Tuesday, January 24, 2012

One Criticism of Shame

I think Shame one of the best movies of 2011.

But I think it's marred.

Brandon is a sex addict, with, therefore, an uncontrollable need for sexual release in whatever form. But, at the end, his sister's attempted suicide seems emotionally to unlock him. He is tender and loving with her at her hospital bed side. He, then, a lone figure, self brought to his knees, has an emotional outburst at some New York river side, a kind of expiation, as though with that expiation he allows love and emotion and tenderness in to crack the cocoon of his insular coldness.

The last scene is ambiguous.

The same married blonde from the first subway ride at the movie’s beginning now on the last ride beckons to him again with her eyes and face and then gets out of her seat to stand up invitingly, expecting him to join her, to rub up against her. But we have no evidence of his responsiveness to her. He seems to sit blankly as though resisting his previous impulse toward her. Then the screen grows blank; and then the movie ends and we don't know whether his new unlocked self is sufficient to surmount his addiction.

We don’t know whether, that is to say, Brandon has achieved, through his experience with his sister, some measure of self transcendence by way of gaining some measure of emotional wholeness, which will allow him to resist the demands of his addiction--the addiction which has so imprisoned him.

This final ambiguous ending seems pat and contrived in my view and cuts against and diminishes what throughout the movie had been a rather unrelenting, remorseless, unflinching and unsentimental presentation of his addiction.

In a word, the ending, however left irresolute, is, given the thrust what has gone before, a flinch.

There is a further point to be made given Shame’s ending.

It is in the nature of addiction, as I understand it, that emotional wholeness or unblocking is no "cure" for it: there is no cure, as I understand it, for addiction, only the imposition of one's will on impelling need through the hard establishing of conditions allowing the will to prevail one day at a time. I'm not aware that the proposition that there is no cure for addiction varies depending on the addiction. If this is correct, then the implication in Shame that Brandon's recovery of some measure of emotional wholeness of itself may get him past his addiction seems muddled to me and informs what I see as the movie's ending being too pat even in its irresolution

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