Tuesday 20 November 2012

Shame [2011]

British filmmaker Steve McQueen, who had made a triumphant debut with Hunger, proved that he isn’t a one-film wonder with Shame – a psychologically disturbing account of a man’s complex relationships with his sexuality and his troubled sister. This principal protagonist of this compelling character study is Brandon (Michael Fassbender), a successful executive residing in NYC. On surface he is a likeable and easy-going fellow, who likes hanging out with his gregarious boss (James Badge Dale). However, when alone in his plush Manhattan apartment, he is not just living in an emotional vacuum, he’s also a compulsive sex addict, and lacking the ability to forge any personal relationships – the sequence where he attempts dating a beautiful colleague brought that out quite superbly. And then his cold, mechanical life is thrown haywire when his sister Sissy (Carey Mulligan), a deeply vulnerable wannabe singer desperate for love and warmth from his elder brother, suddenly crashes at his place, leading to both tragic consequences and forced realizations. The moment where he literally collides with her while she is bathing, and the one where she inadvertently catches him during self-gratification, were shocking and revelatory in their nakedness. Though filled with explicit contents, there was nothing sensual about them; rather, they starkly highlighted the emotional wasteland that Brandon exists in. Fassbender, who was astounding in McQueen’s last film, was very good here as well, while Mulligan was quite brilliant as his sassy but extremely fragile sister. The film’s extreme emotional coldness and its overt reliance on graphic content to drive home its point, were, however, tad off-putting for me.

p.s. Watched this as part of 2012 Kolkata International Film Festival (KFF)

Director: Steve McQueen
Genre: Drama/Psychological Drama
Language: English
Country: UK


Sam Juliano said...

I can see why the "emotional coldness" may have been somewhat off-putting for you Shubhajit, and though I'd counter that this was consistent with the theme here, and made the film even more unforgettable, I know it's definitely a point of contention. You size things up here with scholarly heft, and I can't say I disagree with you much. Fassbender was electrifying here, and Mulligan was quite impressive. I'd add that Harry Escott's music was sublimely haunting.

Shubhajit said...

Thanks Sam. Yes, the emotional coldness was indeed consistent with the overall theme of the movie - so nothing inconsistent there. McQueen has certainly turned out to be one of the most exciting talents of today - someone whose career is worth following closely. And thanks for pointing out the score - that was good as well.