By Anthony Finnegan
DIRECTOR Steve McQueen is no passive onlooker.
His second outing as a director is certainly a daring one.
Released this week, Shame, starring Michael Fassbender and Carey Mulligan, pulls no punches in its approach to the stigmatised subject of male sex addiction.
Shame tells the story of Brandon, a thirty something professional living in New York City.
To outside appearances Brandon is successful. He has a good job, owns his apartment and can afford an expensive lifestyle.
Inside he is a compulsive sex addict. He cannot get through a day without masterbating several times.
Brandon spends much of his free time on internet pornography sites. The rest of his free time is spent in the company of prostitutes.
Brandons secret world of sex addiction is interrupted when his sister, Sissy (Mulligan), comes to stay with him.
Sound like a comedy? It isn’t.
Shame is a dark and gritty film that sheds light into an area of many mens lives that they would prefer not to acknowledge.
McQueen succeeds as a director in Shame because he breaks all boundaries in his exploration of
Brandons sexual desires. No area of Brandons life is off limits to the all seeing director, who exploits his omni present point of view to its full potential. Disturbing to watch at times, this is the films strongest attribute.
McQueen introduces us to the characters world by taking us through a day in the life of Brandon.
We see how his sexual impulses dominate his life, from the moment he wakes in the morning, to when he goes to sleep at night. Within the first ten minutes of the film, we see him masterbate, pay for sex with a call girl, learn that his computer in his office has been taken for “repair”, lust after an attractive woman on the train and then masterbate some more in work.
The film feels like Steven Sodenberghs 2009 movie The Girlfriend Experience, only more explicit. If The Girlfriend Experience was a look at the world of a high class call girl through the eyes of a female, then Shame is a look at the world of the paying client.
The performances of Fassbender and Mulligan are spot on.
Brandon is played by Fassbender as a brooding, introverted man whose sexual appetite can never be satisfied. He comes across as a sad man, a man who views women as mere disposable objects who he cannot emotionally connect with.
Fassbender is in literally every scene in the movie. At times he is reminiscent of Christian Bales character in American Psycho. A character who on the outside is normal, but on the inside is twisted with perversion.
Fassbender and Mulligan work well together as brother and sister. Their performances are noteworthy in the sense that there is a lingering tension bubbling under the surface between the two, a tension that at times erupts with hints of frustration and incest.
One drawback to the movie is that we never learn the characters backstory.
Another drawback is that the film may be offensive to some viewers, particularly those who are uneasy with graphic sex scenes.
If you are easily offended by nudity, stay away.
Shame is bold second outing for Steve McQueen. It is a vast improvement on his debut, the critically acclaimed Hunger. The direction is an unprohibited look at one mans private addiction. The acting is superb. The film has the ability to haunt you for days after viewing. If you are not easily offended by nudity and are interested in watching a film that takes a raw and honest look about the topical issue of male sex addiction, then give Shame a look.