Details At A Glance

Category Drama Theatrical Trailer(s) Yes, 2
Rating Other Trailer(s) None
Running Time 102 minutes Commentary Tracks None
RSDL/Flipper No/No Other Extras Cast Biographies (Geoffrey Rush, Noah
Taylor, Armin Mueller-Stahl, Lynne Redgrave)
Region 4   Featurette - "The Shine Phenomenon"
Distributor Roadshow Home Entertainment    
RRP $34.95    

Pan & Scan/Full Frame Pan & Scan MPEG 2.0 
Widescreen Aspect Ratio N/A Dolby Digital 2.0 
16x9 Enhancement N/A Soundtrack Languages English
Theatrical Aspect Ratio 1.85:1    
Macrovision Yes    
Subtitles None    

Plot Synopsis

    Shine is the fictionalized story of the Australian pianist David Helfgott.

    The story begins as we see an apparently lost man finding his way into a cafe. It is clear that he is quite manic. We find out that his name is David Helfgott (Geoffrey Rush). We then cut back to his childhood, where we watch David perform in a music competition, watched by his father, Peter Helfgott (Armin Mueller-Stahl). He does not win this competition, and it quickly becomes apparent that David's father is a very hard and cruel man.

    We then fast forward to David as an adolescent (played by Noah Taylor). David wins the state musical championship and is invited to study in America. He is forbidden to go by his father. We see the rise of David as a pianist, such that he is offered a scholarship to the Royal College of Music in London. Once again, his father forbids him to go, but this time David goes anyhow, causing his father to disown him.

    In London, David enters a Concerto competition, and chooses to play Rachmaninoff's 3rd Concerto, a notoriously difficult piece. We see that David is changing, slowing becoming more and more manic. After the concerto, David suffers a mental breakdown and is admitted to a psychiatric hospital, where we see him receiving shock therapy (ECT). He stops playing the piano.

    David then returns home, but is rejected by his father. He once again ends up in a mental institution, where he spends some considerable time. Eventually, the adult David (Geoffrey Rush) is taken home by one of the workers at the mental institution, who remembers him from better times. This does not quite work out, and David finds himself in a hostel, wandering the streets. We have now come full circle, and have returned to the starting point of the film. David has, however, started playing the piano again.

    One of the cafe owners befriends David and looks after him, in return for which he plays at the cafe. Eventually, she introduces him to a friend of hers, an astrologer named Gillian (Lynne Redgrave). David and Gillian fall in love and marry. David readies himself for a comeback concert, which is given a standing ovation. We then see him at his father's grave, and here the movie ends.

Transfer Quality


    This is a surprisingly good DVD transfer. It is presented in the pan & scan format. Not having seen the movie in its original aspect ratio, I cannot comment on how much we are missing out on because of the pan & scan transfer. As always, I would have preferred a widescreen 16:9 enhanced presentation.

    Early on in the DVD, there are a few problems with washed out colours and poor shadow detail, but by about 20 minutes in, the transfer settles down and is excellent. After the initial problematic scenes, the colours are generally clean and clear throughout the rest of the movie. The colour balance is generally good, though sometimes I felt that the inside scenes were transferred with too much colour saturation and the outside scenes were transferred with too little colour saturation. The video quality is beautifully sharp and clear.

    No MPEG artefacts were seen. There was a minor video glitch at 8:42, but it was only minimally distracting.


    There are two soundtracks encoded on this DVD - MPEG 2.0 and Dolby Digital 2.0. Both are surround encoded, giving a 4 channel matrix mix. The default audio format is MPEG 2.0, which means that you are greeted with stone cold silence through the digital input of your Dolby Digital processor unless it can also handle MPEG decoding until you change the soundtrack to the Dolby Digital track.

    Dialogue was always clear and intelligible. I never found that the music drowned out the dialogue. The music was really outstanding - always clear, and very enjoyable to listen to. I note that David Hirschfelder was responsible for the original scoring for this movie, and I generally enjoy his work. This soundtrack is no exception. The piano playing, including a number of pieces of music played by David Helfgott himself, is superb. Even the actors vaguely approximate what they are supposed to be doing on the piano keyboard, which is often not the case.

    The surrounds were used effectively to add depth to the music and also to add significant ambience at times. Of course, being a matrix mix, the surround channel was monophonic.

    There were several brief audio dropouts on the Dolby Digital track during the opening credits, and one brief audio dropout at 90:31, lasting for a small fraction of a second but otherwise the soundtrack was perfect.


    There is a pleasing selection of extras on this disc, even though navigating the menu to get to them is somewhat awkward. There are text biographies of the four main actors in the movie - Geoffrey Rush, Noah Taylor, Armin Mueller-Stahl and Lynne Redgrave. The theatrical trailer is also on the disc, as is a previously unreleased trailer.

    Rounding off the extras is an approximately 15 minute long featurette entitled The Shine Phenomenon. This consists of interviews with the writer/director (Scott Hicks), and with several of the principal cast members intermingled with clips from the movie.

    The only unfortunate aspect of the extras is the fact that they solely carry a monophonic MPEG audio track. For me this necessitated reverting back to using the analogue outputs of the DVD player to hear these tracks since I don't have an MPEG decoder.


    This movie has enjoyed a great deal of success, both critically and at the box office. Indeed, Geoffrey Rush won the Academy Award for Best Actor for this performance.

    The story is powerful, and will keep you watching until the very end. The acting is superb, particularly Armin Mueller-Stahl as David's father and Noah Taylor as the adolescent David. Geoffrey Rush plays the adult David well, though I wasn't convinced that it was an Academy Award winning performance, particularly given that he doesn't really put in an appearance until well after half-way into the movie. Noah Taylor has more screen time than Geoffrey Rush.

    The music is marvellous and exciting to listen to. The video transfer, once we get past the slightly problematical initial scenes, is excellent.

    The extras are nothing special, but I applaud Village Roadshow for putting them there in the first place, which is more than I can say for Columbia Tristar. Certainly, a 15 minute featurette and two theatrical trailers are a great step in the right direction.

Ratings (out of 5)


Michael Demtschyna
14th September 1998

Review Equipment
DVD Pioneer DV-505, using S-Video output
Display Loewe Art-95 95cm direct view CRT in 4:3 mode, via the S-Video input. Calibrated with the NTSC DVD version of Video Essentials.
Audio Decoder AMC AV-81HT Prologic/THX decoder. Calibrated with the NTSC DVD version of Video Essentials.
Amplification 2 x EA Playmaster 100W per channel stereo amplifiers for Left, Right, Left Rear and Right Rear; Philips 360 50W per channel stereo amplifier for Centre and Subwoofer
Speakers Philips S2000 speakers for Left, Right; Polk Audio CS-100 Centre Speaker; Apex AS-123 speakers for Left Rear and Right Rear; Yamaha B100-115SE subwoofer