Steve McQeen’s Shame:

Golden hair, golden dress, golden earrings, Carey Mulligan breathes in. New York is still, for a brief moment there is not a sound, soft city lights precede a soft voice as Sissy begins her rendition of “New York, New York” The camera settles close to her face, we begin to experience not a rendition, but a deeply personal and moving dream, so inviting is the city, sparkling jewellery and red lips, yet her eyes look elsewhere unable to meet the camera’s gaze.

Sissy is a secondary character in the film Shame, the catalyst to Brandon’s upheaval. Yet this one scene, captured so intimately reveals the lure and beauty of an enveloping world. As Sissy sings, she searches for the city the song portrays, instead her eyes find only a quiet room, this song is painful for her, this song is everything she has lost.

Across the room, Brandon and his friend sit, their eyes initially drawn deep into Sissy, into the city. yet Brandon’s eyes break from her as a single tear falls, his first outward show of authentic emotion and a soft nudge towards realisation, the city’s glamour, his shield, flaking away. In contrast, his friend claps and whistles at the end, seduced by Sissy and the city.

The emancipation of the city, having faded into the dull buzz of every day life, suddenly stands in front of the siblings naked and unsexualised, unable to further distract the siblings from some shared past. Of Brandon we know little, yet by the end of the song his escapism from genuine emotion struggles to withhold his growing angst. Conversely Sissy, so lost in her wealth of emotions still cannot express the lacking which New York attempts to hide.

This scene expressed and confirmed many ambiguities in the film Shame, and remains as one of the most moving scene’s I’ve seen, suspending the pace of the film and the lives of the characters caught within. So I ask, what scene has moved you and why? did this film catch your attention? I’d love to hear from you!

Check out the scene here:

“We aren’t bad people; we’re just from a bad place”