A Parable For Our Times

"Life is cruel," the elder Helfgott tells his son: "The weak get crushed like insects." Against such a burdened and often violent expectation of life, the young David Helfgott valiantly struggles to excel at the concert piano, win the approval of the family patriarch, and yet find his adult self. The result is Shine, an independent Australian film delighting and astonishing audiences around the world.

Shine adapts the biography of a child prodigy growing up in an immigrant family in Perth, Australia, during the 1950s. It illuminates a tender struggle full of warmth and humor as well as shadows, as David Helfgott transcends the limits of poverty and domination. Says writer Jan Sardi, "When you’re dealing with someone’s life you tread that fine line between events that are known to have happened and your own creative license, because the film must be entertaining."

Entertaining the story is. The magic ingredients of Shine include many memorable performances: Noah Taylor and Geoffrey Rush (winner of a Golden Globe for his performance) play the young and mature Helfgott. Armin Mueller-Stahl has a pivotal role as the father, and Sir John Gielgud gives a warm performance as Helfgott’s professor. Jan Sardi contributes an excellent script, with striking cinematography and direction by Geoffrey Simpson and Scott Hicks, respectively. Of course the music is a treat, played by the real-life David Helfgott, whose story this movie chronicles.

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Sojourners Magazine March-April 1997
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