SHAME was the rave of Toronto and Venice last year. Michael Fassbender was lauded for his performance as a 30-something executive with a sexual addiction that is destroying his chances at real intimacy. Great cinematic fodder for anyone to see.
But the film just didn’t work on me.
Yes it’s beautifully shot, clinically directed by talent Steve McQueen (irrespective of my thoughts on the film, the man is a genuine talent – see his other film HUNGER for proof) and nicely performed. But there is a conceit here and outside of all the shock tactics of Fassbender’s repeated masturbation and walking around naked, Carey Mulligan’s bare all introduction, the sex yada yada – this is nothing more than a comment on the nihilistic nature of corporate life on modern man. Men are just goal driven beasts, landing that job, bedding that girl – we’re just biological mechanisms. At least that’s all I got out of it.
Fassbender’s Brandon is a New York Suit, he lives a clinical life, works a repetitive job and in those moments alone suffers from an uncontrollable sexual urge that sees him paying for escorts, webcamming with girls, frequently masturbating, hitting on married women etc but he’s a high functioning addict – its an issue he manages to keep hidden until his sister Sissy rocks up. She’s messy, wild, emotionally turbulent and impulsive – as her stay lengthens – his very organised life begins to come apart – and, of course, its only a matter of time before that powder keg explodes.
I couldn’t help but liken it to AMERICAN PSYCHO, a stretch for some I am sure, where as that film (and the novel) was comment on the soullessness of Wall Street New York in the 80’s and how one characters only way to feel anything was to butcher people – SHAME takes out the murder and puts in sex. In fact, now that I think of it, it also reminds me of the far superior Cronenberg film CRASH (one of the most underrated films of the 1990’s) which dealt with very similar themes. Both AMERICAN PSYCHO and CRASH tackled these themes of nihilism, sterility, sexuality and self destruction with a more insistent measure than SHAME. SHAME takes its time to get to a resolution you saw coming 10 minutes in… Well I did anyway. Am I too jaded?
Check it out – let me know what you thought!
SHAME is currently in limited release in AUSTRALIA through TRANSMISSION FILMS