I finally caught up with Shame after opening nearby last week. I had seen the trailer, but had otherwise little idea of what to expect. Shame is an incredible film. It is well made in every sense. There are brilliant directorial choices, story-wise, visually. We are introduced to Brandon, who is consumed by sex. There is an immediate sadness to the sex, but the viewer does not yet move to this. There is still some amount of glory. Brandon manages to score a girl that his friend was after. We’re happy for him.
The introduction of his sister is brilliant. It allows the viewer access to what it means for Brandon to care about someone. This is our true connection to him. With his sister, all aspects of the story become related. The sex, the sadness, the inability to care. Later on, Brandon tries to form a relationship with a coworker. We learn that his longest relationship lasted four months.
There are interesting thematic similarities to American Psycho here. Shame is the better film, certainly, American Psycho lacks the the honesty and accuracy present in Shame. Both films focus on a sex obsessed businessman. In American Psycho, he’s largely a personification of corporate culture and corporations themselves. In Shame, the job matters less. There is a notion here that this culture has worked itself throughout the business world. Disgust. Use of other persons. And yet your coworker may still be worse than you. No one seems to care in American Psycho. In Shame, Brandon’s boss finds a ‘porn virus’ on Brandon’s computer. We know the boss is shallow, but even to him, Brandon’s smut is worse.
In the end, Shame becomes incredibly powerful, even difficult to watch. The director, Steve McQueen, clearly knows what he is doing though. I walked out of this film thoroughly upset. I have never felt so strong as after this film. The performances are stellar. I’ve been a big fan of Mulligan since catching An Education a few years ago. She deserves to be everywhere. In a way, it’s hard to recommend this film. It’s far, far too affecting for some, I suspect. It’s easy to see how the Academy overlooked this. They love to feel good, and there is little in Shame to help with that.
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