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VENICE 2011 Competition

Steve McQueen’s Shame hits the Lido

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Steve McQueen’s Shame hits the Lido

With a name like Steve McQueen, the celebrated British visual artist was perhaps destined to one day work in the cinema industry. His second feature after, his Caméra d’Or winning Hunger [+see also:
film review
trailer
interview: Laura Hastings-Smith Robi…
interview: Steve McQueen
film profile
]
, again has a simple, one-word title: Shame [+see also:
trailer
film profile
]
. It is part of the competition line-up in the Lido.

The film, written by McQueen and playwright-turned-screenwriter Abi Morgan, who also penned the upcoming Thatcher biopic The Iron Lady, charts a short period in the life of Brandon (Michael Fassbender, also the star of Hunger), an Irishman who grew up in New Jersey and who now has a successful office job in New York.

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As his singer sister (Carey Mulligan) comes to crash at his place indefinitely, Brandon finds it increasingly hard to contain a part of his private life: the fact he’s a sex addict.

As in Hunger, which recounted the hunger strike of Bobby Sands, who wanted IRA prisoners to be recognised as political prisoners, Shame is a visually confident and assuredly directed dive into a difficult and extremely complicated subject matter, which McQueen tackles with effortless brio.

In scene after scene, McQueen builds an involving but never easy portrait of Brandon’s uncontrollable urges, the conflicting emotions they engender and the crippling effect they have on his relationship with women and his views on relationships in general

One of the strongest ideas of the screenplay is that all this is revealed because of the sudden presence of a woman he can never have but nonetheless has to look after: his sister Sissy, a rolling stone who, in one of the film’s few humorous touches, dresses up in gaudy second-hand (she calls it “vintage”) clothes.

Things grow even more complicated when she starts flirting with Brandon’s boss (James Badhe Dale).

As in Hunger, McQueen again displays an innate sense of cinema, employing framing and camera placement, shot length and dialogue to get the most out of every single scene. And Fassbender as well as the small ensemble are again impressive. A haunting score completes the package.

The film was produced by The King’s Speech [+see also:
film review
trailer
interview: Tom Hooper
film profile
]
production company See-Saw Films, in co-production with Film 4. Momentum Pictures will release the film in the U.K.

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