Shine
Directed by Scott Hicks, the drama Shine is a formalist masterpiece. Writing the
piece as a fiction film gave the author license to alter the events in the story
of David Helfgott, a real musician who had a nervous breakdown on his way to
magnificence. Geoffrey Rush's portrayal gave life and believability to David,
and Rush won an Academy Award for his realistic method acting. He had not only
to provide depth to the character, but had additional physical demands placed
upon him due to David's irregular speech and his tendency to twitch. Both
setting and costume are unobtrusive, allowing the audience to focus on the
characters rather than their adornments. The formalistic style allows for
manipulation of time, and the film begins in medias reas, jumping back and then
foreward as it progresses. The structure is highly fragmented, and much of the
action is cyclical. Every element of film composition is elegantly intertwined
in this picture, mingling together to form connections and patterns out of
seemingly separated things. The film opens with a close shot side-view of the
protagonist's face as he smokes a cigarette, smoke drifting up from his lips and
into the surrounding darkness. He is talking, but that soon is faded into the
sound of rainwater. The rain becomes visible as it replaces David's face in a
fade technique, and David enters the frame and walks from the right of the
screen to its left, suggesting change and action. He arrives at a restaurant
window, peers in, and falls into a strange conversation with the employees. This
is now the chronological middle of the story, and, while common in Medieval
literature, is a highly unorthodox place to begin a picture. Though this film is
more easily classified as a formalist piece, it has outstanding avant garde
elements throughout. The transition from the restaurant to the car is masked by
the dialogue covering it. Since the acting overrides editing as a way to convey
meaning in Shine, Hicks employs many sound motifs to ease editing transitions
and make them seem more natural. As the discussion fades and the rain again
takes auditory prominence, the scene darkens and the water becomes the clapping
of many hands. In this way David eases into a flashback of his childhood. He
walks small and silent to the stage for his first competition, and a long shot
is used to emphasise the fright and anxiety of the boy. Other transitory devices
include David's glasses, his hands on the piano keys, and sometimes a change in
his costume, such as when he first plays the restaurant in rags. When he stands
to receive his applause, he is dressed much more nicely, now an employee of the
establishment. Hicks also employs classical cutting techniques, which depend on
the content curve (the moment when the audience has had a chance to assimilate
all information presented but not analyse or become bored with it) to determine
breaks in scenes. One example of this technique is after David presents his
professor with the Rack III and asks "Am I mad enough?" The scene is
cut before the professor answers, and the following scene is the professor
intensively training David on the very piece. Cutting for continuity is commonly
used to condense time while maintaining a sense of the actions taking place
between two major events. Preparations for one of David's concerts are edited in
such a manner, making a ritual out of the ordeal while not wasting too much time
on it. Besides editing, relationships can be suggested through film devices such
as proxemic ranges, angles, and reaction shots. After David loses his first
competition, his father stares at the ground while walking well ahead of the
boy. His father is disappointed, and David is rather unaware of any problem as
he innocently plays hopscotch as he follows. The reactions of David's father and
his instructor are shown through parallel editing when the announcement of the

National Champion does not coincide with their hopes for David. Both are
displeased, but Mr. Helfgott simmers with barely restrained anger. Since he was
denied music as a child, he forces it upon David and demands greatness from him.

Later in the film, David is filmed standing on the second floor of a library
balcony as his father calls to him from below. The low angle used when the scene
is shot from the father's point of view suggests his decrease in power and his
growing respect for his son. Moments before they walked down the hall to the
room, the father's arm wrapped protectively and