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The Complement to Shawshank

by Richard Soulliere about a year ago in movie review
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Another path to retiring well after prison.

In comparison to the very visceral experience Andy went through in the timeless classic “The Shawshank Redemption”, I have only found one other film on par. It is “The Survivor from Magadan”.

Have you ever thought of retiring in Toronto after escaping a religious coup and spending half a lifetime in a gulag? “The Survivor from Magadan” is not a film about a character responding to potential threats. It is about a character who realizes incoming doom and moves on only to surrounded by a different set of walls. More than once and not always of his own volition.

Imagine this. You are born and grow up where you are. Political upheaval happens in some other part of your country when you are just emerging into adulthood. Things start changing fast and it is very apparent that bad times are headed your way much sooner rather than later. What do you do?

You could cross a border. There’s one right over there. After all, things are beginning to settle down on the other side of the fence and rosy stories are being told about all that can be found in that neighbouring country. Okay. If you want to make it official you need a passport from your “new” home country and a visa from a country that recognizes your “new” home country. Would you bother to go into your nation’s capital city in the midst of all that ideological upheaval and get a visa knowing you are from an unrecognized country? Or would you simply go and cross the border?

Like a roadrunner, for example.

Okay, so you cross the border and are just about beginning to set up a new life when they pick you out as an illegal immigrant. They will simply send you back, right? I mean the food situation was greatly over-exaggerated. Well, they will not be inclined to send you back if they are short on hard labourers – and they are short on them. Hundreds of thousands short on them. Besides, you obviously came there to make a contribution, so they will let you. Under lock and key and guard and wintery conditions. (Not the winter wonderland kind, either.)

Fresh cocoa, anyone?

Andy, in “The Shawshank Redemption”, taught us that life gets a vote, atonement is inescapable, and friendships happen in ways and for reasons unpredictable. But you can always choose to:

“Get busy livin’ or get busy dyin’.”

Red, Andy’s closest friend, described how Andy would stroll around Shawshank without a care in the world. This also begs the question how “The Survivor from Magadan” found his daily ray of sunshine. How did he come to terms with the supposed ungrateful surroundings he was constantly in day in and day out for quite some time? What did he look forward to each day, let alone for his life general? Was prison life that much different in a gulag compared to the United States? (It was different, both in good ways and bad ways.)

There are gems in “The Survivor from Magadan” if you polish it enough like Andy did with his handmade chess pieces while at Shawshank. Plus, it is a true story and you actually get to see the very man himself.

That’s right; you see him sitting on a balcony in a highrise somewhere in downtown Toronto. Happy and free (in the truest sense of both words). What insights will you gain from his awesome story?


If you have really liked what you’ve read, please share with your friends (email, text, or social media). As always, feel free to check out other things I have written here on Vocal.

Thank you!

movie review

About the author

Richard Soulliere

Bursting with ideas, honing them to peek your interest.

Enjoyes blending non-fiction into whatever I am writing.

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