Michael Fassbender, Carey Mulligan, Nicole Beharie, James Badge, Hannah Ware and others.
Shame was one of my most anticipated movies from last year mainly for two reasons, Michael Fassbender who was having a great year with some great movies, memorable roles and stunning performances and Steve McQueen the director who did a brilliant movie, Hunger. Shame was rated NC-17, the explicit sexual nature of it was the talk of the town. What fascinated me more was hearing raves for Michael Fassbender's performance who ended up winning Best Actor at Venice International Film Festival followed by numerous wins at multiple awards in USA. Shame that he wasn't nominated for an Academy Award or else 2011 was a great year for him. Nevertheless i did and he is my 2nd favorite performer of 2011.
Brandon is a thirty something man living in a beautiful apartment in Manhattan, alone. He is very good looking and handsome. The opening shot of the movie shows him lying naked in his bed staring above the roof towards the emptiness, the space. Just that shot shows us more about the character than many other movies does, it is a great way to introduce a troubled man like him. We see anger, grief and most of all Pain in his eyes. The next thing we see is him walking around naked in his apartment, engaging in sexual intercourse with various prostitutes, masturbating in the shower, in office everywhere. That is how his day is spend, engaging in various sexual acts by himself, with someone else, in group, through porn and so on. The most important thing to be noted here is that those sexual encounters aren't meant to give him pleasure, they have long stopped giving him the pleasure a usual sex addict or a simple man with no addiction would have. His eyes and face acts as a window towards the space, the emptiness that he has inside him. The director really skillfully shows the upper body of Brandon while he is engaging in sex, forget the lower part, forget the woman and forget which hand he is using, that is not important here. The camera is kept on his face most of the time and it is as painful for us to watch as it is for him. There comes many times in the movie where you want to look away from the screen, its very hard to see him in such misery. And for me to watch a movie like this a second time is nearly impossible without thinking about the jarring pain I'll be put up to all over again, but who wouldn't watch a movie like this for its perfection and for Michael Fassbender's ferocious performance, again?
Brandon isn't ready for real intimacy, he has long lost that part of him. We see some kind of attraction between him and one of his co-workers, they go on a date which is a perfect date minus any self-loathing part. One of the best depiction of a date i have seen in any movie, they talk like normal people then they walk and that scene is one of the best in the movie. Somewhere later in the movie, Brandon and that woman gets intimate with each other in a room and the next moment, Brandon feels uneasy and uncomfortable, Why? Because he lost that part of him, that man isn't able to have any kind of feelings for another person. In that same room however we see him engaging in a sexual act with another woman (a prostitute) perfectly. There is another encounter too on a Subway, he sees a woman eye to eye and they flirt through that. She has a wedding ring on and as soon as they both get off the subway, she is lost in the crowd. Was that woman the other half of what Brandon is, the other him. The ring suggested that she was married, she might have been for the sake of her being a woman but she might not being able to be intimate too. Towards the end of the movie we see her again on that subway, ring on but slightly different. This time she wants him to follow her but will he? And before audience gets to see his next move, the screen goes black. This is a masterful shot, or shots that Steve added in his movie, all of these scenes shows his eye for troubled characters and his ability to explain the most complex situations a person of any sort could have. Steve McQueen is a masterful director and i am so excited for his future projects.
So during the movie, at a point we see Brandon entering his house and suspecting a burglar in his house. But it turns out to be Sissy (Carey Mulligan), his sister in the shower and he yells at her to get out. That is somewhat of a turning point in the movie and specially for Brandon himself. The privacy he wanted, the damaged life that he was living is now in danger. In a soul stirring scene where we see Sissy who is a cabaret singer too, performing a slow Jazz version of Sinatra's "New York, New York". That is one of the most compelling scenes in the movie and overall of last year in any movie. Heartbreakingly close up scene that creates an atmosphere that makes it an even more epic movie than it already is. I felt like the characters interacting with each other through that. Sissy while she is singing and again Steve focuses on her facial expression, it feels like she is telling Brandon to let her into his life. They seems distance obviously and it looks like both of them had a rough childhood that effected Brandon more. Sissy one day walks up on him while he is masturbating, she finds porn in his laptop, she sleeps in his bed with his boss and all this threatens Brandon. He shouts at her, accuses her of bringing him down all the time. Sissy has fear, grief and pain in her eyes but unlike Brandon, she doesn't have anger. Her life is disturbing too however, she is totally dependent on men in her life. The change of course happens for Brandon towards the end of the movie which i wont reveal. Brandon is able to show some human care and feelings as he cries painfully for her sister, moreover for him, what he is and what might have happened in his past that led him to here. It is a very shocking and disturbing scene what Sissy does to herself.
There is a scene when Brandon enters a gay bar, he isn't actually homosexual or even heterosexual, he isn't looking for sex or affection for the sake of his romantic or sexual fulfilment. People raised some questioned over his sexuality when the movie was released which was so pointless. Brandon in the scene before this encounter happens to be rejected for an encounter he was suppose to have, he is beaten by boyfriend of a girl he was suppose to have sex with. He is drunk and troubled and more of a mess, that leads him to the gay bar where he has an encounter with one of the men there. It is surprising enough for me that never before have i explained every single scene, he meaning behind it and how it relates with the characters, their nature and overall movie in such way. This actually shows how great this movie is, how great the performances are and how flawlessly the movie shows us such different shade of a human being.
And all what i said about Brandon vs his sexual encounters and how more of a non-pleasurable and more painful, self-loathing and almost suicidal it is for him to have those can be clearly seen when he has sex with two of the woman later in the movie. One of the most painful scenes out there in the history of cinema, that facial expressions Michael Fassbender gives truly makes you want to stop the movie and start crying. In any other junk movie, that "threesome" act would have been a very raunchy, silly and pathetic way of showing someones inner sexual fantasies, here it is used in contrary. Michael Fassbender is a revelation, one of the best new actors in Hollywood whose every single work uptil Shame was in itself a great work. But for him everything is changed, he is getting some great offers and i am very excited for his future. His harrowing, powerful, haunting and flawless performance shows all the right emotions, inner or physical along with the dead pan no expression parts that he had to do perfectly, a man of all seasons i must say. On the other hand, Carey Mulligan, the criminally underrated actress as far as this movie is concerned is amazing too. She wasn't much nominated anywhere which is bad (even i didn't) but once you watch the movie, all you can think or talk about is Michael Fassbender.
Pitch perfect Cinematography, New York have never been more beautiful but at the same time, disturbing before. That scene where Brandon goes for a jog is a perfect example, excellent use of camera in showing both characters and their feelings as well as New York which can be pretty empty and disturbing itself behind all the wonderful scenery of man made wonders and people dressed beautifully in furs. This movie is not for everyone, it is very dark and sometimes brutal but is also warm in some ways i mean there is always light, even though here it is on the very edges. This is a movie that makes you look into your own psych and makes you explore the parts of you that you never ever though of doing in the first place.