Shame

Director: Steve McQueen
Starring: Michael Fassbender, Carey Mulligan and James Badge Dale
Released: Jan 13, 2012

SEX!
Now that we’ve got your attention, watch this tastefully directed film about the harrowing effects of sex addiction, featuring Michael Fassbender and Carey Mulligan in top acting form.

The plot:
Brandon Sullivan (Fassbender) has a seemingly well organised and luxurious life style. He has his own modern apartment in New York city and a well-paying office job. In his private moments, however, he indulges in shameful sexual acts and pitiful masturbation. He hides this side of himself from the public, maintaining a high-profile at work and in his social life. However, when his sister, Sissy (Mulligan), comes to live with him temporarily, she threatens to expose his shameful side.

The very first thing you see in Shame is Michael Fassbender lying naked in bed, looking pretty helpless and worn. This one shot almost effortlessly lays the foundation for the entire film. Lying amongst expensive looking cotton sheets, it’s a scene that would generally be associated with a romance, or romantic comedy. But the lingering upon his expression of grief quickly steers the audience far and away from that misconception. This is not film to be tackled lightly.

The director takes many liberties with scenes containing nudity, using them primarily for shock value. Very little is left to the imagination, especially in terms of the Fass. However, despite the excessive nudity, the film never feels like smut. Being a film centred on sex, it is unusual for it to be completely devoid of all sensuality. With the exception of one awkward scene, sex is portrayed as bestial, frustrating and shameful.

So much of this is due to Fassbender himself, who spends a great deal of the film in silence, which in turn speaks volumes. In an early scene, he stares pointedly at an attractive girl on the subway. Subtle glances and twitches betray his intentions, making a seemingly innocent glance sleazy and ominous. Fassbender does well to team up with McQueen here. Here we have a director who recognises the strength of his cast and isn’t afraid to linger wordlessly on their faces to get his message across.

This is apparent in one particular scene with Carey Mulligan in which she sings a slow rendition of ‘New York, New York’. The tempo is reduced to a crawl, and there are many agonising pauses throughout. This entire scene takes place in one shot, never shying away from Mulligan’s expression of longing. We feel an inexplicable sympathy for her character at this stage that never really leaves us. Which is impressive, as Sissy’s character comes across as quite innocent and carefree for the most part, despite her brother’s constant jibes and criticisms.

The interactions between these two characters acts as the central crux of the film. Whereas Brandon’s shameful private life has always remained apart from his public life, Sissy arrival causes them to converge. This is expressed beautifully through use of visuals, and also a truly exceptional soundtrack that complements the film’s theme perfectly.

The modern and hygienic settings of the first half of the film are flipped over to reveal a seedy underbelly in the second half, drenched in damp colours and dark scenes. In one exceptional tracking shot, we see Brandon jogging at night, while remaining in the same position onscreen. This serves as an accurate summation of the whole film, which focuses on his attempts to tackle his addiction.

Overall:
Shame is a film that takes a lot of risks that, luckily, pay off well. It is beautifully shot, well written and boasts Oscar-winning performances from its two main stars. Pulling no punches, it can be difficult material to watch at times. However, it is nonetheless wholly rewarding.

Rating: 9/10

Don’t even think of giving me advice on my sex life, Brandon. Not from you.” – Sissy

Shamelessly Awful Facts:

  • The scene in which Carey Mulligan sings is in real-time and was shot at 3 am. Michael Fassbender had never heard her sing before and his reaction is completely genuine.
  • I personally found it very difficult not to visualize the ending of the movie Shane, in which a young boy yells “Shane!” at a departing cowboy. Kind of hoped it would end with Carey Mulligian yelling “Shame!” at the Fass, but it was not to be.
  • A fellow film buff referred to this film as the Irish-American Psycho, which is surprisingly apt, even if it does paint us in a poor light. To see more of her most excellent work, click here.
  • If the end of that review seemed sloppy, it’s because I wrote it and then WordPress decided to delete it. Hence frustration and bad writing come together in crappy matrimony.

This film is kind of like:

  • Sleeping with a supermodel you hate

or

  • Realizing you are wrong halfway through the argument (but continuing to argue anyway because there’s too much at stake)
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Published in: on February 13, 2012 at 10:50 pm  Leave a Comment  
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