I have been meaning to watch this movie for a very long time and only recently got to it. Starring Michael Fassbender, who is quickly becoming one of my favourite actors in the business right now, this is a film about the emotional pressures an addiction can have on the human psyche. Also starring Carey Mulligan as his sister, the film chronicles a very short period in the life of Brandon Sullivan (Fassbender’s character) as he grapples sexual addiction and potentially post-traumatic stresses from past sexual abuse. What is really neat about this film is that there is no explicit message saying addiction, whether it is sexual or another intoxicant, is inherently bad, it presents it within a greater story of the life of a single man. His life and lifestyle is neither good nor bad, it just is. Its a bold way to showcase sexual addiction, and one that many film-makers may shy away from because to do it right would alienate a large audience of movie-goers.
I am not here to talk about the story of the movie though. You can go ahead and watch “Shame” because the story is fantastic, and one that really holds onto you and doesn’t let go until the very bitter end. I would rather talk about the style and significance of it.
This movie was shot beautifully. The lighting was perfect, and camera work really something unbelievable. It felt like I was both watching this man’s life from a distance as well as from his living room. I felt I knew him because of the closeness and candidness of the way it was filmed. Often when watching a movie, there are moments that lose your attention. You check your phone for new messages or you look down at your drink to make sure you don’t knock it over when reaching out for it. This was a movie where I was fully captivated from beginning to end, and it was because looking away felt like I was disappointing it, letting it down by not paying attention (perhaps similar to getting caught fooling around in a class by your favourite professor), a shame of some sort.
It takes more than camera work to achieve this. It takes vision. The director provides that vision, clarity and refinement that allows a movie to grow a voice and speak to the viewer. This movie turned me onto Steve McQueen and some of his other work. I am blown away by his talent. Judging by his previous work, he is due to become a giant in film-making because of his ability to manage the different moving parts of his films with such tenacity that it becomes a single organism with a distinct voice. It happened in “Hunger” (also starring Michael Fassbender), it has happened in “Shame”, and I am sure it will happen in “Twelve Years a Slave”, starring Brad Pitt, Benedict Cumberbatch, Paul Giamatti, as well as Michael Fassbender again. The McQueen-Fassbender combination is quickly becoming a go to of the likes of Scorsese-De Niro and Cronenberg-Mortensen.
McQueen is an emerging force, and someone who is shaking thinks up and not looking back. His filmography so far, as listed on IMDB, is unbelievable. The films he currently has to his name are all highly recommended, and I look forward to him carving out a place in the pantheon of elite directors very soon if not already so.
I recommend watching “Shame”, but I want to extend the recommendation to all of Steve McQueen’s other movies as well. Enjoy. I know you will.