chip of his cell wall and hanging that poster, to smashing open the shit pipe and leaving a sign for Red to follow him.
IT– Shawshank Prison is referred to several times in IT. It’s where Richard Macklin is sent after the murder of Dorsey Corcoran and suspected murder of Eddie Corcoran (although Eddie was actually killed by Pennywise).
Right up front, I love this film. It’s a real epic in terms of how it looks at humanity and friendship under pressure. The thing that really works is how long it takes for Andy to be accepted by the main group of prisoners. It’s almost an hour into the film before they tarmac the roof of the licence plate factory and Andy pulls his stunt with the guard in order to get them all a few beers. It’s this restraint and letting the story progress naturally they really works for this film. You feel the passage of time through both Red’s narration and the slight aging of the characters. You notice more grey creep in to Andy’s hair as he goes from being a young man arrested in the 1940’s to a much older, wiser figure in the 60’s when he meets Tommy.
Frank Darabont has the best success rate with King adaptations. This film, along with The Green Mile and The Mist, show that Darabont is the best person to adapt King’s work as he gets the characters. When you look at Shawshank in the abstract, it’s groups of men talking in rooms with very little actual action until the film sets pace. But like David Fincher, Darabont can make this enthralling through his direction and the script. It’s a film that holds interest from the moment you start it, there are no real lulls in the story as everything has its place and it all fits together so well that you don’t notice this.
The cast are pitch perfect in all their roles. You have a collection Darabont regulars, with the bigger stars in Tim Robbins and Morgan Freeman being at the centre of the piece. All concerned give you a very idiosyncratic cast of characters that you believe would all be friends in prison: they’re the same group you might find working in the same place or hanging out in the same bar. They build a cohesive unit within the prison. This structure is free from the gang culture we see so often in more modern prison movies, and it gives you a group of men bonded through friendship.
The character of Red in the short story is much more honest about his past than in the film. Although in both cases we know he’s guilty of murder, in the short story we learn exactly what Red did to get himself locked up in Shawshank: he cut to brakes on his wife’s car, killing her, his next door neighbour and the next door neighbour’s baby. This gives the audience a real insight in to the guilt Red carries with him, and where the redemption is going. We also get told of other deals he’s made selling to criminals of all sorts during his time there. In the film we know Red as being a person who can acquire items, but we only see him help out Andy.
Andy’s scheme is very different between the novella and the film. In the novella, Andy has already liquidated his assets before being sent to prison and locked them away in a safety deposit box, under a fake name with fake documents, implying that he was already thinking of bailing on the U.S. when it looked like he might be convicted of the crime. In the film, it’s about him exposing the corruption within the prison system and having all the guilty parties arrested at the end. The film ending makes a lot more sense for Andy’s character of “having to go to jail to become a crook,” plus he’s taking dirty money that he was forced to clean. Whereas in the novella, he seems to have been planning going to Mexico since 1948.
Overall I preferred the film. Although the novella did add interesting stuff to the tale, it feels somewhat hollow because of its brevity. The film is one of the classics of the 1990’s and as some have said, the “Casablanca of (our) generation”
Next Time: We take a trip up to the old Marsten house and look for some antiques in town.