The imdb Top 250 list is, although highly flawed, the number one go-to spot for people opening up to movies. Reigning at the top of this list for nearly half a decade is ‘The Shawshank Redemption'(1994), which is also celebrating its twentieth anniversary this week. If we move fourteen spots below this movie, we get the Jack Nicholson starrer, ‘One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest’ (1975). And further down the list, around the 150 spot is ‘Cool Hand Luke’ (1967), starring Paul Newman. I’ve seen them in exactly this order. I’ve seen ‘Shawshank’ first, and ‘Cool Hand Luke’ last.
I’ve listed these three movies because, I find them similar. In all the three movies, the basic plot revolves around a new guy who enters an insulated world (it has no sort of connection with the outside world whatsoever), ruled by a particularly authoritative figure. The other inhabitants of these insulated worlds have given up on their lives. They do not fight against the establishment. They just go on with their lives with totally no interest in it.
Into this world enters this new guy, shows the others a new way to lead their lives, brings to them a new-found interest in their lives, fights the establishment in his own way, and in the end, even if he doesn’t succeed in overthrowing it, he is at least successful in passing on his ideology to one of the other inhabitants, who is ‘redeemed’.
The insulated worlds I mention are prisons in ‘Cool Hand Luke’ and ‘The Shawshank Redemption’, and a mental facility in ‘One Flew…’. The authoritative figures are the wardens – Captain in ‘Cool Hand Luke’ and Samuel Norton in ‘The Shawshank Redemption’, and the Nurse Ratched in ‘One Flew….’. The protagonists – Luke, Andy Dufresne and Randle McMurphy, and the main disciples who are redeemed – Dragline, Chief, and Red.
We can see how similar these plots are to the story of Jesus Christ, the messaih, the redeemer. Jesus Christ entered a world ruled by the Romans and he showed the people a new way, a new path. This earned him the ire of the Romans, for which he was crucified, but he left twelve disciples who would follow his path.
And this promotional poster for ‘One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest’ in a foreign country leaves nothing to the imagination either.
Similar, but not so overtly symbolic, is this shot from the ‘The Shawshank Redemption’.
In the end, all these movies, more or less, give the same, simple message, even if it is articulated in different ways. The best one, from the three together, is ‘Get busy living, or get busy dying’.