THE SHAWSHANK REDEMPTION AND JEAN-PAUL SARTRE’S EXISTENTIALISM

‘Is ‘The Shawshank Redemption’ best cinema tribute to Jean-Paul Sartre’s Existentialism?’

Well, I had not thought so sweepingly on this line even if I had already watched the movie multiple times, until the last night when I was reading about it.

The Wikipedia page on the movie had this ‘sweeping’ statement:

“The film has been critically acclaimed for depicting Jean-Paul Sartre’s ideas about existentialism more fully than any other contemporary movie.”

When I further dug in to find its originating source, I stumbled upon a web page of ‘Philosophy Now’ magazine with an article by some Alexander Hooke on the movie – but available only to subscribers beyond its initial few lines.

These lines are:

“Hope helps keep us alive and anticipating the next sunrise with joy rather than gloom. It enlivens projects and maintains focus. Hope is sustained by the confidence we have in our knowledge of the situation, although the possibility of being deceived, by others or ourselves, can undermine this confidence. Still, hope promises a time or place where things will be better, even if it seems we’re stuck in perpetual hell. Accounts through the millennia depict hell as a realm full of fascinating and ghastly demons, endless tortures, with Satan ruling with a fiery fist, and where hope is impossible.”

Yes, the movie is all about that – in fact a subtle depiction of – in most real and practical ways possible.

And I believe when it so rightly writes about ‘hope and hopes’ – even if we are well aware of limitations, the write-up will certainly have its own logics to discuss about ‘Existentialism’ in the movie, especially Sartre’s Existentialism.

Now, there are three characters central to the movie:

The one which presents before us a characterization epitomizing hope – believing in his existence and persevering to see it materialise, even if it means decades of focused job on something, to steal the day finally for him.

The next one is a sort of crusader of hope with faded charm, helping his friend in difficult times and giving him the means to sustain his ‘hope’ and at the same time, is resigned to his fate, is not sure of his identity.

The last one is like the first one, but in an audacious way, pinning his ‘hope’ on others’ shoulders – thinking of an existence for him and going all out to usurp it.

How do they play out their ‘existences’ and their ‘hopes’ in the movie? Let’s ‘watch’ the movie again.

Let’s see.

©/IPR: Santosh Chaubey – https://santoshchaubey.wordpress.com/

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