Shame – directed by Steve McQueen – GFT2 -2011

Shame is the second feature film by renowned artist Steve McQueen, winner of the Turner Prize in 1999. McQueen has always experimented in film and used it as part of his art work, particularly in installation work, however it was not until 2008 when he released Hunger that he became a pure film maker. On the other hand it is clear that McQueen has worked as an artist as his films have beautifully observed visuals and well thought through and structured images.

Shame is an absolutely stunning film, it handles the difficult subject of sex addiction with subtlety and taste and although can be highly explicit at times it never feels inappropriate to the narrative. The film follows Brandon, played superbly by Michael Fassbender, a New York Yuppie who life seems to be perfectly controlled from his minimalist apartment to his simple routines of classical musical and morning routine. Brandon’s sex addiction is well documented within his routine from his morning shower to impulsively looking at women on the subway and in the street. There is once moment that is very telling where Brandon is looking at a woman at his work and the camera takes a soft focus on her lips, showing how Brandon is viewing her as a sensual object not just a possible date.  However Brandon is not an extrovert as some people view sex addicts, in fact he overly secretive therefore when his extroverted sister Sissy arrives she destroys his sense of calm and order.

The film uses a wide range of tones with a strong contrast between Brandon’s private life, often shown in cold blue tones whereas his sexual encounters and the softer moments in the film are shown in warmer yellow tones. This builds up a beautiful contrast and helps the film to move along smoothly, meaning the minimal dialogue does not prevent the film being expressive of the characters emotions.

All in all this film is expertly done, it shows how Brandon is almost a prisoner of his own masculinity and is not in control at all when thinking about his desires. It is not only aesthetically pleasing but also a deeply moving feature showing a bleak story in a modern Western city.

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