Most movies are pitched for a childish mentality — chatty, with quick shots and lacking material that doesn’t move the plot forward. Most movies also ignore human sexuality.
“Shame,” an extraordinary new film directed by Steve McQueen starring Michael Fassbender, is the opposite.
Opening Friday, “Shame” deals frankly with sex addiction. It tells its story with long, unbroken shots, a minimum of information and dialogue, and an emphasis on daily routine in the life of a sex addict named Brandon and his sister (played by Carey Mulligan). The result is remarkably revealing.
The busy Fassbender — who also appeared this year in “Jane Eyre,” “X-Men: First Class” and “A Dangerous Method” — and McQueen, who directed the 2008 critical hit “Hunger,” also featuring Fassbender, recently visited The City to talk about their new venture.
Fassbender, 34, who doesn’t seem overly concerned about his participation in the film’s graphic sex scenes, does wonder about why everyone is so curious about his personal life, and about his “brand.”
“My job is to go to places that are uncomfortable for the benefit of telling the story,” he says. “It’s going to make my job more difficult, and the audience’s job more difficult, if they’re more concerned about Michael Fassbender than Brandon.”
With its NC-17 rating, the filmmakers must have considered how audiences would react to such provocative images.
But McQueen, 42, says no, matter-of-factly: “I suppose what I’m after is that I want people to care for this person called Brandon. That’s as much as I can ask for.”
“Shame” doesn’t have a specific opinion on sex addiction, good or bad, the filmmakers say. But it reflects emotions that audiences of many kinds can understand.
“Steve and I feel lost and confused and are searching for some answers in the world,” Fassbender says. “Is anyone else feeling the same thing? And then you send it out there and realize that, yes, we’re pretty much all the same.”
To that end, McQueen’s writing process is so much about exploring and asking questions that he routinely begins writing without an ending in mind.
“You have to find it, through writing,” he says.
IF YOU GO
Starring Michael Fassbender, Carey Mulligan, James Badge Dale
Written by Abi Morgan, Steve McQueen
Directed by Steve McQueen
Running time 1 hour, 41 minutes