Shame is not an easy film to see. It is a compelling “in-your-face” movie about sex addiction. Many film critics have complained that even though the sex is explicitly hard-core, the film lacks any eroticism... Well, duh, the whole point of the film is to show how most sex is a lonely desperate act by lonely desperate people. I am talking about the kind of sex where people use getting off as a way of avoiding their life’s circumstances. In this sex has nothing to do with making love or personal connection. The depiction presented here breaks the act down to its bare bones: wild animal compulsion devoid of feelings, i.e. symptomatic of our computer culture of obsessive fantasies.
That is why this is a film for all of us who are so (my rant) automatically unfeeling, iphone-punching, upward-mobile- downward dogging - text savvy, urban-savage, bent on speed dating, slow fooding, facebooking, spaced out-hooked up, boogy-woogy transgender transmigrating transfat subhuman overdriven and undernourished, self congratulating, self flagellating, hyperlinked hyperactive hyper-texted , coffee hugging, chocolate craving, vain loving self loathing, trans-auto-afixating narcissistic city plastered post-modern Americans... Uhhhg.
Well, you get the point… In other words the film elaborates on our popular notion of the modern metro sexual male, which wiki defines as: “a single young man with a high disposable income, living or working in the city. They are perhaps the most promising consumer market of the decade.” (wikipedia metrosexual)… No with Shame we are much more than that. We see the mainstreamfantasy meme that is our orientation to sex as commodity. Like the main character's sparce Chelsea apartment, it is a nest of empty pleasures.
What is marvelous about this movie is the feat of Michael Fassbinder playing Brandon, the ever hunger lust driven wanderer. It is a definite award winning performance. You feel like you are in this perosn's dull listless head for most of the movie. Fassbender makes it easy to see the constant prowling of Brandon, for his next sex driven fix, in the light of other addictions: a futile attempt to fill a deep hole in his soul. Carey Mulligan is equally amazing as Brandon’s, emotionally bankrupt drama case of a sister. Her life being just as desperate for love and connection as his, although it manifests in a different sort of way.
It is a stressful film to watch. We feel exhausted watching the constant adrenal rush that moves through Brandon's system as he eyes his next prospective playmate on every subway ride he takes; his favorite place for a quick pick-up. These are some of the best directed and most alluring scenes in the film. The simple exchange of looks between the good looking Brandon and the possibliy interested women, gives us the titillation that is missing in his out and out sex-capades.
So see Shame at your own risk. The risk of returning your soul from a society that has allowed us to disconnect from the sacred act of love. English director Steve McQueen has made one of the most important films in social history. The fact that he had the guts to expose our trained lie needs to applauded. The future of who we are awaits our awakening beyond the deepest structure of our social conditioning, that is especially singled out in this movie. McQueen also makes an exceptional comment on the state of our present civilization. It is fitting that Brandon works at a high tech Wall street firm, whose inhuman cooperate structure is par for the course of a class groomed on insensitivity. Talk about occupy: Occupy your sex with love and help humanity raise above the vapidity that is taking us into a downward spiral of fabricated plutarchy.
Occupy your neighbor’s heart with compassion and care, because the spectator of pleasure for pleasure sack divorces us from consciousness participation in our own lives. We become what spiritual teacher Paul Lowe has said about unconscious human beings: “A computer running a puppet show.”
Occupy yourself in this, sub-overculture that prides everything on profit and little on prosperity. Sex, like money, is commodity where there is never enough. The idea our corporate state inspires in us is to accumulate as much and as often as possible, because the more the better… And the more --the winner of the game whose goal is to out run yourself and your life. This is exemplified by very ordinary scene of Brandon out for a mindless -camera tracking - one take - jog down a lonely west 28th street.As we can see, (image left) from the 10 story high billboard at 34th strreet and 8th ave., NYC, that meaningless sexual allure is everywhere. We are programed to think image is enough and substance doesn't exist. Because it doesn't for many. This why, as mentioned before, the extreme graphic nature of the piece is important element. It grounds comerciality into witnessing what has been missing in our expanding spiritual realities. Our advertising culture debases our soul, from a natural intimacy that all of us aspire to live. But returning to the source, we see that sex is not just about getting off, but a form of communication from body to body, a natural nurturing of our esssense that yearns for huamn contact. Without connection and making love we become the compulsive civilization cooperates America wants us to be. Most likely our habitual addiction to greed will continue, until - as the Fassbinder so aptly demonstrates - there is a utter collapse into emotional deadness that could spark a revenue of the true human spirit.
Fassbinder’s heartless character eventually breaks down when he can no longer hold back the bursting forth of feelings that urgently well-up from deep within him, helping him to take control of his out of control obsession. The climax of the films depicts the characters ultimate demise as a sobering reminder that many of us live in hell. And the way out can be as simple as to take the hand of another and look into their eyes and see who they are. If we cannot do that we are doomed, like Brandon, to be a stranger to our selves in a land of sexual alluring strangers.
It is a film to see, but don’t bring the kids…. Or a first date! Because that uncomfortable hesitation after the film is over about what you should do will be exposed for what it is, a romp of disconnection. You will want to take your time to really know another human being before jumping into your own fantasy projections of what you want that person to be. If you don’t take your time, you will be right back in the movie, with a shocking vapidity played out in a budding relationship…The world on all fronts seems to be holding its breath as we enter this critical year at the crossroads in history. The question is: will we emerge whole from our cultural addictions or we will succumb to a cooperate forum that hangs survival, pleasure, obsession and gluttony as their hopeful and empty future? It is up to us... But the choice is obvious, because human beings innately know how to feel for each other, even after everything has been lost…
On the lowest base level of pure second chakra, this film is a vehicle for transformation. We can use it as a tool to examine and shift the orientation of our mindless solipsistic culture to one of mindful connections, where our most fundamental core holds a chance for love and fulfillment