The film “Shame” with Michael Fassbender and Carey Mulligan in the lead roles, released on wide screens in 2011, gained fame as a rather scandalous and frank picture. In general, this is not surprising, because the main character of the film is a sex addict. However, if you watched it after reading the rave reviews from fans of Michael Fassbender, then you may well remain at a loss. The picture, after all, is by no means as hot and cheeky as it is customary to talk about it.
There is no trace of beautiful sex scenes akin to works of art. Those moments of intimacy that are shown in the frame, rather, cause disgust, as sometimes the main character himself. Other feelings may arise except for the passionate fans of the Irish actor, who begin to smile every time he appears on the screen, regardless of what he says and does there. And this is wonderful in its own way, because “Shame” was not conceived as a melodrama with an attractive face of a popular actor.
Relationship with sister
Almost from the very beginning, we understand that something is wrong in the relationship between Brandon and Sissy, and that the reason lies in something rather intimate. But what exactly is the matter – they never tell us. Actually, Steve McQueen, who acted as a director and screenwriter in one person, did not disclose the details during the interviews on the release of the film. And this, as well as the lack of beautiful pictures, is again a little upsetting, but again it is perceived as something most suitable for this project.
“Shame” is a film about the states of people rather than the stories of their lives. Characters are snatched at certain moments in time, when their problems and imperfections are visible in all their glory, and only these moments we should see. We can only guess what was before and what will be after. But no one will explain this to us, and there is no particular sense in this. The point here, rather, is to understand the main characters and feel the atmosphere, and not to build some kind of logical chains.
Sex addiction as a serious problem
According to Michael Fassbender, he himself laughed when he first heard about sex addiction: they say, I also have a problem. In the meantime, this is a very serious ailment that can seriously affect the quality of a person’s life. To get to the bottom of this, both Fassbender and McQueen spent a lot of time interacting with people who have pathological addiction to sex.
As both found out, the problem here lies in the difficulty of expressing emotions. Most sexaholics have some difficulty in opening up and trusting someone sensually, not physically. Because of this, it is extremely difficult for them to start a serious relationship with another person, even if this someone is quite capable of empathy: they simply cannot afford emotional closeness, they develop a serious internal barrier.
Therefore, they, as usual, run from their problems in the same scenario. Having sex with someone they are unlikely to ever see in their life. Then this someone leaves, taking along with him his inner world, and the sex addict remains invulnerable from an emotional point of view. His sensory sphere is under control, no one intrudes into it as a result of this purely physiological contact. But, at the same time, even a sex addict understands that such a lifestyle does not lead to anything good, and therefore every time after a night with a random partner he experiences embarrassment and shame. Actually, this is where the name of the film comes from.
Brandon “creates his prison from his own body” – as Steve McQueen put it, describing the character’s behavior. His addiction is akin to alcoholism, drug addiction or bulimia: he goes in a vicious circle, repeating the same thing, damn tired of it, but not having the strength and ability to escape. And this oppressive atmosphere of hopelessness, despair and even self-hatred because of the addiction the film conveys 100%.
Brandon and Sissy as two opposites
If Brandon is stingy in expressing emotions, then from Sissy they, on the contrary, literally whip over the edge. She gushes with feelings, does not hesitate to express them, her own thoughts are cramped in her head. And it is very difficult for her when those around her are not ready to accept this stream of emotions and words that she pours on them. Sissy can be called the opposite of Brandon or his harmonious complement, they are like two halves of one whole.
Of particular importance is the scene in the bar where Sissy sings the song “New York, New York”. It differs somewhat from the main musical accompaniment of the picture: Bach performed by Glenn Gould. Originally jazz, in Steve McQueen’s film, New York, New York has become more of a blues. The director himself considers this scene as the most frank and sincere conversation between Brandon and Sissy in the whole picture, because the rest of the time Michael Fassbender’s character out of habit blocks any attempts of his sister to reach out to his heart.
They are like us, we are like them
The characters in the film can be perceived in different ways, but they were not created just to evoke feelings of rejection. Frankly, Steve McQueen did not want a clear, unshakable line to be drawn between the audience and the heroes of the picture. Brandon Fassbender was not meant to be a repulsive character that would evoke antipathy in one and all. The actor himself explained that he tried not to condemn his hero, but to feel him, to make him alive and believable.
To understand and forgive – in fact, this is approximately what is expected from an attentive and sympathetic viewer. Brandon is not untouchable, he is the same person as all of us: with his problems, fears, internal barriers and experiences. The simplest thought that “Shame” can cause in you is “it’s good that I’m doing better.” But the fact of the matter is that this is the easiest way to think. It is much more difficult to think about which repetitive cycles you are walking in your life and try to break the vicious circles in which you are stuck. In the end, each person has something to be ashamed of, and in which direction to improve.
“Shame” is indeed quite universal: it is not an action movie or an action movie, not a superhero film or a melodrama. This is a film about the states of people in the presence of problems, which are analogous to many people. Let one of the most unsightly problems be chosen as an example, and it is shown impartially and not too aesthetically, but this picture is good for this: it is imprinted in the subcortex with an unobtrusive, but quite fair reproach.
In conclusion, it is worth noting that, of course, Michael Fassbender and Carey Mulligan did their best. If not for their acting, then this kind of film could well slide into the abyss of unsightly consumer goods. But they harmoniously supplemented their talent with a detailed plot with a very specific message, and the result was a movie that is really not a shame to watch.