‘…an early contender for film of 2012..’
There’s an old joke – the difference between pornography and art is a government grant. SHAME is a film that is incredibly explicit – very nearly bordering on pornography – and yet, it is completely and utterly a work of cinematic art.
The story follows Brandon (Michael Fassbender), a thirty-something executive living in New York. He lives alone, something of a charmer and a sexual deviant / addict. His sister, Sissy (Carey Mulligan), a transient musician arrives unannounced and begins to intrude on his carefully compartmentalised life, first by sleeping with his boss and then later, in a far more obvious way. The plot is essentially one of simple storytelling devices. We see Brandon’s life before his sister’s intrusion, and then later, when it begins to spiral out of his control because of it. Brandon’s problem isn’t about sexual addiction – it’s clear he has a problem, mind. It’s about Brandon’s inability to maintain a relationship, be it platonic or sexual, between family or partner; it just manifests itself as sexual addiction. The film is subtle in that nothing is automatically revealed. Indeed, the film does give a number of red herrings with regards to Brandon’s relationship with his sister. It never feels like it’s a cheat, though. It it simply the viewer’s own judgement and reading of a scene or a look that would lead it to that conclusion.
The cast is small, but such is the weight and depth of their ability, it’s never an issue. Michael Fassbender proves why he is The Greatest Living Irish Actor in this film. His range is unbelievable, deftly portraying a man that is riven with real problems, but is somehow completely unaware of them. The same goes for Carey Mulligan. The two of them are both damaged people, but their issues play out in completely different ways. A line in the film sums them both up perfectly, ‘..we’re not bad people, we just come from a bad place..’ The script, by Abi Morgan, is minimal and feels almost improvised, yet it’s so well-written and thoughtful that it is truly worthy of the praise being heaped upon it. The same goes for the direction. It’s easy to see that Steve McQueen was a visual artist before he took up filmmaking. His use of colour in several scenes is fantastic and adds to what’s going in them. The camerawork is neither showy nor simple, likewise with the editing of each particular scene. As a director, it’s clear he has the fortitude to pull the brakes and allow for character development. This, in turn, allows a more fuller appreciation of what is going on and makes you care for the characters. Fassbender’s character isn’t terribly likable, but you are compelled to follow his story to the gruesome end.
SHAME is fantastic. The nearest film to compare it to would be LAST TANGO IN PARIS. As with Marlon Brando’s performance, Fassbender is riveting to watch. SHAME is difficult to take in some times. It’s extremely graphic and, as previously mentioned, borders on pornographic. Nothing about the film is tittalating or sensuous; it’s vulgar and crass in it’s portrayal – like it should be. The film demonstrates how a person can be so devoid of the simple ability to partake in a human relationship, how self-absorbed one can become – and the ultimate price for it. An early contender for film of 2012.
DROP-D RATING: 9 / 10