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Essay On The Film, "Shine"... How Film Codes Shape Audience Response In The Exposition.

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In the exposition to Shine, we have a strong sense of the dominance of David Helfgott's father in David's early life. Our sympathies almost certainly lie with David. How does the director, Scott Hicks, achieve this? From the up-close-and-personal scenes with the adult David at the beginning of the film, our attention is focused on him. When Hicks takes us back to David's childhood, we are aware that David is the focus but Peter Helfgott's presence is stifling. He dominates every scene. Hicks conveys this dominance through the use of audio, symbolic, technical and written codes.

Audio codes include dialogue, sound effects and music. Through these codes Hicks establishes the relationship between father and son. The dialogue demonstrates Peter Helfgott's obsession with winning: "Always win", "We're going to win". Hicks also emphasises the importance of this aspect of the father's character through the sisters' dialogue:

"Did he win or lose, Margaret?"

"He lost. Now we'll cop it."

This dialogue also provides us with a clear picture of the overbearing father and his submissive son. Peter Helfgott answers for his son, tells him what to think and makes choices for him. We learn this from the dialogue.

The film opens with the sounds of a storm. We are already being positioned to expect trouble and conflict. Hicks follows this up with a rather gloomy picture of David's home where sounds are muffled and loud noises frowned upon. We hear the irritation in David's father's voice. We get the impression that it would not take much to make Peter Helfgott snap, that there is so much anger and hurt bubbling just beneath the surface. He seems all too likely to lash out and hurt those around him. We sense a storm is brewing.

We know that music is important. In the exposition we are first introduced to the recurring story of the violin which was broken. We hear music in the background, we hear David perform an obviously difficult piece of Chopin and we hear his first tentative effort at Rachmaninoff. We hear the gramophone playing Rachmaninoff and we see the reverence with which Peter Helfgott listens. "One day you will play it and make me very proud", Peter says to his son. The challenge has been thrown down. David's eventual triumph is foreshadowed, but we sense from the opening sequence that it may come at a high price.

Symbolic codes ensure that things have greater significance than just their literal meaning in Hick's movie. For example, Hicks uses weather conditions to establish mood and as a visual and aural representation of David's situation. It is raining when David "comes in out of the cold" to the warmth offered by Sylvia at the restaurant. It is raining when Peter Helfgott and David make their way to Mr Rosen's. David is taken in but his father is left out in the cold. We see David at the mercy of the two adults, each with an agenda, and wonder if this small boy will have the inner strength to survive.

Doors are also important in conveying character and conflict in this film. Doors opening and closing are like opportunities arising and slipping away. The contrast between the Helfgotts' door and Mr Rosen's grand edifice is marked. Visitors are kept out of the Helfgott home and family members are kept in, emphasising the sense of Peter Helfgott's influence and power over his family.

The game of chess highlights the unstable relationship between father and son. The father encourages the son as an opponent on one level, but completely dominates and crushes him on another. Hicks highlights the tension, the strategies and the importance of moves by both players in this brief scene.

Technical codes play an important part in positioning us to see all that happens to the young David, against a backdrop of a gentle adult who has somehow been damaged. The adult David in the opening scenes is not violent or threatening or nasty. He is "strange", but he is also outgoing and affectionate, combining a child-like naivety with more profound social commentary - a mix of innocence and intelligence. Hicks, through the technique of flashback (or

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