For Your Consideration: Shame

The world as we know it has never been more crowded and information has never been more accessible. We live in a Facebook universe where its tentacles allow the entire world to be interconnected. Information, both the impactful and mundane, is broadcast instantly in 140 characters or less. The world is one society, never so close, yet as people we have never been so isolated. We have become world driven by “status updates” and “likes”. We’ve traded conversations for tweets and human interaction for “wall” posts. Human voices have become scary, it’s a lot easier to say “no” to someone from the safety of a well-timed text message. Conversation and conflict can be dirty, why not give your opinions under the umbrella of your latest blog post?

Nobody dies without any scars. What happens to us when we lose our best tool to cope with struggle inherent in living life? What happens when we can no longer truly communicate? The film Shame attempts to answer that question.

Meet Brandon (Michael Fassbender). It would be easy to describe him as a sex addict. For Brandon, sex is no longer an act of love, but a physical representation of his emotional pain. He is searching for an absolution that will never come. He is powerless to stop it and is left feeling empty in the absence of it.

From the outside looking in, Brandon is a well-adjusted man. He lives in a sterile apartment and works at a nameless company that produces nothing. He goes through the motions of his day-to-day life. He has no real attachment to anything but his compulsion. Everything in between is a cross to bear. His job, his friends and family are all hindrances. He has completely lost the ability to have a real relationship with someone, especially women. They are a means to an end and nothing more.

The film revolves around his relationship with his sister Sissy (Carey Mulligan). Their pain is shared, but never communicated. Despite a blatantly intimate relationship, Brandon keeps Sissy at a distance. To him, she is merely a reminder of his condition and another problem to be discarded. Sissy, who is equally damaged and self destructive, wants a relationship with Brandon, only to be pushed away at every turn.

Michael Fassbender, quickly becoming the actor of his generation, is simply breathtaking. He smolders as a man whose demons are slowly eating away at him. It’s truly mesmerizing watching him as his carefully manicured veneer chips away and we see the pain that is festering underneath. Equal to the task is Mulligan, who is asked to display the same pain in a different way. She’s an open wound, crying out to the one person who understands her and could possibly help her.

Shame is a transcendent film, perhaps the first truly great film of the new decade.  It’s not an easy film to watch. In fact, I doubt I will ever be able to watch it again. It holds up a mirror to us all and asks us to look at our trajectory and in doing so, stays with us far longer than we’re comfortable with.

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