Shame

Shame is the second film by artist turned director Steve McQueen. His film debut was Hunger: a brilliant meditative look at events during the 1981 IRA Hunger Strike led by Bobby Sands who was played amazingly by an emaciated Michael Fassbender.

Michael Fassbender is again the star in Shame: a dramatic look at the oppressive life of a sex addict called Brandon who lives in New York and carefully manages his regular life alongside this hidden one. But Brandon’s routine of work and sex is interrupted when his sister Sissy (Carey Mulligan) comes to stay.

Shame is a difficult film to watch at times. This is because the sex scenes often feel relentless – Brandon is always looking for some sort of relief. These scenes are often uncomfortable to watch, mostly because of the way they are intrusively and amazingly shot and directed by McQueen.

Another reason they can sometimes be uncomfortable is due to Michael Fassbender’s amazing performance as Brandon. He doesn’t make him feel smarmy and really makes you feel sympathetic towards him – which is sometimes something you feel you shouldn’t be doing. But he makes Brandon very relatable. More often than not you can see Brandon knows he needs to change and that he really wants to (especially during one heartbreaking part when he’s on a second date with a woman from work), but that he just doesn’t know how to. And Fassbender portrays this brilliantly.

Carey Mulligan as his sister Sissy is also excellent – she’s equal parts feisty and vulnerable, flipping between the two all the time like a child looking for attention and reassurance. And Mulligan shows brilliantly how Sissy is just as confused and lost as Brandon. And it turns out they’re both as self-destructive as each other.

And Steve McQueen’s direction here (like in Hunger) is superb. His direction makes the whole film gripping to watch. One scene in which Brandon simply goes jogging through the streets of New York while the camera follows alongside him for about 5 minutes is absolutely mesmerising, and must have been a nightmare to shoot. And the film is filled with more amazing long takes where McQueen just lets the performances carry the scene (such as when Brandon is on a first date in a restaurant with the woman from work) and which makes it all the more realistic.

So, all in all, Shame may be uncomfortable in subject matter but it’s definitely worth a watch. And Steve McQueen has created another fascinating drama that is made all the more watchable by Michael Fassbender’s excellent central performance.

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~ by square-eyed-geek on January 27, 2012.

One Response to “Shame”

  1. I’ve been debating seeing this for some time now – thanks for the review, the film sounds worthwhile.

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