The Shawshank Redemption's cinematographer hates the movie’s most iconic shot. The 1994 prison drama is repeatedly lauded as one of the best Hollywood films of all time, receiving 7 Oscar nominations but failing to collect on any of them.
Despite its lack of Oscar victories, Shawshank has maintained a substantial following over time, remaining firmly in the top spot of IMDb’s top 250 movies of all time for years and solidifying itself as the most successful film of director Frank Darabont’s career. The film packs a lot of emotion into its two and a half hour running time and this is likely a major reason for its popularity. After being wrongly convicted of killing his wife, former accountant Andy Dufresne (Tim Robbins) is sent to prison, where he encounters the day to day horrors of incarceration, and befriends a solid crew of convicts, including Red (Morgan Freeman). There are numerous memorable moments and shots in the film, which frequently deals with themes of loss, isolation, friendship and, of course, redemption.
In fact, the film holds such staying power that even those who haven’t seen it before are likely to recognize its iconic image of a man in the rain, spreading his arms to the heavens. The scene comes just moments after Andy escapes from prison and it is a deeply cathartic one for the audience as well as Andy. As beloved as that particular scene is, however, Games Radar has reported that Roger Deakins, the film’s cinematographer, can’t stand it. Blaming the fact that he feels he over-lit the shot in question, Deakins had this to say about the famed imagery:
“That’s one of those ones that I hate, because I over-lit it. In the script, it was a much longer sequence. Andy comes out of the sewer pipe, goes to the river, crosses the field and there’s a whole sequence where he gets on the train. In our schedule, we only had a night to shoot the whole thing and it was like, ‘That ain’t gonna happen.’ So we shot him coming out of the tunnel, and struggling up the river. By the time we got all the equipment there, we did that high shot and ended on that. Because it was a good way to shorten that whole sequence. It actually works much better than the extended sequence would have done.”
Fans of Shawshank are unlikely to be as critical about the scene, and for all Deakins’ talk of over-lighting such a pivotal moment, it clearly hasn’t harmed the film’s success or staying power in any significant way. Also, given that Deakins was nominated for an Oscar for his cinematography on Shawshank, it’s obvious that critical opinion doesn’t seem to hold any grudges over how the lighting was handled in what could arguably be regarded as the film’s most significant point. For his part, Deakins appears to be an artist who is his own worst critic. Shawshank has been described by some as a perfect film, and although Deakins might disagree with that, there’s no denying what the film has achieved and what it means to many.
It isn’t often that anyone involved with a film as big as Shawshank is will turn around and poke holes in their own involvement and contributions to it. At the same time, it’s not unheard of for filmmakers to not enjoy watching their own work because they feel that they see too many mistakes within it. This could very well be the case for Deakins, but hopefully the Oscar-winning cinematographer still understands that despite what he may feel about his work on The Shawshank Redemption, decades worth of adulation and repeat viewings prove that it’s a film with staying power, regardless of how any of its scenes are lit.
Source: Games Radar