Michael Fassbender is quickly making a firm name for himself in the movie industry: already, in his short career as a film actor (only beginning in 2007) he has starred in smash hit films such as Quentin Tarantino’s ‘Inglorious Basterds’, Matthew Vaughn’s ‘X-Men: First Class’, Ridley Scott’s ‘Prometheus’ and David Cronenberg’s ‘A Dangerous Method’. His portfolio of his past projects illustrate that he is an incredibly diverse actor and that he is quickly becoming a modern great of cinema. This is proven in ‘Shame’.
Most actors could have possibly been put of by Steve McQueen’s 2011 film ‘Shame’ due to the stripped-down nature of the piece: in more ways than one. Although working with McQueen on his previous debut film ‘Hunger’, Fassbender manages to put the raw nature of the film to one side and concentrate on modelling his vision of a flawed man dealing with an intimate problem at the core of his performance. Some would say this ‘idea’ lies with the vision of the director. I agree, but when it comes to character driven film texts such as ‘Shame’, the actors have just as big of an impact on the creation of a character that the director and writer in my opinion.
‘Shame’ sounds simple: Fassbender plays Brandon Sullivan, a successful advertising executive living the high-life in New York city who seems to have a lust for sexual encounters. At the start of the film Brandon is represented as a hetrosexual thirty-something year old living the single life, so of course he’s bound to meet and sleep with many attractive women but as the film progresses we soon realise this isn’t the case and that he is in fact dealing with sex addiction.
A second story-arc intertwines with this where Brandon’s distant sister Sissy (played by Carey Mulligan) arrives in town, wanting to stay with her brother for the time being while she sings in classy clubs. I’ll be honest, if their’s something that didn’t work for me in this film, this is it. Although Mulligan is good, this part of the story leaves too many unanswered questions. I love a film where not everything is made out in black and white but considering it’s a main part to the film, I felt it stalled the movie. Their’s clearly a dark past and history between the two as we see in some of the more intimate scenes but it just doesn’t hold up compared to the other main story strand.
One of my all time favourite films is ‘Requiem for a Dream’. Why? Because it’s honest: drugs aren’t good, they aren’t nice, they only lead to misery which is what we see in the end when the four characters have become consumed and ruined by the drugs they have decided to take. Without giving much away this is similar to ‘Shame’: sex addiction doesn’t lead to a happy ending without help, something Brandon isolates himself from. ‘Shame’ is an honest portrayal of something that people could possibly pass by as a moment of lust and thats what makes the film work and soar: it’s honesty in it’s subject.
Moving away from the subject matter, the other stand-out components that make ‘Shame’ well worth watching lie with the performances by the actors. I’ve already talked about Fassbender so I’ll move on to the other shining-star of the film: Nicole Beharie. Beharie was a name I’d never heard off until I saw ‘Shame’ but now she’s someone I’m interested to watch progress as a promising star. In the film she plays Marianne, Brandon’s co-worker, who seems attracted to him leading to a date between the pair, something Brandon isn’t comfortable with. When Brandon feels more for Marianne than he has done for possibly any other woman who has come into his life, the situation becomes difficult for him to control.
Fassbender and Beharie missed out on many awards and nominations for their portrayals in ‘Shame’ but other actors worth mentioning include James Badge Dale and Elizabeth Masucci who stood out from the crowd and could possibly go on to greater hights. The other star of the show is Steve McQueen. He is of a new generation of interesting and challanging writers and directors. McQueen reminds me of a modern day Kubrik; someone not afraid of trying his hand with different genres and different subject matter in a mature way. He writes with solid purpose and that’s something I like and admire about him. Also, the way in which he captures loneliness in the least of lonely cities, New York, is stunning.
McQueen and Fassbender’s collaboration in ‘Shame’ is pitch perfect. The way McQueen captures the setting of New York and portrays it as a city for the lost souls rather than what it is famous for is admirable. On the same hand Fassbender’s portrayal of a man who has everything, yet has nothing is without a doubt one of the strongest male performances of that year. I’ll be more than interested in watching McQueen and Fassbender’s next collaboration that’s set to be released in 2013: ‘Twelve Years a Slave’