Medicine And The Media

Mental illness as metaphor, yet again

BMJ 1997; 314 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.314.7074.153 (Published 11 January 1997) Cite this as: BMJ 1997;314:153
  1. Simon Wessely
  1. academic department of psychological medicine, King's College School of Medicine and Dentistry, London

    Shine On general release

    Shine is the apparently true story of David Helfgott, a child prodigy pianist whose career came to an abrupt halt when he developed a severe mental illness. After many years lost in the world of asylums, he was rescued by the love of a woman and is once again performing to ecstatic Australian audiences. Scott Hicks, previously known for his documentaries, has produced a feature film of Helfgott's life that has been wooing critics and audiences alike and-because it combines a difficult subject (mental illness), a great sound track (Rachmaninov), and a feel good ending-is apparently a “dead cert” for an Oscar.

    I hated it.

    Granted, the film is a tour de force in many respects. The casting is impressive- the film uses three actors to play David as a youth, adolescent, and adult, but you become aware of that only in the credits. It has two masterly emotional climaxes-the first when David produces a definitive Rachmaninov Third …

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