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(Review originally written at 23 July 2008)

"Shine" is one of the great movies of the '90's, that became an unexpected success in 1996 and was the movie that earned Geoffrey Rush his as of yet only Oscar win and got the movie 6 more Oscar nominations, including best director and best picture.


The movie shows how Australian born David Helfgott gets formed and influenced in his early life by his demanding and abusive father (wonderfuly played by Armin Mueller-Stahl), who is in strict control of the family. He asks a lot from the already very unstable David and influences ever step in his life, probably also to make up for his own shortcomings in life. He's an unpredictable character with two faces and you can really feel the fear he puts in the family and David in particular. Things go worse and worse mentally for David as he grows up and eventually goes to study in England at the Royal College of Music. He has a breakdown which for once and for all definitely labels him as a psychotic man. His personality could definitely been described as crazy.


He gets perfectly and beautifully portrayed by Geoffrey Rush, who truly deserved the Oscar he received for his role. But in fact he is only in the movie for perhaps halve the running time. For "Shine" uses lots of flashbacks about Helfgott's early life and as a young adult, when he is being played by different actors. One of those actors is the know very well known Noah Taylor, who also plays the part fine. Also really impressive is Armin Mueller-Stahl. He doesn't usually have very big parts in English spoken movies but in this movie he plays one of his bigger and more interesting roles. It's a true memorable performance from him and he also truly deserved his Oscar nomination for this movie. I keep thinking it's a great shame he got discovered so late by the big-money movie industry, since he is already close to 80 by now, which should mean that his biggest and greatest roles should already be behind him by now. But who knows, some actors just go on forever, till a very old age. Take for instance John Gielgud, who also stars in this movie. At the time he was already well over 90 years old and he would continue to play on in many more great and big productions, till his death in 2000. Some actors are just truly born as actors. It simply is in their blood and they can't stop playing.


Moments in Helfgott's life are never portrayed too long but also never too short. This means that the story always comes right to the point and doesn't dance around it. The movie becomes very effective because of this and on top of that gets presented with a good steady pace. It's a reason why this movie is really one of the better autobiographic movies ever made. It's a really great directed and told movie, from Scott Hicks.


But of course like every good biopic, the movie doesn't only presents facts and some things are altered, in order to enhance the movie and its story or characters. For instance right after this movie the real Helfgott became a true full God, while in all honesty David Helfgott is a great piano player but just not the genius one as portrayed in this movie. It's kind of like the piano man. The mysterious mute man who was found in Kent England in 2005. It was said he was a brilliant piano player, while in fact he just simply knew how to play a piano well but was by no means a great or professional player. Just like David Helfgott, it are just the unusual circumstances and character personalities that makes people say they are geniuses, rather than it's an objective reflection of their actual qualities. But like I said, this isn't anything unusual to do for a biopic, to play around a little with the facts and it certainly is no objection when it actually enhances the movie. "Shine" truly benefits from its approach and story.


I also enjoyed David Hirschfelder nice little musical score (also Oscar-nominated). Of course the movie also benefits from it's classical compositions that are being featured. It's of course a very musical movie, since it's about the life of a musician but you really don't need a classic musical lover to enjoy or to appreciate this movie though.


The movie ends quite abrupt and perhaps not satisfying enough but this is of course simply due to the fact that David Helfgot is still alive and active today. Who knows, perhaps they could had better waited for another 30 years to come up with a movie about his life, for who knows what more strange and beautiful moments his life shall know.


Perhaps it's not the most stylish or greatest made movie but the combination of the interesting unique story, pace and main character (and of course Geoffrey Rush his performance of him) are what makes this movie such a basically flawless (you simply just forgive the movie for its flaws and shortcomings while you're watching it) and captivating one to watch.


10/10


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About Frank Veenstra

Watches movies...writes about them...and that's it for now.
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