Shame: wow, what a film.
Director Steve McQueen is quickly making a name for himself in the film industry (what with the success of Hunger and now Shame has also been critically acclaimed) and it is exciting to watch his journey develop. I love his technique of using minimal editing in order to create an almost documentary type feel to it, as well as allowing the actors to flourish naturally. He is not afraid of using silence, which really forces the viewer to engage with what they’re watching, and he does not feel it necessary to explain every single detail, meaning that some of it really is open to interpretation. Both Michael Fassbender and Carey Mulligan give fantastic performances in this movie, which was especially tricky, given the complex, damaged characters that they both portray. I recommend that every film-lover checks out Shame at some point, just because it is a perfect example of how a film can look when everything is done right. The visuals, the storyline, the acting – it all fits together seamlessly, managing to be more horrifying than many decent horror films ever could be (albeit in a more subtle, realistic type of way).
Whilst it probably wouldn’t be appropriate to say that you ‘enjoy’ watching a film like Shame, it was indeed a thoroughly gripping and harrowing experience. It tells the story of a sex addict, Brandon, trying to cope with his ‘problem’, which is not helped by the arrival of his sister, Sissy, who is equally troubled by different demons. Some people seem intent on dragging a whole ‘incest’ element into it, but I personally think that they’ve got this wrong. Completely wrong. I cannot emphasize this enough. I thought it was more a case that the two of them had been abused as children and so this has left different repercussions with them as they’ve become adults. Whereas Brandon (played by Michael Fassbender) never seemed to show any emotion, especially when it came to sex, Sissy (played by Carey Mulligan) could be described as having no control over her many emotions, and being so desperate for love and attachment that she clings on to whoever is around. These two opposing mindsets colliding together in the same apartment makes for some interesting and gloomy interactions, ending in disastrous consequences.
Shame has been criticised for having too much sex in it, something which I think is a bizarre thing to say about a film about a sex addict. Funnily enough, sex addicts feel the need to have a lot of sex. Who knew? It wasn’t gratuitous or anything, and was certainly miles away from appearing to be a porn film, so I was not fazed by the sex thing – if anything, I was more bothered by the lack of emotion during the sex that was showed. Brandon was always on an endless pursuit to gratify his sexual needs, using any means possible (and yes, I mean any means!). Granted, I don’t think I’d watch this film with my dad, but I think Shame would not have been anywhere near as effective without sex being shown.
Similarly, Shame has been criticised for its lack of dialogue. What madness is this? Since when is dialogue required to give a film meaning and depth? If anything, silence can reveal more than any words ever can. Meaning can be expressed effectively through facial expressions and body language, well, actions of any kind really, just as well as it can through dialogue. Maybe I’m reading too much into something that doesn’t exist, but I truly believe that Shame is a whole lot more than just a long boring pile of meaningless nonsense. It quite frankly astounds me that many people have described it as such!
So, this is a slight deviation from my usual horror-related reviews, but it was still lingering on my mind since I last watched it. Shame has that ability to haunt the viewer for a while afterwards in such a brilliant way. I am also looking forward to checking out ‘Twelve Years A Slave’ – another collaboration between Steve McQueen and Michael Fassbender, what could go wrong?