SAG Preview 2011: Actors on Actors

“There is a heavy use of classical music to make the New York atmosphere feel heavier, the sets are generally pristine and sterile, and the lighting is dark and moody, but most of all, Michael Fassbender’s regal presence is at the center of everything in ‘Shame.’ That is the thing about Fassbender, he doesn’t quite fit into his movies, he jumps out, not because he can’t play his characters to perfection, matching behavior to milieu, but because he possesses something extra, something that we might call an aura. Like all his roles, Fassbender assumes this one with quiet authority; but where does this assurance come from, and why is there something more than just a believable performance? Marlon Brando made Stanley Kowalski explode because he was an extremely sensitive man trapped in the shell of an insensitive brute, shaped by the writing of the poetic hand of Tennessee Williams. In ‘Shame’ Fassbender is an emotionally charged being enlivening the shell of an emotionally detached character, in a story crafted by the artist Steve McQueen and his co-writer, Abi Morgan. Fassbender is able to articulate the emotional wrestling match that a man does with himself, an experience that usually is relegated to forms such as the novel and poetry because they can take the reader into the character’s inner thoughts. He makes this struggle palpable, he does what is often said can’t be done: He gives expression to the inner life of the character in a film, not through spoken language — films usually need to resort to characters saying how they feel — but through the depths of feeling that he lets emanate from his core.”

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