DIRECTOR: SCOTT HICKS
COUNTRY: AUSTRALIA 1996
CINEMATOGRAPHY: GEOFFREY SIMPSON
MUSIC: DAVID HIRSCHFELDER
CAST: Armin Mueller-Stahl, Geoffrey Rush, Noah Taylor, Alex Rafalowics, Lynn Redgrave
SUPER FEATURES: The music and the acting
Films about music and any of the arts, tend to fall into two categories... boring, or truly magnificent. In between are the majority of films that have tried to enlighten many people about the many struggles that all artists go through just to get to the point in their lives where they can do what they do best, regardless of what anyone else thinks.
SHINE, fits into the superior category, probably along side of such magnificent films as AMADEUS, and 32 SHORTS ABOUT GLENN GOULD. But unlike Amadeus, this film is less of a showy platform, than it is a story of a human spirit that survives in order to perform again, at its best.
This is the story of classical pianist David Helfgott, and his growing up into becoming a serious piano player, despite a father that almost ruined his career through his over zealous passion and desire for a non existent perfection. David's mental state deteriorates, as his dreams get shattered, and in his finest hour as a youngster, he also finds himself pretty much checked into a mental institution.
And it is in this place that he finally comes alive again, probably because no one expects anything, and David has the chance to pick himself up and develop his own persona, where before he was a slave to either his father's wishes, or his teachers' dreams. And here he meets Gillian, who becomes his wife, and probably the woman that helps him come alive, and discover who he is.
In the hands of a Hollywood director, this may have turned into a soap story. In the hands of the capable director Hicks, this is a brutally beautiful story that stands out from the very first moment. David Helfgott is played by three people, all of whom are magnificent, and the transitions are so clean that it is hard to separate them and even realize that we are seeing three people working the same character at different times in his life. The film is told through some flashbacks, as David the adult man, tries to cope and figure out who and what he is. We find him enjoying himself in a bar just fooling around the piano, but this time there is no pressure, or any worries about any mistakes or whatever music he might wish to play. And the envisioned artist of his teens is finally come alive, in a magnificent production of a film.
It is difficult to find fault in this film in any area. So few films seem to be thought out and directed with such care to details that we are so caught up in it, that we never really can find anything that seems out of place, or not proper in its story.
The film's acting ensemble is magnificent and well developed. One might consider Armin Mueller-Stahl the most emotional of all the actors, but even he understates much of his work. It is, however, a sad role, in that he is also a frustrated musician, and his hopes are overly protective in regards to his family and specially his talented son, whom he really never learns top work with, and eventually has to "lose", since his talent is too good to be left behind, or kept in the hands of the father who apparently does not have the musical talent, but has the ear for it.
Geoffrey Rush, won the Academy Award for this role, and it is well deserved, in what is a really difficult role, and dialogue, that keeps the audience off kilter and without understanding what he is saying... but it is all un-important, since it is the music that matters.. and we just need to steer the man into his own path, through his own gift.
Magnificent film and deserving a very wide audience. This is film at its best in both a story and content.
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