April 15, 2012

Filthy Review - Shame

Shame (2011)

Review by Jude Felton

The first movie I saw that starred Michael Fassbender was the 2008 flick Eden Lake, which was an incredibly brutal and downbeat movie about a couple who head out to the country for a quiet weekend. Of course it doesn’t turn out quite as they planned. Since then I have seen a few movies in which Fassbender has starred, most recently being A Dangerous Method, but none of them, regardless of how good they were, have contained the power that Shame has. More to the point, this is the first movie in which I would say that Fassbender stars, in the true sense of the word. Shame is his movie.

Actually, I should really preface that last paragraph by adding that Shame is indeed Fassbender’s movie, but by way of writer/director Steve McQueen’s skillful artistry behind the camera. This is only McQueen’s second full movie as director, and I am remiss to say that I have still yet to see his debut, Hunger, but on the strength of this I will be not only checking out that movie, but also keeping an eye out for what he delivers next.

Shame follows the exploits of Brandon (Fassbender), a successful businessman who seems to have everything going for him. In most respects this is true, but for one small area and that is his sexual addiction; the man is utterly consumed by his need for sex. Whether he is at home, at work or even on the subway, it is the only thing that occupies his mind. He is for all intents and purposes a junkie, and he needs his fix.

To say that Brandon has his addiction under control would be to stretch the facts slightly, yet even if he did this will soon be put to the test when his sister, Sissy (Carey Mulligan), turns up at his apartment.

For a movie that deals so heavily in sex; the act of, and the repercussions, Shame is a movie that in no way attempts to titillate the viewer. Instead, Shame is a dark, and almost depressing, journey along one man’s painful descent. It’s jarring and desperate, but not without its lighter moments, and it is all guided with utmost beauty by McQueen. His visual style is something to behold, and even in the movie’s darkest moments, of which there are plenty, he never allows the film to wallow in the sadness.

As I mentioned though, and I can’t emphasize this enough, this is Fassbender’s movie and he is absolutely mesmerizing in his role as Brandon. Some films feel the need to bog down a story with unnecessary dialogue and actions to get across the story, here though the dialogue is minimal, allowing instead the actors to let the emotions of the characters get the story across. What Fassbender and Mulligan manage to convey through their facial expressions alone is amazing; the scene in which Sissy sings a deconstructed version of New York, New York being a perfect example. Sure, she is singing, but it is what is going on between the words, and siblings, that really count in that scene. Powerful stuff indeed.

Shame is a unique film in that, aside from being terrific, really has no real basis for comparison to other movies. It really is quite unlike anything I have seen, although two vastly different movies did come to mind for very differing reasons whilst watching this. In some respects Fassbender’s performance reminded me of Ryan Gosling’s incredible performance in Drive, due to both characters using their expressions to tell the story rather than using words. The other film being American Psycho, believe it or not. Of course, Shame is really nothing like either of these films, but it is what I got from the movie, and no doubt it will be different for other viewers.

What else can I say other than to recommend this movie, with no reservations. It is rated NC-17, which in itself is a rarity in this day and age, so bare this in mind as McQueen is fearless as a director, and is not afraid to go to places that other directors may only dream of going.

Shame is released on Blu-ray/DVD combo pack on April 17 by Twentieth Century Fox.

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