As a critic, I will encounter a film like Shame and end up drowning myself in thoughts. Directed by Steve McQueen and starring Michael Fassbender, Shame is a textbook example of modern art-house cinema and an unflinching examination on addiction, more determined than any film about its subject matter.
Fassbender and McQueen previously rose to fame with their 2008 gritty masterpiece Hunger; a physically demanding and eternally frightening biopic. The two create a blend of transgressive and audacious art and the well won’t be drying out soon. For the sake of cinema, this duo needs to make a generation of films together; the two creative forces are beyond restraints of human efforts, they are immaculate.
It’s a little ironic to define, describe or critique Shame; a film that functions through emotion and rarely words. Yes, art-house films almost always follow such an agenda. But the brute artistic force and dexterity McQueen brings with his camera lens steals the words from my tongue and, like Houdini, makes them disappear. Both of his directorial efforts leave me stunned, effected and traumatized for severe amounts of time.
Sure, we can talk about Fassbender’s performance: his impenetrable forces put as an actor physically and cerebrally. We can bring up the undermined values of Shame: Carey Mulligan’s best career performance, ground-breaking cinematography, visual language and scene structure. We can also point out the unfathomable script the film has been built.
But instead of technicalities, I want to bring up a question. Why do people drink black coffee?
You might say, through the pain of the consummation, there is a new state of mind to be explored. Or maybe after a point in life, you get used to the feeling. Or perhaps one gets sick of cream and sugar; needing a kick in the head.
I say, there is an undefinable zenith humans can reach, but fear. It comes from getting addicted to a force like black coffee. It is this zenith found in Michael Fassbender’s vexation. It’s found through Steve McQueen’s unyielding exploration of the human condition. It’s a zenith known as shame, and this film was the mirror revealing its face to us.
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