Shine 1996 Movie Scene Noah Taylor as David Helfgott having a mental breakdown while taking a bath

Shine [1996]

Back in the nineties, I really didn’t like drama movies. I found them boring and depressing and I rarely watched them. However, if there was nothing else on, and remember, this is the time of the television, I would still try to check them out. This is how I accidentally stumbled upon Shine, a quirky drama generating a lot of buzz after Geoffrey Rush won an Academy Award for his performance. And before I knew it, I was totally captivated by this movie. The first scene is going to get you no matter what your taste in movies is. It’s just so different, refreshing, and authentic that you’ll have no other choice.

Shine is basically a movie about an outcast, a damaged outsider trying to come to terms with this thing we call life. And I identified strongly with him. Based on David Helfgott’s almost surreal life, Shine is a movie that’s at the same time depressing and uplifting. A true masterpiece that you simply have to check out. It explores many different themes like family, ambition, morality, success, and even the fucking Holocaust. And although this is a movie about a child piano prodigy and his life, it speaks to all of us. And you don’t have to be a pianist or a child prodigy to “get it”.

I have only utter disdain for these asshole parents who force their ambitions onto their children, fucking them up for life. We’ve seen that happen so many times, especially in the world of sports. To me, this is not borderline abuse, this is abuse. And don’t start with that but if they haven’t done that we wouldn’t have so many of our stars today. Why do we need stars or their achievements? To every kid that “makes it”, there are thousands upon thousands of kids who won’t make it. And they will be permanently damaged by this relentless pursuit of greatness.

So, yes, you might say that I took this very personally. It’s heart-wrenching to watch Helfgott as an adult and think that he could’ve been a much different person. And I don’t want to take anything away from him as I fear we’re already half-way down this philosophical rabbit hole. So, I’ll just leave it at that and move on. Unlike other dramas, Shine features a surprisingly fast pacing and a short running time of just 100 minutes. Some events from Helfgott’s life were left out and this is technically a movie inspired by his life. 

I also want you to pay close attention to this whole piano thing. As a die-hard metalhead, I never listened to classical music. However, I do appreciate its complexity and beauty. The first question that popped into my head was why is he doing this. Is it because it’s difficult or because it’s a challenge to bring to life these scribbles on a piece of paper? Is he performing for the audience, his teacher, or himself? What the fuck is going on here?

I’m not going to bore you with Geoffrey Rush’s performance as it was stellar. Instead, I will focus on the notion that society thinks you have to be a little crazy to be brilliant. This is how they justify their own failures. Like, I’m not crazy, therefore I’m not a good pianist. It’s always these one-two-three explanations with them. Keep things simple and moving. I appear to be unable to leave this thing alone and just focus on the movie. However, this is exactly what I was talking about earlier. Shine is a subversively thought-provoking movie making us look at life from a different perspective.

While Helfgott’s story is inspiring and even uplifting at times, it could’ve turned out much bleaker. And again, for every guy that makes it, there are thousands who don’t make it. They’re right now in some mental facility, locked away from the rest of society. And we’re here to celebrate the one guy who managed to escape that fate? I wonder what are your thoughts, let me know in the comments below how you feel.

Director: Scott Hicks

Writers: Jan Sardi, Scott Hicks

Cast: Geoffrey Rush, Noah Taylor, John Cousins, Armin Mueller-Stahl, Justin Braine, Sonia Todd

Fun Facts: This role brought Geoffrey Rush world fame and he quickly became one of Australia’s most respected actors.


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