Tuesday, 10 January 2012

Shame, dir. Steve McQueen, wr. Abi Morgan, Steve McQueen, st. Michael Fassbender, Carey Mulligan

An anonymous and pallid New York serves as the backdrop in Steve McQueen's distressingly compelling tale of self-destructive compulsion. Fassbender plays Brandon, externally exquisitely manicured but harbouring a tumultuous and self-stoking dark passenger in the form of an incessant pursuit of carnal relief. Into his world comes Sissy (Mulligan), Brandon's sister and an equally disturbed individual. Writers Morgan and McQueen wisely omit specifics but allude to some unspoken childhood trauma that has dictated why these two are the way they are. Brandon's sexual encounters are perfunctory, brief, pure transaction. The one promise of something approaching a real relationship comes in the form of work colleague Marianne (Nicole Beharie). The pair's first date is playful, honest, a burgeoning salve waiting in the wings. Fassbender and Mulligan are a pair that can convey so much in a look or a lilt of the head, in fact there's a sparsity of dialogue on offer here. Much is expressed as contorted grimaces over wretched writhing flesh. Shame makes for grim viewing indeed, but it's also a formidable dissection of one man's attempts at vanquishing, or at least managing his demons. Fassbender and Mulligan both give expansive and raw performances, and Harry Escott's wonderfully elegiac score contribute to this remarkable film.