Shining Through

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Shining Through
Poster of the movie Shining Through.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed byDavid Seltzer
Produced by
  • Carol Baum
  • Sandy Gallin
  • Zvi Howard Rosenman
  • David Seltzer
Screenplay byDavid Seltzer
Based onShining Through
by Susan Isaacs
Music byMichael Kamen
CinematographyJan de Bont
Edited byCraig McKay
Distributed by20th Century Fox
Release date
  • January 31, 1992 (1992-01-31) (USA)
Running time
132 minutes[1]
  • United Kingdom
  • United States
  • English
  • German
Box office$43.8 million[2]

Shining Through is an American World War II drama film which was released to United States cinemas on January 31, 1992,[2] written and directed by David Seltzer and starring Michael Douglas and Melanie Griffith, with Liam Neeson, Joely Richardson and John Gielgud in supporting roles. It is based on the novel of the same name by Susan Isaacs. The original music score was composed by Michael Kamen. Its tagline is: "He needed to trust her with his secret. She had to trust him with her life."


In the present, elderly Linda Voss (Melanie Griffith) is interviewed about her experiences in World War II. In 1940, as a young woman of Irish/German Jewish parentage, Linda applies for a job as a secretary with a New York City law firm, but is rejected because she did not graduate from a prestigious women's college. She can speak German fluently, however, and is hired as the translator to Ed Leland (Michael Douglas), a humorless attorney. She soon suspects that he is actually a spy, and they eventually become lovers. After the attack on Pearl Harbor, when America joins the war with the Allies, Ed emerges as a colonel in the OSS. Linda accompanies him to Washington D.C., but he is suddenly posted away, leaving her alone and devastated. Assigned to work in the War Department, she hears nothing of Ed until one evening in a night club, when he reappears with an attractive female officer. Reluctant to resume their affair, he does re-employ her.

Ed and his colleagues need to replace a murdered agent in Berlin at very short notice. Despite knowing little about intelligence work, Linda volunteers and Ed is persuaded by her fluent German and passion to contribute to the war effort. Her mission is to bring back data on the V-1 flying bomb. They travel to Switzerland, where he hands her over to master spy Konrad Friedrichs (John Gielgud), who introduces her to his niece, Margrete von Eberstein (Joely Richardson), a socialite also working as an Allied agent. Linda is planted as a cook in the household of a social-climbing Nazi officer before an important party, but she arrives too late to prepare the food properly and is let go. She chances to encounter a guest from the dinner, officer Franz-Otto Dietrich (Liam Neeson), who is charmed by her and mistakenly believes she has already had a security check. He takes her on as a nanny to his two children. Linda searches Dietrich's house for confidential papers on the V1, intending to photograph them, but can find nothing. She also locates her Jewish cousins and reveals the location they are hiding at to Margrete. With the children in her care, Linda tracks down her relatives' hiding place, but they have been captured. An air raid causes the frightened children to reveal the existence of a hidden room in Dietrich's basement, in which Linda finds and secretly photographs his top secret papers.

When Dietrich invites her to the opera, Linda's cover is blown by Margrete's mother, who believes her to be a friend of her daughter's from college. Linda flees from the Dietrich home and seeks sanctuary with Margrete, only to find that she is a double agent who betrayed Linda's cousins. Margrete shoots her, wounding her, but she overpowers Margrete and kills her. Linda slips down the laundry chute, escaping the German officers raiding Margrete's apartment. Badly wounded, Linda is found by Ed, who has come to Berlin in the guise of a high-ranking German officer. Pretending to be mute as a wounded war veteran, as he does not speak German, he takes her to the railway station, and they travel to the Swiss-German border. Linda is barely alive, and his travel papers have expired. Ed's act fails to sway the border guards, forcing him to shoot his way out. Carrying Linda, he struggles towards the border. The German sniper guarding it wounds him twice, but he gets himself and Linda across before collapsing. Back in the present, Linda reveals that while she and Ed recovered from their injuries in a Swiss hospital, the microfilm of the secret German documents was retrieved from a hiding place inside her glove, and the Allies bombed the V1 installation.



The production had intended to shoot in Budapest, but the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 made it possible to shoot the film on location in East Germany. The majority of it was shot in Berlin and Potsdam starting in October 1990, just as Germany was being reunified. Studio work was done at the DEFA Studios, the state film studios of East Germany.

Because all of Berlin's great train stations were destroyed in World War II, the production traveled some distance to Leipzig to shoot scenes in the Leipzig Hauptbahnhof terminus, built in 1915 and the largest in Europe. This was before its massive modernization by the Deutsche Bahn.

The finale, set at a border crossing and involving a period train, was shot in Klagenfurt, Austria.

The New York City and Washington scenes at the beginning of the film were shot in and around London and at nearby Pinewood Studios. Locations included the Old Royal Naval College in Greenwich, Hammersmith, and St Pancras Station, which doubled for Zurich Station for a brief sequence set in Switzerland.


The film was neither a commercial nor a critical success. The Razzie Awards declared Shining Through the Worst Picture of 1992, with Melanie Griffith being voted Worst Actress (also for her performance in A Stranger Among Us) and David Seltzer for Worst Director. It also received nominations for Michael Douglas as Worst Actor (also for Basic Instinct) and for Seltzer in the category of Worst Screenplay.[3] The film holds a 44% rating on Rotten Tomatoes based on 16 reviews.[4]

Roger Ebert wrote in the Chicago Sun-Times, "I know it's only a movie, and so perhaps I should be willing to suspend my disbelief, but Shining Through is such an insult to the intelligence that I wasn't able to do that. Here is a film in which scene after scene is so implausible that the movie kept pushing me outside and making me ask how the key scenes could possibly be taken seriously."[5]

Janet Maslin wrote in The New York Times that the first three-quarters of Susan Isaacs' book "never made it to the screen," including Linda Voss's love affair and marriage to her New York law firm boss, John Berringer. "David Seltzer's film version of Shining Through manages to lose also the humor of Susan Isaacs' savvy novel. Even stranger than that is the film's insistence on jettisoning the most enjoyable parts of the story."[6]

The film is listed in Golden Raspberry Award founder John Wilson's book The Official Razzie Movie Guide as one of The 100 Most Enjoyably Bad Movies Ever Made.[7]


  1. ^ "Shining Through (15)". British Board of Film Classification. February 12, 1992. Retrieved July 24, 2015.
  2. ^ a b "Shining Through". Box Office Mojo. January 31, 1992. Retrieved November 2, 2018.
  3. ^ "1992 Archive". Golden Raspberry Awards. Archived from the original on April 18, 2001. Retrieved November 2, 2018 – via
  4. ^ "Shining Through". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved November 2, 2018.
  5. ^ Ebert, Roger (January 31, 1992). "Review: Shining Through". Chicago Sun-Times. Retrieved November 2, 2018 – via
  6. ^ Maslin, Janet (February 28, 1992). "Reviews/Film: Spying and Strudel As Part of War Effort". The New York Times. Retrieved November 2, 2018.
  7. ^ Wilson, John (2005). The Official Razzie Movie Guide: Enjoying the Best of Hollywood's Worst. Grand Central Publishing. ISBN 0-446-69334-0.

External links[edit]

Preceded by
Hudson Hawk
Razzie Award for Worst Picture
13th Golden Raspberry Awards
Succeeded by
Indecent Proposal