“It really is one of those films that leaves you searching for any flaws – and failing…”
Shame is just Steve McQueen’s second feature film since his debut Hunger (2008), and the former Turner prize winner (annual award for a British visual artist) is fast becoming one of the most important filmmakers in world cinema.
Clearly enthused by his artistic background, Shame is an intense, powerful depiction into the depths of one mans addiction. Brandon (Michael Fassbender) has an unhealthy compulsion towards sex, and despite appearing to the outside world as an ordinary office worker living in New York, when isolated he enters into a sordid world of sexual desire, prostitution and pornography.
Once his fragile younger sister Sissy (Carey Mulligan) moves into his apartment for a while, his solitude is disrupted, and his life, as far as he is concerned, ruined. His tragic obsession with sex is mired, as the innocent invasiveness of Sissy begins to aggravate him.
This film, much like McQueen’s previous feature Hunger, is straight to the point, simplistic and beautifully arranged. You can see the ingenuity in McQueen without the need for idealism or sensationalism. The film could so easily have been drawn-out and lasted over two hours – but instead was sharp and direct.
It really is one of those films that leaves you searching for any flaws – and failing. It ticked boxes on so many levels, as it was also stunningly shot, as the visuals combined with the sound faultlessly. The musical score was terrific throughout – as compositions played were conflicting to that of the scene in hand. When the scene was hard-hitting, the music would contrast such emotions and play with your senses as it would instead be more optimistic and joyous.
The performance of Fassbender is also just incredible, and with so much significance on his character, as we attempt to delve into his troubled mind, he needed to shine to give the part, and film, the desired effect, and he exceeded any expectations I had previously held. Working as McQueen’s lead for the second time, he seems to understand what McQueen wants to do and the path he wishes to go down. He has an earnestness and idleness that makes him so fascinating to watch. It’s exceptionally difficult to take your eyes off him, and surely, at the very least, an Oscar nomination beckons for the talented actor.
And whilst we’re on the subject, Mulligan is terrific also. In a relatively different role to what we are used to, she manages to perfectly encapsulate a young woman who is despondent and unhinged, yet without over-doing it at all. She can also sing, with a beautiful rendition of New York, New York within the film.
One of the stand-out films from the London Film Festival, potentially the greatest offering of the lot, Shame depicts addiction as well as I can remember. Not since Trainspotting can I recall obsession explored so sincerely within film. Parallels can clearly be drawn to American Psycho, yet I felt this was a visually more impressive feature, and also a greater study of character.
Full of emotion, desire and passion – this powerful exploration into one man’s mind is poetic, imaginative and fascinating, not too mention distressing. I’ve already looked into McQueen’s next feature, and although three years away until Twelve Years a Slave (which is also featuring Fassbender as the lead) - I already can’t wait.