I saw Shame this weekend, but you’ve probably read all there is to be said about the film by now. Suffice it to say that it was gritty, surprisingly subtle and incredibly well-acted and that I continue to be fascinated by what Steve McQueen has to say. The film itself isn’t really what this blog is going to be about.
What surprised and intrigued me were the reactions of audience members around me. This is a film about sex addiction with an 18 certificate by a director not known for shying away from the dark, difficult corners of the modern world, I thought, so presumably everyone knows what they’re getting themselves in for. My vague expectations was that the teens and twentysomethings watching would be the source of giggles at moments of nudity, the relatively graphic scenes and so on. What I found though, was that age doesn’t denote maturity. For the most part the young people in the audience took the images and themes of the film in their stride, while the ‘adults’ proper were chortling at the slightest glimpse of Michael Fassbender’s dick and visibly, audibly recoiling from anything other than vanilla, soft-focus missionary (of which there is little).
Logically though, I shouldn’t have been surprised. It follows that my generation would be less phased by frank depictions of sexuality and more ready to engage with the questions a film like this poses than that of our parents. I think I’m just a bit stuck to that childhood conviction that older necessarily equals wiser. These are huge generalisations, obviously; I’m sure there were older people in the audience who made it past being shocked by the nudity and let themselves be shocked by the unmitigated despair and anger Fassbender imbues his character with, by the nature of a society and media culture that can swallow someone up so completely. There’s nothing bad or wrong about addressing these kinds of things, and not facing them doesn’t make them go away.