It’s really sad that when people are talking about this film, they are usually only making jokes about Michael Fassbender’s giant penis. I mean, granted, it is a giant penis, but that’s like the 12th most interesting thing about this film.
Obviously, the mere fact that you see a man’s penis in the film means it isn’t for everyone (it’s rated NC-17), so this isn’t a blanket recommendation. However, this film is the epitome of what it means to depict something without glorifying it. If Shame had captured a wider audience, Evangelicals would have gotten out their signs and bitched about the film degrading our culture and loosening our morals. It would have been yet another example in a long list of signs of stupidity, because Shame isn’t about how great it is to have loads of meaningless sex with anyone we can find. It’s a film about pain, addiction, and devastating brokenness. I’m not saying the film is an indictment against sex, but you’d have an easier time proving that than proving it was a glorification of sex. The sex scenes in this movie are not sexy, they are heartbreaking. The graphic sexuality is used narratively to show the viewer how crippled our protagonist is by his quiet internal suffering.
Carey Mulligan’s turn in her supporting role is wonderful, but Fassbender’s is even better. This is as good as acting gets. Many of you already know about how quickly Fassbender became one of my favorite actors (it took about 30 seconds of his performance in Inglourious Basterds), and this role just cemented that standing all the more. Every character he portrays is complex. He has an uncanny ability (unintentional X-Men joke) to portray quiet vulnerability, with rage and pain beneath the surface, behind the eyes and the stoic facial queues. Even in blockbusters, from Magneto to his performance as David the android (the most redeeming quality of Prometheus), Fassbender’s performances are deep and layered.
In Shame, he gives an achingly beautiful performance as a man who has been too crippled by his past to experience any sort of intimacy, and so he drowns his pain in the most meaningless sexuality he can find. It was one in a wonderful list of films lately that struck me dumb with its emotional power and beauty. It is one of the most emotionally nuanced and engaging films I’ve ever seen.
Oh yeah, and the directing and cinematography! Perfecto! The jogging scene is one of the notably impressive scenes that comes to mind without digging too deeply into my memory. I need to watch the film again, so I won’t be as engaged by the emotional weight and can just revel in the technical beauty. Steve McQueen is one young director who makes me excited about the future of film.
I’ve already shared it before, but here is the trailer again, anyway. I really loved this film!