Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Shame: An Unhealthy Obsession

I FOUND Steve McQueen's 'HUNGER' to be such an interesting, powerfully made film, starring a man of considerable charisma, Michael Fassbender, so naturally I wanted to see their next collaboration. We all know about Bobby Sands' compelling obsession, an obsession that ultimately killed him. This time Fassbender has created another obsessive character by the name of Brandon whose obsession happens to be sex. He cannot function, it seems, without it. There are some absorbing scenes that are clearly a trademark of McQueen's directoral style. As with 'Hunger', we have long, extended shots without editing that seem so natural and remarkable.

The best example I can think of is when a pent-up Brandon is running across a huge expanse of New York City's streets, finally ending up at a street that has Madison Square Garden around the corner. The camera is on the other side of the road as he races along, with each intersection magically clear of traffic so he doesn't have to slow down. A good deal of elaborate reconnisance must have gone into this one.

Another beautiful extended shot that goes for several minutes is when the camera rests upon Brandon's sister's face- Sissy- as she sings a moving endition of 'New York, New York' in an expensive-looking bar. Her face is compelling and her emotions are turbulent as she sings the song so slowly and so seductively. I waited for the credits to discover that it really is Carey Mulligan's voice over the soundtrack.

My other favourite shots in the film include a chance encounter between Brandon and a beautiful woman whilst they are travelling on the subway. He can't take his eyes from her and she boldly returns his stare; a bedroom scene of passion bathed in a lovely, golden light; and unusual shots of Brandon and his sister talking on the couch, with the camera behind their heads so we can only glimpse their expressions from time to time in profile (see below):

I didn't enjoy 'Shame' as much as 'Hunger', probably because the subject matter interested me less. But it was worth seeing for the creative ideas of the director and the compelling acting. The ending of the film shows us just how ultimately dangerous and unfulfilling obsessions of any kind will become.

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