Sunday, 22 January 2012

Review: Shame

Director: Steve Mcqueen
Starring: Michael Fassbender, Carey Mulligan

I was not sure what to expect from a film so self-proclaimedly explicit, though I suppose centring on the struggles one goes through in the battle with satyriasis it would have been hard to avoid. I understand why Fassbender said it was a blessing in disguise that his mother couldn't make the Venice Film Festival premiere. It's also no wonder he won an award for his moving yet frankly quite disturbing performance as sex-addict Brandon.

We already know that Steve McQueen is not afraid of pushing Fassbender to physical extremes, as we saw in Hunger, with Fassbender as an emaciated Bobby Sands, literally wasting away. On this level, the troubled, angry and subversively pleasant man we meet in Shame makes for extremely uncomfortable watching. Yes, I'm pretty sure anyone watching this film will have found it uncomfortable, but it's also impossible to tear your eyes away. Fassbender and Mulligan's explosive and melancholy - not to mention borderline incestuous - relationship, and their private anguish is an utterly hypnotizing playing out of damaged lives. It is stark and crude, but beautiful, epitomised in Mulligan's haunting rendition of New York, New York, and the silent tear it moves Brandon to shed.

McQueen does little to offer his characters a route out of their ruts, and we are left with a somewhat grim dissatisfaction, from which there seems to be no escape. His morbid fatalism is a grey undertone of the whole film, both literally, in everything from the costume to the clinical lighting, and in a more pervasive way - the whole film feels overwhelmingly colourless. McQueen has crafted a stark and brilliant look at the lives of the secret down and outs, creating a complex distortion of how success and satisfaction is perceived. Shame is almost definitely worth a watch, just don't go and see it with your parents.

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