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7/08/2013

Shame reviewed: Fantastic Filthy Fassbender



There are so many interesting little things about Michael Fassbender's face. Depending on the camera angle and lighting, you can see a glum aristocrat, a wooden android, and haggard landowner all tangled up somewhere between brow, cheeks and jaw-line. Bone structure, that's what it is! By the way, how did we ever get to the point of complimenting people on skull properties?

Anyways, Fassbender brings overwhelming facial features to the table, like several of those ancient Greek theater masks, and the camera's love for his face is at least one of the reasons why he's high in demand right now.




Also he's a great fit for the role of Brandon: a mid-thirties single guy in New York, a bit worn out; successful at his career in advertising, but less so in his personal life. Brandon is a sex addict, bouncing in between compulsive masturbation and having sex with almost every creature that walks on two legs, and very explicitly so.

Sex and porn dominate every aspect of his private life, so when a virus (due to all the heavy porn surfing!) is found on his work computer, his problem is starting to affect his work life as well.

In the beginning Brandon appears to be emotionally detached from his life, (which is exactly why Fassbender was a good choice), and you begin to wonder why he seems disinterested, even when things begin to fall apart. That's not until his sister moves in with him, creating conflict and erratic behaviours that soon lead to the inevitable breakdown.

Between him and Sissy, played by Carey Mulligan, one begins to see the family resemblance: although Sissy is not an addict, she suffers from serious mental health problems, with multiple suicide attempts in her past, bad relationships, and one can only guess what their parents' influence and upbringing must have been like. She scrapes along on singing at jazz bars and her tendency towards married men promises to be troublesome, when she casts an eye at Brandon's boss.




That, in a nutshell, is the setup for the disaster that is about the occur as their world of chaos and family baggage starts to implode on their asses. Yes, there are a lot of asses in this film. And sadly enough that is all, writer/director Steve McQueen is willing to give us; lightly clad fighting scenes between brother and sister, and vague hints and guesses as to where their damage comes from. Family inheritance, we guess, but it's in no way specified.

The film claims to deal with sexual addiction, but I can't see it doing that, aside from showing what addiction looks like. It depicts the raw ferocious nature of never getting enough in visual finesse, it allows Herrn Fassbender to explore the bottomless pit that is addiction, but sadly, it doesn't make any kind of statement. No prospects, no solutions. And I guess to some degree, that is the essence of modern storytelling in film. I didn't expect a lecture or anything, but in many ways the film lacks an objective perspective. It is all over the place, with drama and chaos, and shots of crazy.

The storyline has written personal experience all over it, which was why I wanted to see it in the first place. Honestly, I expected a little more insight. One could say that the director leaves almost everything up to the audience's imagination - besides the obvious drama. And I hate it when they do that! The narrative is not as strong as to project "ellipsis" all that well. Neither does the weird symbolism in the beginning and at the end work to advance the experience. In the end, despite its blunt depiction, the film seems rather evasive in dealing with its heavy, plot-bearing burdens. Shame, really!