Screening Room – SHAME

(KTSF by Sean Au)

When one man’s pleasure can be another man’s misery.

Sex. Like food, it is one of the many joys in life. However, it is also something that one can be addicted to, becoming the prison that traps the addict.

30-something Brandon (Michael Fassbender) enjoys a comfortable job, an enjoyable life in New York’s Manhattan. Behind his confident exterior is an addiction to sex. Sex is the first thing that fills his mind when he wakes up in the morning; it’s what occupies his thoughts at work; it becomes a pursuit when he is hanging out with his colleagues after work. Mostly casual and transactional by nature, Brandon’s sexual encounters are devoid of intimacy.

Yet, all seems to be under control until his sister, Sissy (Carey Mulligan) crashes his couch for a short visit. Sissy’s flaw is almost the opposite of her brother’s: it is a desperate craving for human connection that is on the brink of self degradation and self destruction. Sissy’s presence only serves to surface their addictions that threaten to consume them from the inside out.

SHAME boldly brings to our attention a rarely discussed topic: sex addiction. For addicts, the constant pursuit of the sexual climax to fulfill their psychological need has lost its ecstatic nature. It has become a form of pain, mixed with some despair in the loss of control of the self.

This is epitomized by a scene where Brandon, played by an outstanding Michael Fassbender, achieved a sexual climax in the last act of the movie, where his addiction has led him falling into an emotional abyss. Fassbender gives the best performance of his career, and easily one of the best performances this year, in a role that demands more of him beyond stripping off his clothes. In a script that relies more on the actor’s communication through his eyes than his words, Fassbender excells in making us feel his torture. Deservingly, he won Best Actor at the Venice Film Festival. There is no doubt that this will earn him an Oscar nod.

“In each of these sex scenes, there is a revelation in there, of the character and his state of mind, his psyche, some sort of insight into his condition. So it is not about titillation or exploitation of sex. It is about the investigation of character,” says Fassbender in an interview.

Manhattan’s boxes in the skies, further serve as prisons that our protagonist cannot seem to break out of. We see the characters hit rock bottom. They know that they have hit rock bottom. Whether they can make their way out, or be forever trapped in the vicious cycle, is a question that have us ponder the days to come long after the credits roll.

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars.

Video courtesy of Fox Searchlight Pictures.

(Copyright 2011 KTSF.  All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.) Sent from my Verizon Wireless BlackBerry

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