Since Steve McQueen took the Camera D’Or at the Cannes Film Festival for his first feature film Hunger in 2008 the film world has been waiting for a new film of the Turner Prize Winning Artist. Now Shame has finally been released in Germany…
Michael Fassbender plays Brandon Sullivan a successful New York businessman in his early forties. Brandon lives in a clean and modern apartment, he listens to classical piano music on vinyl, is well groomed and single. Yet his life is focussed on one thing: sex. He watches porn before, after and apparently also at work, he goes to prostitutes on a seemingly more than regular basis and jerks off in the office toilets at lunch. A Sex-Addict is what modern psychology would call him. He seeks physical intimacy but seems in no way satisfyable. When Brandons sister Sissy (Carey Mulligan) turns up unannounced, Brandon is catapulted out of his routine and the parts of his mismatched life start falling apart.
McQueen tells this story in a very slow and calm manner. Long takes, slow camera movement and the use of green, blue and grey create a tristesse that captures one and draws you right into Brandons world.
When Sissy turns up Brandons character takes a clearer shape and the audience is granted a deeper look between the cracks. Once beneath his perfect surface the film becomes almost unbearable, as the sadness and desperation of Brandons actions become more and more obvious and destructive at the same time. Unable to connect on a non-physical level Brandon seeks intimacy in the sex, and the scenes although filmed in a beautiful pictures become painful to watch and seem emptied of all erotic connotations. Micheal Fassbender embodies this self-destructive addict with great subtlety and seemingly effortless. Carey Mulligan is also a great cast for the pained Sissy who searches for love in all the wrong places. Shame is a powerful piece of cinema. It´s an analysis of the human psyche rather than a plot driven film, beautifully acted and directed and certainly a film that sticks with you. Although not the happy-go-lucky type this film definitely makes me anxious for McQueens next feature film.
Shame (D: Steve McQueen, UK 2011)
Hunger (D: Steve McQueen, UK 2008)
1981 Bobby Sands starved himself to death in the Maze Prison in Northern Ireland. The IRA activist was the head of the prisoners fighting for the recognition of their status as political prisoners, which was repeatedly refused by the British government. McQueens film can be split in three parts: The first shows the conditions of the so called “non-conformative prisoners” in their cells, the second shows Bobby Sands (Michael Fassbender) announcing the hunger strike to a priest in a 17 minute long still take and the third shows the young man wasting away for his beliefs. Just like Shame Hunger is a slow character study, a powerful film with beautiful pictures that become painful once seen in context.