The Opening Sequence

A question that often comes up in the Visual Text section is on the opening of a film. I have added the opening sequence of The Shawshank Redemption below for those of you that would like to attempt the essay question below.

Analyse why you thought either the beginning OR the ending of the text was effective.


  • blank screen with major credits and Inkspots’ song over: ‘If I Didn’t Care’.
  • fade-up to night scene; long shot of two lights at the beginning of a drive; lit building in background
  • camera tracks back to pick up dark shape of car; silhouette of driver lit by dash lights; music track decreases in volume
  • camera tracks forward slightly and pans around to pick up driver in medium-side shot; he looks dishevelled, leans forward and reaches over to glove compartment; Foley track becomes more prominent
  • close-up of hand retrieving bundle from compartment; camera follows as bundle taken across to driver’s lap and opened to reveal a revolver and loose bullets; hand moves to find and open a small bourbon bottle
  • cut to medium-front-on shot of driver swigging
  • soundtrack of courtroom scene becomes prominent; cut to front-on close-medium shot of character being asked a question about a murder in court; piano music track in background
  • sequence of question-and-answer shots in day-lit courtroom
  • cut to medium-night shot of man backing through doorway; woman follows; door is pushed closed and they embrace against it
  • cut to another medium shot; question-and-answer sequence in the courtroom
  • cut to close-up of hands loading the revolver in the car
  • cut to medium-front shot of driver through windscreen
  • cut to sequence of question-and-answer shots in courtroom
  • cut to slow pan of jury
  • cut to close-medium question-and-answer sequence with characters becoming more intense
  • cut to close-up of hands preparing revolver, cut to close-medium shot of driver taking another swig
  • dash lights go out; courtroom voice-over becomes prominent; interior light comes on as driver opens door
  • cut to close-up of foot emerging from car; soundtrack of things falling; glass breaking; close-up of feet walking towards drive
  • cut to front-on full shot of driver walking unsteadily forward towards gate; he walks into medium shot
  • cut back to courtroom sequence, cut to series of close-ups of the lovers against the door; courtroom soundtrack still over
  • cut to sentencing scene in court; close-up of judge; cut to zoom in on Mr Dufresne
  • cut to black; soundtrack of door slamming loudly
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