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Shine: Meaning of Life and Human Condition Essay

Shine highlights three major human conditions throughout the movie, the need for companionship, the unbroken human spirits and human’s tendency to reflect on the past. From these human conditions, scenes in Shine and use of camera techniques we learn how to approach situations and downhills in life and to rediscover and give purpose to life rather than give up and accept defeat. David’s isolation and loneliness started from when he was a child, always pushed into the limelight but gaining no real support nor affection from either parents.

The loneliness is by use of camera angles, long shots of David with no one around, high angle shots ? minimalising David so that he appears to be small and vulnerable. The use of shadows, silhouettes and darkness are also used to create an isolated, cold family environment. There are small gestures throughout the movie that create the lonely feeling such as rain, the sombre music in background and sometimes foreground and panoramic views of David gazing out.

Perhaps the most distinct scene, where we truly acknowledge David’s desperation to be accepted and welcomed into society was the one of him sitting on a public bench watching a couple jog past. The long shot of the couple and David trailing behind shows that everyone has a companion but he has no one. The scene is accompanied by rain and dramatic music, furthermore creating an isolated environment. After David’s breakdown, the feeling of loneliness was greater and often scenes of David on the outside, gazing into some room where people are happily conversing.

These scenes are usually followed by close up of David’s face, showing grief and determination to be part of that community. David’s rejection and lack of companions carry on with him to the boarding house, where the manager locks piano and doesn’t allow him to play, however as he finds companionship within Sylvia and Gillian, they help him to become a happier, livelier person. These scenes are proof that the human condition, the need for companionship is an essential part of each of us. Without which, we live a bland, meaningless life.

The unbroken human spirit could not be more emphasised in this movie. The central scene illustrating this was the scene of David leaving his home. His meaning of life had become to be a successful pianist and not even his dominating, abusive father could stop him. The threats of Peter to excommunicate his son was not enough to keep David back and finally we see the first breakthrough made by David, defying his father’s wishes and the scene of birds flocking out of a building demonstrates the “breakthrough”.

Human spirit was the major component motivating David to move to a foreign country and study there, though he does pay dearly through lack of care in hygiene, social skills, mentality and ability to love anything other than his piano. Instead he focuses all his attention on his “meaning of life”, perfecting his playing and more precisely mastering Rachmaninoff’s 3rd concerto. Although he has played Rachmaninoff many times and always given him an disappointing result, his belief in himself and his willingness to work day and night, his human spirit could not be suppressed nor dampened.

On the contrary, it made him more determined to succeed, here we have inspirational and uplifting music. Towards the end of the movie, we see David with a serious mental illness and is not allowed to play the piano by doctors orders. His purpose in life had been shattered yet slowly, he defies all odds and begins to play the piano again. David refuses to accept his fate and we see him playing in a concert at a much older age, proving not only that age is no limit but also the amount of mental strength involved to come back onto centre stage after such a tremendous life-changing breakdown.

In Shine, David breaks all the barriers although he makes huge sacrifices, he doesn’t leave empty handed. The death of his father and his regain of piano skills has reunited him with his family and fame. The scenes show the strong, intense powers of human spirits, its positives and negatives and the balance we must achieve between the head and the heart to gain the better of both worlds. The movie starts in the present but quickly shifts to the past as part of the human condition is their tendency to reflect on the past.

This part of the human condition has greatly affected David, as he, much like his father, can’t let go of the past. We are presented with two extremes of David’s reflections on his childhood, his success and mentors and his father. Ben, later David’s piano teacher, is first introduced to us as a judge at a local competition. David’s piano career begins from that point, as his reflections started from there. Although Ben was always arguing with Peter, he could not overpower or influence him in any way and this was shown by the physical height difference between the two men and Peter’s large over powering voice.

Many shots were also taken from relatively high angles, to minimalise Peter so the audience can clearly tell who is the dominating of the two. In the reflections, David is always repeating, echoing his father’s words in a trusting way where he believed every word he said was true and sacred. We hear the same lines again ” David, you are a lucky boy” and ” no one can love you like me” but the older wiser David reluctantly repeats them in an untruthful tone. From this we can tell David, who has been stuck in his childhood reflections for so long has finally let go and moved on with his life.

The music played in the reflections also indicates to the audience David’s acknowledgement and ability to differentiate between the good and bad. When he spent time with Katherine, the music was light and peaceful yet when he was at home, the music was dark and suspenseful. From David’s reflections, we learn not to dwell in the past, but rather learn from the mistakes as he has and move on. This component of the human condition enables us to self-correct and rediscover ourselves and people affecting our lives.


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