I know this is supposed to be about television but I have seen a film that I found so infuriating, I had to comment. The film Shame, I found to be so banal and boring. Note that most reviews focus on the performances not the story. And to give the film its dues, the performances and the style of the film are excellent. But in terms of story, I struggled.
If you have seen it, try and do a one line for the plot. I dare you. It is incredibly hard. Walking home from the cinema the other night, I struggled to work out a suitable one. A good story should allow succinct summarisation – the logline.
After watching Shame, I found a copy of the screenplay and read that. I still struggled with what the story was. In terms of structure, seemingly important elements are set up and yet not played out. Characters are lingered over in several scenes, never to reappear and the dialogue is so very banal. So banal it has to be improvised.
When you improvise dialogue, it becomes trivial and banal. Words get repeated, often the actors will yell at each other. Gone is the carefully placed words of a screenplay. Different rhythms and syntax for each of the characters disappears, replaced by “authentic”speech.
This is probably most frustrating about Shame, that this film is yet another performance based film where the actors are first and foremost. You are watching a performance, it is not about the story or being taken someplace else, a new world or place. A well told story will have you identifying with the characters, even the bad guys.
But I am whistling in the wind it seems. Only one review I can find that shares my view was from The Daily Mail and their reviewer Chris Tookey. He seems to be copping as much flak for his criticism of Shame as the film is gathering accolades.
However, the reason why I can justify bending my rules for this blog is that for a truly engaging portrayal of a sex addict, look no further than Brenda Chenowith in the brilliant television series Six Feet Under. Here is a character compelled to act out, putting herself in very risky situations that not only place herself in danger but also her relationships and those she loves.
Yet again, television trumps film for engaging stories, characters and most importantly, writing.
Kill Your Darlings review – Shame by Kate Harper
Daily Mail review – Shame by Chris Tookey