By Tais Maria Fernandes (Angola)
Shame, which centres around Brandon who is an apparent sex addict living in New York, shines a light on a controversial subject. The director Steve McQueen manages to display Brandon’s sexual habits without a judgmental or a ‘holier than thou’ angle. This film depended heavily upon the performances of the actors, and they mainly delivered. The lead role of Brandon is played by German born actor Michael Fassbender. Fassbender is insanely talented and without his perfect performance this film would not be what it is. Fassbender is able to portray Brandon without over-acting yet he manages to give the audience a rich experience which we will not forget.
The sensitivity of this film is astounding; however the film is still powerful. It leaves a lasting impact. Surprisingly, I found myself sympathising with Brandon. I did not expect to understand Brandon, I didn’t think I would relate, but I did relate to him. No, I’m not a sex addict but I do understand the power of addictions and how helpless it leaves the person who has the addiction. And the film showed the humanity of Brandon more than his sexuality. I am in love with Shame and have watched it over and over again; it’s stunning, yet very sad.
Another element that stood out to me was the fact that it would be hard for Brandon and most other sex addicts to confide in friends or family and have them feel the difficulty of such an addiction. People are able to understand the hardship of alcoholism or a drug addiction but an addiction to sex is seen as something highly erotic but not necessarily as something that can eat away at the soul. Simply put – it is not taken seriously. Brandon is unable to link an emotional connection with a sexual connection or attraction. To him sex is so far removed from a genuine relationship with a person he connects with on other levels. This is apparent when he fails to be aroused with Marianne whom he had pursued for a while and the two had gotten to know each other a bit.
What makes this film so amazing is that for me it represents the danger of pornographic images for young boys and girls. The astonishingly easy access that children have to porn today has never happened before in history. Children can access porn at any time from their cell phones and electronic tablets without any sort of censorship. I grew up in the nineties and the noughties, even my generation did not have such easy access to images which are so harmful.
One of the dangers of this is that young men will grow up with false images of female sexuality and have unrealistic expectations of actual sex. This can destroy or hamper the ability for young men to have meaningful romantic relationships which are also sexually gratifying. A boy can spend hours in bed with porn on his phone and iPad, these hours turn into years however there is nobody next to him in bed in real life because he has not learnt about actual sex only virtual sex. What is important is that people can fall in love with someone and be able to enjoy the beauty of a sexual relationship with that person which hopefully has not been destroyed by an overabundance of destructive pornographic images.
Back to Shame. The film is multi-layered. Each time I have watched it I have discovered something new; more than what I can get into for this review. This film touched me and very few films do that to me. I know that a number of people have seen this film and have not been able to look past the nudity and the sex. I cried uncontrollably because I looked past the sex and into the sad and complex reality of Brandon’s life.