I first watched The Shawshank Redemption more than a decade ago. I still remember the night: after watching the movie, I lay on the floor, dreaming about the journey Red took. After being released from prison, Red, the narrator of the movie, goes searching for an oak tree in a place called Buxton in Maine, USA. I dreamed of walking in his shoes, searching for the oak tree and, in its shade, “a rock that has no earthly business in a Maine hayfield”. In the dream, I knew that I would find something buried under the rock—like the note that led Red to the blue Pacific of his dreams.
I always felt that the oak will be there forever, waiting for her admirers. In the film, the tree is in Maine, but in real life, it is in Mansfield, Ohio. The 200-year-old white oak attracted thousands of visitors every year as part of 'The Shawshank Trails', which features many of the film’s iconic locations. The tree had split in half during a storm in 2011, but was not knocked down. On July 22, it fell in a high wind.
I have plans to go to Mansfield someday. But the tree is no longer there to look for. So, when that day comes, I will have to imagine the tree also, along with that rock and that note.
There are a number of films which feature trees, both imaginary and real. Remember the ‘mother tree’ in James Cameron's Avatar? The tree is life itself, giving existence to the planet called Pandora and its natives. The tree in Lars von Trier's Antichrist, however, symbolises death. The grieving couple in the film have violent intercourse at the base of that dead tree. The famous poster of the movie shows bodies, the couple's and of the dead, intertwined with the tree's exposed roots. That tree is the lone witness to their pain and anger.
Everyone has their favourite stories, movies, movie scenes and so on. Here are the favourite 'movie trees' of THE WEEK team.
Mathew T. George, Deputy News Editor
The Yathra tree
All witnesses don't have eyes. Like the tree in the last scene of the Malayalam filmYathra (1985). Convict's homecoming. End of the road. A drizzle at dusk. Hope, longing, sorrow and desire. Peaks and misty valleys. A hundred lit lamps. And, a tree to witness it all.
A movie shot against the backdrop of police excesses during the Emergency, Yathra reminds us that freedom is never free. It is paid for, in blood and tears. And, true love is like that roadside tree.
Leads: Mammootty and Shobana. Story: John Paul. Direction, screenplay & cinematography: Balu Mahendra
Susamma Joy Kurian, Senior Subeditor
The Whomping Willow, Harry Potter series
At first glance, one might call it the Withering Willow, what with its shrivelled and knotted trunk. Touch it, and it sheds its zen-like mien and turns into a lunatic on the loose, with its limbs flailing about. As Harry Potter and Ronald Weasley experienced in Harry Potter and The Chamber of Secrets, when they rammed the Ford Anglia into it. The tree, in its defence, whomps the wits out of the duo. Harry and Ron manage to escape the wild willow with a few scratches and a broken wand. It is only in Harry Potter and Prisoner of Azkaban that one comes to know the true purpose of the tree—guarding the secret tunnel to the Shrieking Shack in Hogsmeade. In the books, the Whomping Willow is a permanent fixture in the Hogwarts grounds. In the movies, however, it is moved from the training ground (CoS) to a hill outside Hogwarts (PoA). And, creating the Whomping Willow was no mean feat for the filmmakers; the art, visual effects and special effects department came together to whip up the actual tree. Mischief managed, we say!