| April 18, 2012

Steve McQueen’s Shame is an intense portrait of a man that struggles with sexual addiction. No matter where Brandon (Michael Fassbender) is, sex is on his mind, be it at home, on the subway and even at work. His estranged sister, Sissy (Carey Mulligan) shows up and asks to crash on his couch for a bit, after a nine year gap since they had last seen each other. While at first they do a bit of catching up, Sissy’s intrusion into Brandon’s world begins make him hostile and volatile towards her and then ultimately, himself. McQueen’s second feature film is a brave character study and gives Michael Fassbender the opportunity to explore this tortured soul, through subtlety and fearlessness.

One of the most captivating elements of Brandon is how much of a blank slate he is. While he does have a big record collection and listens to music, much of his apartment is like a void. There are no pictures hanging, the entire apartment is colored in white or other neutral colors and keeps everything very minimalist. Even throughout the acts of sex that he has throughout the film, he is very much detached from emotion. There is an instance where we start to learn more about him when he’s on a date with a co-worker. He begins to elaborate on his philosophy of dating, his sister and a few other things. When it comes time to engage in the act of sex with this same woman, he simply cannot, due to him finally having an emotional tie with the opposite sex.

While Fassbender’s performance is fearless, in the sense of full-frontal nudity, it is the use of expression that gives Brandon’s character its gravitas. From the intense and pain ridden orgasms to the charming and attractive smiles, Fassbender provides Brandon as an open window to this type of addiction and his detachment from society. Carey Mulligan’s Sissy isn’t in the film for long, but her portrayal of the needy and troubled sibling provides the counterbalance to Fassbender’s performance, as well as the insight to their troubled history. A well executed voice over by Sissy provides just enough information to give the audience a reason to their dysfunctional ways and their inability to function as a normal family.

It is this use of subtlety throughout Shame that make it such a powerful feature film. McQueen has full confidence in his actors, his compositions and his ability to tell an intelligent and complex film about sex. While most films that contain the act of sex as a means to sell, Shame does a fine job at going against the grain, in order to depict the opposite end of the spectrum of typical sexual behavior.

About the Author:

is a graduate from Columbia College Chicago with a degree in Audio for Visual Media. He works as a freelance location sound mixer, boom operator, sound designer, and writer in his native Chicago. He's an avid collector of films, comics, and anime.
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