I won’t lie, the appeal of Shame for me was really the fact that this was about sex addiction and the sex addict was Michael Fassbender. As a hot-blooded woman, yes I do find Michael Fassbender extremely attractive, but I am a huge fan of him as an actor. He has been so impressive over the past few years from Inglourious Basterds to Fish Tank to X-Men: First Class. He never ceases to amaze me with each performance and how he really can disappear into a role, and how raw so many of his performances are. So putting him in the role of an addict seemed like an interesting fit and something I knew he was going to delve right into.
Under the direction of Steve McQueen, with a script co-written by the man with Abi Morgan, Shame is an interesting and a very confronting film. While this does cover sex addiction, it really could be about any sort of addiction it just happened to be about that one. It really expresses in so many different ways what it means to be an addict, and the different types of addicts there are. Brandon (Michael Fassbender) hides his addiction, he is clearly ashamed of his addicted (hence the title) and it is something he chooses to live with alone. But this becomes a struggle for him as his sister shows up in his life, causing his quiet and shameful life to be turned upside down.
Shame is a raw film, which definitely suits Michael Fassbender as an actor; I couldn’t really picture anyone else in the role. He needs to reveal so much of himself (and I don’t just mean with getting his clothes off), and he needs to go into some dark places, at times it isn’t easy to watch, but it is a reminder that addiction isn’t meant to be something pleasant. This shows so much about addiction, there are all sorts of references to addiction throughout the film, which you may or may not pick up on. While it focuses on addiction from Brandon’s point of view, his case is quite extreme and it affects him to his core. Where as his boss David (James Badge Dale), flaunts his lifestyle (he’s married but hits on women all the time), and shows absolutely no shame in doing so in front of Brandon. He is the opposite of Brandon, and an interesting contrast.
We then have Sissy (Carey Mulligan); the sister that Brandon obviously has a very fractured relationship is here to disrupt his life. She is just as messed up as her brother but for different reasons, she reaches out for comfort whereas he is cold and can’t seem to find any sort of intimacy with anyone. While it isn’t revealed, these siblings have gone through a lot together, yet there isn’t any sort of issue of being fully naked in front of each other. The issues lie in being honest, and showing each other who the other one really is. We don’t really know who these two are, except in their moments of pure desperation. We don’t know why these two are the way they are, but we don’t really need to know. This is a look into a certain turning point in both of their lives, and we’re left to ponder will they or can they change their ways.
This film isn’t going to be an easy watch for many people, it doesn’t shy away from sex or nudity, nor is it ashamed to be confrontational with many aspects. Brandon could have easily been addicted to anything, he can’t find love or intimacy in his addiction, and this is shown in a scene that isn’t easy to watch and it comes off rather sad. His addiction really owns him, the sex he has is cold and without any sort of emotion. When he hides away to ‘get off’ he’s alone, and again it is just cold, he isn’t enjoying the act, he needs to do it. These things come across so well through the performance of Fassbender, you can see it and feel it in his eyes, and in his face. His performance is fantastic and really well rounded, I do think that yes it was a top performance of 2011; I don’t think any actors really gave themselves over to a role the way he did. Carey Mulligan is equally as good, her performance is very sad, and also an honest one. At one point in our lives, we’ve been here or we’ve known someone like her, which is why I think it hits hard.
Shame has a strong script, its well-written and it certainly has attention to detail, it brings to light addiction in a way that I don’t think we’ve seen on film recently. Steve McQueen directed this with such precision, and there is a certain beauty with the way he shoots things. We have some long shots, and they really force you to watch and engage in the situation at hand. The film does feel cold, and at times it can feel empty, and I felt this was a really smart way to get across the feeling of addiction because it can be cold and it can be empty. This is a film that I can recommend but I can see that certain audiences wont like it, or are expecting something else.