Random Movie Review: “Shame” 

Once upon a time I used to write movie reviews. I’m a huge film nerd and ultimately plan to end up creating films. In order to do that however I must first understand what a film is as a medium and what elements are comprised in film as well. So I started watching random movies, sometimes good ones, sometimes not so good but all films nonetheless. For the month of June I’ll be restarting my RMR series beginning with one of my favorite films. It’s poorly written IMO but I’d rather leave it as it is than go back and edit it. Enjoy.
-We’re not bad people.
We just come from a bad place.
 



Today I’m dissecting a movie that did not receive much attention or credit in the U.S. but across the big blue lake (Atlantic Ocean) it became a hit. “Shame” is the title of this 2011 British movie starring our favorite android “David from Prometheus”- Michael Fassbender and the lovely “Ms. Daisy Buchanan”- Carey Mulligan. “Shame” was directed by Steve McQueen. “Shame” won Best Director/Best Screenplay/Best Independent Actor x4/Best Supporting Actress among other nominations and awards.  It is a movie full of intensity, lust and sex, empty feelings and of course, shame. Rated R, NC-17 for nudity (penises included), language, and drug use.

Fassbender portrays “Brandon” a clean cut, and cultured New York business man with a terrible secret; Brandon is a sex addict. When I use that term I mean it to the fullest degree, just from the opening scene the viewer can tell his desire for sexual release is exponential.It’s not how we say “Oh I love sex…I can’t get enough”, his sexual activity is toxic slowly infecting his life. Regardless Brandon is a firm believer in immediate gratification, not searching for any long term pleasure or commitment.  He is a true addict, until his sister “Sissy” comes to move in for awhile. She’s got plenty of issues on her plate as well, which makes one wonder what their childhood was like. Instead of using sex as her ploy she develops other coping mechanisms that include a human wrist and razors. The overall theme of the movie is the search for feeling…human. Looking back at the title, and how many of the things we do we live with the shame or hide from it. The main characters are detached from the norms of society and yet they live and thrive as any average citizen in the public eye. What amazed me is how even though each of them know that there is something seriously wrong with them, neither of them pretend to want to change it. They Just Accept It.
Fassbender does an amazing job at playing “Brandon”, truly a one-of-a-kind performance. What set him apart from conventional actors was the use of his eyes; ranging from cold, merciless and lusty stares to saddened and hollow tears of regret. The eye contact is key. Each sexual act that Brandon is involved in gets seemingly more intense dramatic and gratifying. His character possesses a sociopathic behavior; charming and selfish with a complete disconnect from normal society. From rage-filled  outburst at Sissy to blatant lying in his boss’s face Brandon has no heart. The only aspect of emotion we are shown is his date/rendzeveous with his co-worker. The atmosphere of the movie is gray and mellow to mimic the seriousness and depravity of the characters. The most powerful scene is the opening act, where we find Fassbender scoping the subway car until he locks eyes with an attractive woman. What starts out as playful eye contact eventually turns sour and we realize that Brandon isn’t all that sane in the head. His stare (referring to the use of his eyes) transforms into a lustful gaze and even gets to the point where the woman is uncomfortable. What makes it even worse is that he stares at the ring on her finger, (she’s married) for a few minutes then continues to stare even after noticing she had a spouse. It was gripping but horrifying, he exemplified how low on the morality scale humanity can truly sit.  The soundtrack is impeccable as well, the main theme “Unraveling” played at the climax of the scene, draws out the hollow and almost sadistic nature of Brandon. Steve McQueen did an excellent job of tying up the movie and showing the character development, or lack thereof, from beginning to end. The conclusion leaves one thinking…did anything really change? Can they put their shame to rest and live normal lives? Or will he continue to hunger for immediate gratification ?

P.S. Hunger used in that last statement is a bit of homage to another McQueen/Fassbender film.

“Unraveling” – Harry Escott

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