Friday, July 6, 2012

Shame (2011)

Shame is a tricky film which often had me going, "I see what you did there." 

Brendan is just another loner in New York. On the outside, his life appears to have everything one could ask for. Soon we learn his life is just as hollow as him. He has built an impenetrable wall around him. He has lost the ability and the will to make relationships. He has what it takes to bed any woman he wishes to. He can bloody make a woman wet just by lookin' at her. Yet, he is lonely and doesn't seem to mind that. He is not displeased with his life. Born and bred in Jersey, his new life in the city that never sleeps is highly unsettling. Also, he is a sex addict. I look at his studio apartment, suave dressing and cannot help but think of Patrick Bateman. I have not seen American Psycho, but the iconic character's escapades are well heard of. He's the opposite of Travis Bickle. His struggle isn't to be known; on the contrary, he does not want to be noticed at all. 

His sister, a musician, is the only family he is left with. She visits him unannounced and upsets his life which was running with clockwork precision. She has had a rough past, inflicting injuries upon herself. The interaction between the two will be termed, by some, as borderline incestuous, though he flinches every time she touches him. He doesn't take responsibility for her actions. After all, it was not him who birthed and brought her into this world. He doesn't let his guard down around her. Interestingly, he seems even more lonely when he is around people. She becomes involved with his boss. Would Brendan be right in judging he? She catches him masturbating and having access to internet sex. Can she judge him? He is smooth and doesn't approve of his boss' blandness when approaching women. The goofy boss is married and doesn't think twice before dropping his pants. Would Brendan be right in judging him? The boss learns Brendan's computer is full of nasty porn. Does the boss think he is in a position to judge Brendan? He goes out on a date with his colleague, who recently separated from a short marriage. Would Brendan be right in judging her? 

I said I found the movie to be very tricky; I'll tell you why. Brendan's actions would be frowned upon or even condemned by the standards of a society. But, as we all have heard about double standards, how one looks at his deeds becomes stranger. This guy is living someone's fantasy. It could be mine, it could be yours. As a viewer, am I rightful in assessing him at all, especially when I am not averse to his actions? Just when you think the surprise is dead and that he's got nothing on you, he proves you wrong.

McQueen is a masterclass storyteller who, with impressive subtlety, puts these thoughts in your head by showing long, raw, uncut images. (No, I am not talking about Fassbender's penis.) He titillates you with sex and later fills you with shame. By the end of it, he manages to show you your true self. I didn't put myself in Brendan's place but that is where I found myself by the end of it. The images are haunting and scary. On any other day, my optimism would take the better of me when it comes to taking a side for an ambiguous end. But today, I feel the future is bleak. I feel people will not come around. 

SHAME could not possibly have had a more apt title.