Shame


Watched a movie last night that for the first 30 minutes had me transfixed. It was a movie called Shame, starring Michael Fassbender. He plays the role of a damaged man living in NYC, whose life seems to revolve around sex in its different forms, whether it be an opportunistic root, a prostitute, or porn of every type.

For the first 30 minutes the film making was almost minimalist. There was little dialogue, much was revealed in tracking shots, in the faces of the characters, even in the background music. The acting was great, the direction sublime, and I felt myself connected to a movie as so rarely I am. Then I dropped off, until perhaps the last 10 minutes.

I wondered at that after. Where did I lose interest? Why? From about 30 minutes in the movie became more melodramatic as new characters and conflict were introduced to the story. This was absolutely necessary for the development of the story as a whole, but it also took it in a direction away from me. For the first 30 minutes I could relate on some masculine level. It was a type of life portrayed, a different life to most, but one, as a male, as a virile male living in and around the metropolis, that I could closely relate to. Even though I don’t have the same porn fixation, much else was familiar: the lust for lust; the matter of fact, but ruthless desire; the lifestyle, drinks, dinner, laughter, flirtation, dirty sex. Even the scene in the train where he undresses a girl with his eyes, as she reacts to him, even that seemed real to me. Those 30 minutes would be close to many men I think, certainly these days, and in men of my rough vintage.

After that it became a story. Though we shared some behaviours he was different to me: that connection was severed. What had seemed personal now became entertainment. His inclinations were revealed as being more degenerate than I could understand, and the story became sordid, almost cruel. It became clear how deeply damaged he was, vulnerable, troubled, confused, lost, his life sliding away. It seemed his fate, something he seemed passively resigned to even as, now and then, he tried to change the course of it. The movie ended on that question: was he changed? Would he do as before, or would he choose another way?

I knew what I would do in that last scene, but then I’m not defined by these things as he was. He lived in a stupor, lit up by, and addicted to, the sensation of sex. Maybe that’s what a sex addict is, I thought – I’d always wondered. And so for him to say yes in the scene we never saw would be to shoot-up again; for me, simple fun.

Interesting movie. I’m sure a lot would be confronted by it. I can’t say I ‘enjoyed’ it – it’s not the sort of movie you enjoy. I think though that it’s one of the best movies I’ve seen this year. I’ll watch it again. I’ll read it on different levels, and knowing where it goes, will take in the first 30 minutes with a different eye.

It reminds me of a movie, I can’t remember which. It nags at me. Stay tuned.