Shining Through
Theatrical release poster
Directed byDavid Seltzer
Screenplay byDavid Seltzer
Based onShining Through
by Susan Isaacs
Produced by
  • Carol Baum
  • Sandy Gallin
  • Zvi Howard Rosenman
  • David Seltzer
CinematographyJan de Bont
Edited byCraig McKay
Music byMichael Kamen
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 a 1992 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.


In the present (1992), elderly Linda Voss is interviewed by a BBC documentary team about her experiences before and during World War II. She explains that, growing up in New York City as a young woman of Irish/German Jewish parentage, she always dreamed of visiting Berlin and finding her family members there. In 1940, Linda applies for a job as a secretary with a major law firm, but is rejected because she did not graduate from a prestigious women's college. As she leaves, however, Linda impresses the supervisor by demonstrating that she speaks fluent German, and she is hired as a translator for Ed Leland, a humorless attorney. She soon becomes suspicious of his strange behavior and mysterious whereabouts, and begins to suspect that he is actually a spy. However, 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 on very short notice. Despite knowing little about intelligence work, except from movies, 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.

Ed and Linda travel to Switzerland, where he hands her over to master spy Konrad Friedrichs, who takes her by train across the border into Germany, to Berlin, where he hides her in his house and introduces her to his niece, Margrete von Eberstein, a socialite also working as an Allied agent. Linda assumes the identity of Lina Albrecht, and is planted as a cook in the household of Horst Drescher, a social-climbing Nazi officer. He is throwing an important party, but she arrives too late to prepare the food properly, causing the dinner to be a disaster. Drescher angrily fires her. Walking dejectedly on the dark street, alone and after curfew, Linda chances to encounter a guest from the dinner, officer Franze-Otto Dietrich, who is charmed by her and mistakenly assumes she must already have had a security check. Dietrich is a widower and takes Linda/"Lina" on as a nanny to his two children. Between her duties as a servant, she searches Dietrich's house for confidential papers on the V1, which he is also working on. She intends to photograph them, but can find nothing.

Meanwhile, Ed, sick with worry about Linda since her disappearance from Drescher's party, suddenly chances to see her in a newsreel of Hitler in a parade in Berlin. Ed's agents identify Dietrich as the man standing next to Linda in the film, and Ed heads to Germany to rescue her. Because he does not speak German, he assumes the identity of a wounded high-ranking German officer, who has had his throat injured and cannot speak. He tracks down Linda and tells her she must leave with him immediately, but Linda reveals that she has located her Jewish cousins, excitedly telling Ed and Margrete how nearby they are. She demands Ed give her another day to visit them and give them hope. The next day, with the children in her care, Linda tracks down her relatives' hiding place in the city, but she finds it empty and ransacked, as they have just been captured. When an Allied air raid suddenly hits, Linda has to run for cover with the children and protect them. Back at the house, the frightened boy inadvertently reveals the existence of a hidden room in Dietrich's basement. Linda sneaks down there that night and finds and surreptitiously photographs Dietrich's top secret V-1 rocket blueprints. Dietrich has fallen in love with Linda, and invites her to the opera. While there, Linda's cover is blown when Margrete's mother recognizes her, believing Linda to be a friend of her daughter's from college. Dietrich is heartbroken and, once back at his house, Linda sees him loading his gun.

Fearing for her life, Linda flees across the city, still in her ballgown, and finds sanctuary with Margrete. After Margrete suggests Linda take a bath, she uses the pay phone on the street to report in to her superiors, but Linda catches her. Margrete returns to the apartment and shoots Linda. Margrete reveals that she is a double agent, who betrayed the agent Linda replaced, causing his death, and that she gave away the location of Linda's Jewish cousins to the Gestapo. The two struggle and Linda, although wounded, overpowers Margrete and kills her. Linda hides in the laundry chute, escaping the German forces who raid Margrete's apartment.

Badly wounded, Linda is found by Ed and Friedrichs, who take her to the railway station. Ed and Linda travel to the Swiss-German border. Linda is unconscious from blood loss, barely alive, and Ed's travel papers have expired. Ed's mute 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 shoots and 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 successfully bombed the V1 installation. Ed then walks out to join the interview, and they reveal they have been happily married ever since.



The film was first announced in the fall of 1988, just after the publication of the novel. It was to be written and directed by Seltzer, produced at Columbia Pictures and would likely star Debra Winger.[3] By late 1989, just after the fall of the Berlin Wall, Seltzer and producer Rosenman were reported to be scouting potential locations in East Berlin, Warsaw, Kraków, and Budapest, and Meg Ryan and Michelle Pfeiffer were reported to be top contenders for the lead role.[4] The production moved soon after to Twentieth Century Fox, and in February 1990, it was announced that Melanie Griffith had been cast.[5] After permission was secured 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 over 100 miles (160 km) to Leipzig at the end of October to shoot scenes in the Leipzig Hauptbahnhof terminus, built in 1915 and the largest in Europe. This was prior to the building's modernization by the Deutsche Bahn.[6]

The finale, set at a border crossing and involving a period train, was shot in Maria Elend, Carinthia, Austria, in November 1990.[7]

The New York City and Washington scenes at the beginning of the film were shot in and around London and at nearby Pinewood Studios.[8] 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.[9] The film holds a 41% rating on Rotten Tomatoes based on 17 reviews.[10]

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."[11]

Janet Maslin wrote in The New York Times that the first three-quarters of Susan Isaacs's 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's savvy novel. Even stranger than that is the film's insistence on jettisoning the most enjoyable parts of the story."[12]

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.[13]


  1. ^ "Shining Through (15)". British Board of Film Classification. February 12, 1992. Retrieved September 24, 2019.
  2. ^ a b "Shining Through". Box Office Mojo. January 31, 1992. Retrieved November 2, 2018.
  3. ^ Gelder, Lawrence (September 30, 1988). "At The Movies: Seltzer's Next Project". The New York Times. Retrieved September 24, 2019.
  4. ^ Beck, Marilyn (December 18, 1989). "Ryan, Pfeiffer Take Shine to 'Shining'". New York Daily News. p. 33.
  5. ^ "'Working Girl' Has Career Change; She's a Spy". Los Angeles Times. February 22, 1990.
  6. ^ "Das Märchen von der Gewaltspirale in Leipzig" [The fairytale of the spiral of violence in Leipzig]. Antifa in Leipzig (in German). January 26, 2016.
  7. ^ "Vor 20 Jahren: Ende der Drehrbeiten für "Shinning Through"" [20 years ago: End of filming for "Shinning Through"] (in German). Klagenfurt Cinema Museum. November 15, 2010.
  8. ^ Longsdorf, Amy (September 28, 1990). "Griffith 'Goes Average' With A Vengeance". The Morning Call. Allentown, Penn.
  9. ^ Wilson, John. "1992 Archive". Golden Raspberry Awards. Archived from the original on April 18, 2001. Retrieved November 2, 2018 – via
  10. ^ "Shining Through". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved August 17, 2021.
  11. ^ Ebert, Roger (January 31, 1992). "Review: Shining Through". Chicago Sun-Times. Retrieved November 2, 2018 – via
  12. ^ Maslin, Janet (February 28, 1992). "Reviews/Film: Spying and Strudel As Part of War Effort". The New York Times. Retrieved November 2, 2018.
  13. ^ Wilson, John (September 3, 2007). The Official Razzie Movie Guide: Enjoying the Best of Hollywood's Worst. Grand Central Publishing. ISBN 978-0446510080.

Awards Preceded byHudson Hawk Razzie Award for Worst Picture 13th Golden Raspberry Awards Succeeded byIndecent Proposal Preceded byNothing but Trouble Stinker Award for Worst Picture 1992 Stinkers Bad Movie Awards Succeeded bySliver