Now to finally review my Number 1 favourite film of all time. There is a reason why Shame
is my favourite film and takes my number 1 spot, but I’ll get onto that later.
First a little summary of what the film is about.
We follow Brandon who is a sex addict living in New York. Portrayed by the brilliant Michael Fassbender.
The film is a character study into the mind of a sex addict and the effect it has over the person in general. A study shows that sex addiction can have negative impacts on the person it's affecting. Either in social, financial and work life. A sex addicts main thrive is to constantly pleasure and feed there need. Releasing endorphins in the brain. The way this inflicts on there life in general is by the means to fulfil that addiction. Financial wise, they waste their money buying porn and paying for prostitutes. Work wise it can inflict on their job. If they are caught watching or having porn at work it is bordering on being fired. In social life it can impede on their relationships. A sex addict will struggle to maintain a romantic relationship with a partner. Ever needing to feed their desire will strain their relationships.
Now sex addiction on a whole is a very touchy subject to work on. I should know, I wrote and directed a film on the cause and effect of Sex addiction and child abuse. 'Where Demons Hide'. The research was long and tedious. Finding people who would openly talk about their addictions was very difficult to ascertain. Only by going to AA meetings and talking to therapist did my actor portraying a sex addict find the reality of the addiction.
However my film was set in the UK, I experienced first hand the struggle that the crew of Shamehad in finding the correct source material and research. That's why Shame is based in New York as apposed to the UK. People in New York were more willing to open up and talk openly about their addictions in order for the crew to tell a realistic story and representation of the condition.
Anyway, what has all of this got to do with Shame?
The character of Brandon portrays all of the aspects that the effects of Sex addiction has on you. He watches porn at work and nearly gets caught. However he has such a good relationship with his boss that it's passed off. His boss knows that being with and around Brandon allows him to pick up girls, so he brushes the whole thing under the carpet. Brandon's social life is affected. He tries to start a relationship with a co-worker, but because of his addiction and how he is used to sex with hookers, he can't get little Brandon to work. This doesn’t help his self-esteem over his whole situation either.
Above all Brandon's personal life is inflicted.
When his sister comes to stay at his flat Brandon has to cope with his addiction conflicting with his chance to have a normal life. His sister coming to stay really kick-starts his desire to rid himself of the addiction. But like with any addiction, the withdrawal is the hardest part. There is a brilliant sequence near to the end of the film titled Unravelling, which really gets into the mind-set of the withdrawal effect and how it messes with your mind, conflicting your thoughts and your actions. Unravelling your life until your unsure of what you must do.
Now I mentioned this was my favourite film. You might find it weird how I can re watch a film about sex addiction over and over again. That's because it's more than a film about sex addiction. It's a character study. It's a film that gets down to the very roots of what makes us human. Why our actions affect others. The what if's. The looming question to what could my life could be like if I just decided to act?
Shame really expresses all of that to its audience. Not just with Brandon, but all the other characters in the film. They have believable traits that relate to Brandon's state of mind. His sister is the part of Brandon that want's to break free and have a normal life. His boss is the part that want's him to continue and indulge in his desire. Even the city of New York feels like a character in this film. It feels alive.
If you notice when watching Shame there is a sense of power to the locations that Brandon is portrayed in. His apartment, his work place, the hotel room he hires and the restaurant where his sister sings. They’re all high up above the city. What this suggests to me is a metaphor of how the addiction affects Brandon. A feeling of Highness. The addiction makes him feel high and feel in power. By being positioned high above the city this gives that power of being above other people. It's where he feels in control. However when he is below on the streets this is where he is less in control. On the subway where we start the film, he see's a woman on the train and tries to follow her and ends up loosing her. He runs along the streets in order to vent off his addiction. Most of the Unravelling sequence takes place at street level. And above all he breaks down emotionally at the docks. The street level is where the addiction is not in his control. New York feels alive because of this very reason.
The cinematography is beautiful. Steve McQueen is an artist. And Sean Bobbitt really expresses this art style. By having shots linger and hold on situations and characters really draws you into their state of mind and brings reality and realism to the scene. It makes you more immersed in what is going on and makes you connect more with what you are viewing. The way Steve McQueen and Sean Bobbitt chose to portray New York was a brilliant decision. Actually going out and identify what colours New York actually holds and expresses really helped bring the city to life.
By far one of my favourite pieces of the film is the Soundtrack. There are only 3 pieces of scored music by Harry Escott. Tracks titled "Brandon", "Unravelling" and "End Credits" These pieces of music are so powerful they really help convey the essence and the message of what the film is about. The choice to use the Goldberg Variations by Glenn Gould was also a fantastic choice. Having classic music as powerful as that really helps express Brandon's state of mind. And let us not forget Carey Mulligan's brilliant and moving performance of Frank Sinatra's 'New York, New York'.
Now in my mind I would say that this film is a cinematic masterpiece along side Mr. Nobody. However that's solely my opinion. My preferred films are Drama and films that focus on character study. This may not be the film for you. It's defiantly not one to watch with you parents. But it is a film that has heart and above all has a message. A message that is not to fear the unknown. If you have an addiction that is affecting your life, don't shut people out. Let them help you fight it.
Because of that message, this is why Shame is my favourite film.