Shame – Review

Words: Nicci Talbot

Lots of buzz this week around Steve McQueen’s latest film Shame starring Michael Fassbender and Carey Mulligan. It’s a bit too edgy for Hastings Odeon so I’ll have to take a trip to Tunbridge Wells to see it (bizarre I know). Fassbender plays Brandon, a 30-something NY exec who is obsessed with casual sex and porn as a means of escape. The clinical term for male sex addiction is ‘satyriasis’ – a condition that describes a compulsion for anonymous sex and an inability to have a relationship. There are a few hints about his and Sissy’s (Mulligan’s) troubled background – incest and abuse – but the film doesn’t delve into that, choosing to focus on the here and now, over the course of a few days. Brandon loses himself in prostitutes, colleagues, and strangers on the subway and has an impressive collection of violent porn which he watches at home and work. His boss comments (with admiration and wonder): ‘Your hard drive is dirty, I mean filthy‘.

Hunger is the title of McQueen’s earlier film about the 1981 Irish hunger strike and it would have been an apt title for this film. I’m not sure about the word ‘Shame’ – is Brandon ashamed of his actions? There’s no neat and tidy ending and he’s not saved from himself, which is what makes this adult in nature. It ends as it began with him propositioning women on the subway. Kate Muir, The Times film critic calls him ‘an enigma, as anonymous as the blank New York skyscrapers surrounding him’. The Guardian’s Xan Brooks described it as ‘fluid, rigorous, serious cinema; the best kind of adult movie’.

I love watching Fassbender – chiselled jaw aside – he’s an intense actor who isn’t afraid to go to dark places and challenge himself mentally and physically in a role. He was excellent in Fish Tank and has been nominated for various awards for his performance in Shame. I’m really looking forward to seeing this as well as scriptwriter Abi Morgan’s other offering The Iron Lady. I listened to Antonio Palermo’s soundtrack today on Spotify. It’s cool and classical with a little bit of Rapture (and Hannibal) thrown in.

Shame is out on Friday 13th January.

Image by Fox Searchlight.

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