I spent the afternoon watching the movie ‘Shame’ starring Michael Fassbender. It was much talked about last fall for the most ridiculous reason: it included a scene or two with full frontal male nudity. I was curious to see it because I loved Michael Fassbender in the best film representation of the book ‘Jane Eyre’ that I’ve ever seen. I also find books or movies intriguing when the title is one impactful word that evokes something different for each person who reads it.
‘Shame’ is about a man struggling with unidentified inner demons that cause him to act out sexually, and who is unable to connect with his sister who similarly acts out in her own life. What is implied, but never explained, is that they have a shared trauma that renders them incapable of having a healthy relationship, even with each other.
The sex scenes that people made much of were raw and painful to watch: examples of how sex can be alienating and isolating and distancing rather than what it should be: intimate, meaningful and connecting. As I watched the Michael Fassbender character (whose name is Brandon in the film) fail to connect sexually with a woman to whom he is drawn emotionally, I felt his pain. And it reminded me of how damaged we can be. In that scene in the film, I tried to watch him from the point of view of the woman who does not understand his failure to connect with her, and I thought of how often that probably happens in real life – how often have we been on the receiving end of an experience that feels like it’s about us, but is really about the damage suffered by the other person?
Fascinating stuff. I was taking a break from writing to watch the film but it turned out to be absolutely fortuitous because it’s added a new layer to a character I’m working on!
And if you do watch it, come back and leave me a comment. I would love to hear what you think!