Friday, 9 June 2017


Shame is a film directed by Steve McQueen about Brandon (played by Michael Fassbender) a successful, single, attractive executive in New York who is addicted to sex, prostitutes and porn. When his unpredictable and difficult sister, Sissy (Carey Mulligan), moves into his apartment, his stability is compromised and it all becomes too much for him. The relationship between Brandon and Sissy is multilayered and incredibly well portrayed by Fassbender and Mulligan. The cause of their individual struggles are never revealed, but a tough childhood is suggested.

Rather than describing the plot of the film, I want to focus on the issues at the heart of the film. Particular scenes reveal the loneliness of the two siblings. A single shot of Brandon running through the streets of New York at night in an attempt to flee from his sister's activities in his flat, is a beautiful portrayal of a man's quest for escapism. 

The film demonstrates how modern life and the technological advances that are central to how we live, inevitably have an impact on how people interact with each other and the relationships we have with one another. Brandon seems unable to trust and is unable commit to a meaningful relationship. He is desperately in need of satisfaction, a quick release, but isn't able to manage anything more.

One of the extras on the DVD is an interview with Michael Fassbender in which he talks about how he researched the character and met with sex addicts to get an insight into their situation. Fassbender comments that there was one particular addict that he learned a lot from. He remarked that rather than probe with questions in an order to be able to 'use' the material for his own gain, he tried to encourage the addict simply to tell his story. I have also found that once people are invited to tell stories, they are more open and relaxed, giving more honest and genuine responses.

There is an argument that one cannot understand how it feels to be in a particular situation e.g. be an addict, until one has a direct experience of the situation. Although I tend to agree with this, I do think it is important to have access to artforms (films, literature, art, theatre etc) that portray such situations and conditions. It is through films like Shame that people are given an insight into the complexities of things they may not otherwise witness or experience.

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