…and the quest to see everything

Overreading Colour! Shine!

This is stupid. Let’s begin.

Red is used in Shine, denoting public arenas where adolescent David Helfgott (Noah Taylor), well…shines. The curtains of a stage where he plays and is hailed a prodigy. He meets Isaac Stern. He’s supposed to tell Stern, through his stage dad Peter (Armin Mueller-Stahl)’s coaching, that he’ll give anything for success. Surprisingly Daddy wants to thwart David’s education, offered to him by Stern himself. The colour is also used in a library scene, meeting a girl but leaves her out of obligation. Red marks the boy’s desires, repressed yet encouraged.

Humour me as I try to combine both pink and orange in symbolism, the two complementing each other, used on different times in young David’s life. The former, as you can see in the still, is the girl’s room where he can bond with his sisters and tell him about others who encourage his dreams of studying in America. The latter in a more minor moment, as he wakes up after a drunken night out in the town, wearing an orange boa feathered scarf, one eye-opening to his new world in England. Those colours mark freedom for David.

There’s a lot of green around Peter. The vegetation in his shack’s front porch, tall to protect his family from being taken by the outside world and the backyard grass, where he can watch over them. Except for the girl’s room, most of the house has green wallpaper, including the piano room where he teaches David, in the bathroom and in David’s bedroom. In the still, he’s telling David that hating one’s own father is the worst thing in the world. The colour in the interior scenes feel masculine, less of a stabilizing sense but more drab, weathered and gloomy.

White has its double meanings. We see it’s strongest manifestations around David’s music professor Cecil Parkes (John Gielgud), the latter’s collection of marble representations of body parts of the greatest musicians including Rachmaninoff’s beautiful hands. The piano keys themselves suggest the classicism that the music suggests and requires for the people who love it and want it. It’s an intellectual, genius’ colour. As the cliché goes, genius borders with insanity, the same colour of David’s hospital gowns.

Black. An internal colour, where David remembers the music and simultaneously forgets it. His hair that’s perfectly combed only to be dishevelled with sweat. His enlarged pupils. Cecil warns him not to let the music engulf him. This shot at first didn’t make sense, David’s head being vertical makes me feel like he never falls. Maybe that’s the point, or that this way we can see that there’s more air space above him. How much he’s lost into the space of the music.

Gold and yellow are closer relatives than pink and orange. The first pair, for both young and old David (Geoffrey Rush), mark domestic spaces outside his home, places where women dominate. The first belongs to David’s intellectual mentor. She’s the first person he tells about any scholarship, the golden brown effect coming from her eclectic possessions and personality. The yellow comes in as wallpaper on one of the institutions where David is admitted, a freer space where mentally challenged people can relax.

Lastly, there’s blue, shining through the windows of the lounge where he starts playing again. And with his sheet music floating his wife Gillian’s (Lynn Regdrave) pool, having to fetch him and sheet music from the pool. Blue spaces seem controlled, even modern. They represent his second birth towards performing music and the support he needs to do so, and again he gets that support from female characters. But unlike his younger self, he’s ready this time.

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