Shine (1996)

Directed by Scott Hicks
Written by Jan Sardi based on the story by Scott Hicks
(number 382)

This is based on the true story of pianist David Helfgott and I have to say I have no idea how much truth is in this movie.

The movie is a pretty standard biopic – success, flashbacks to a childhood and family situation (abusive and oppressive) and some outstanding thing about the person who the story is about. In this case it’s music, specifically piano. I found that as a film, it spent very little time with some aspects of his life (time spent in institutions, therapies, the breakdown) and a lot of time on the seemingly ‘nicer’ aspects, like isn’t it funny how he keeps being naked or letting the water run?

I don’t know much about music and I know still less about how an instrument is played. There is a lot of pretty music and close ups of hands in this film. I can’t speak to whether it’s well played, but it is impressive. I do love a university story though so there was that to connect to. However the over riding theme of older men forcing David to do things is pretty uncomfortable to watch.

Does it make me love the people? This one is hard for me to pick. I didn’t feel like the film had emotional depth personally. Maybe it was too by the book biopic, maybe it skipped through life events too fast. Maybe it was the fact that this is one of those movies where a Hollywood actor was given an Oscar for portraying a mentally ill person. Does this movie promote sympathy for the mentally unwell, or does it does show one man’s supposed trials as a kind of pageant?

I don’t have much basis for judgement on the quality of the portrayal of the mentally ill or for how realistic this is for David’s life. I understand his sister Margaret’s account of their childhood was very different.

Okay, no. It didn’t make me love the people, but it tried very hard indeed.

Bechdel test: Not that I noticed. It’s possible that one of his sisters speaks to his mother at the start of the film, but the film so closely follows David that I didn’t see anything that wasn’t directly at him. Gillian and Sylvia do talk to each other later in the film but it’s about a man and a relationship so that doesn’t count.

Best line:

David: Perhaps it’s all my fault, perhaps it’s me.
Gillian; You can’t go on blaming yourself for everything that’s happened.
D: No, you can’t blame yourself that’s true. But you can’t blame daddy any more, he’s gone
G: but you’re still here

State of Mind: Yeah, it’s sort of fine. I didn’t enjoy it, the film didn’t connect with me, I just… eh. I won’t watch it again.

Watched movie count


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