This is a movie about fearing the end of the world. It’s more about anxiety than the apocalypse. Whatever metaphors are contained in the script, the sense of impending doom is palpable, and unsettling. The whole film plays like a bad dream, where hidden meaning is secondary to throat-sucking dread. All horror films are about the same thing, but they let you off when the nightmare takes shape. In Take Shelter, fear is amorphous. We don’t know if the worst is real, or inside a man’s head. And that uncertainty is the conceit. Worry drives you mad. But worry warns you of danger too. It paralyses you even as it prompts you to act. That’s why the gift of prophesy is so alluring. Once you’re certain, you don’t feel angst.
Yes, you get to see Michael Fassbender’s penis in this movie. And yes, it’s big. But full frontal male nudity can’t hide the religious aspect of this film. I know the guys who made the Narnia movies have an idea of what “religious” means. But they’re wrong. Shame is a true religious movie. And not because anyone in it espouses religion; not because anyone is (I shudder to even use the word) “saved”; but because this film is about being human, because it abides with shame. Those who know Wim Wender’s Wings of Desire will be hard pressed not to picture an angel sat beside Michael Fassbender as he rides the subway. Love might be totally absent from this man’s life, but that only makes his struggle more profound.
There is always an audience for hokum. Whether it’s an inspirational teacher story where the teacher only has one class, or a fight for justice where the lawyer breaks down in tears, the fantasy version of reality is always a sure bet for good box office returns. Nowhere is this more the case than in movies about the civil rights movement in America. According to Hollywood, there was such a tiny minority of actual bigots in the South, it’s a wonder racial segregation got started in the first place. As the new adaptation of Kathryn Stockett’s novel, The Help makes clear: white folks were just itching to do right by African Americans in the 1960s. The only mystery is why black people didn’t ask white folks for help earlier…
You’ve seen the right-wing version of this film countless times. Charles Bronson made a career out of killing guys like Kevin: the sneering psychopaths we love to hate. But every psycho has a mother. That’s the hook – both in Lynne Ramsay’s new adaptation of Kevin, and Lionel Shriver’s unusual best-seller. This is story of a woman’s private hell. The mood of the film is toxic: polluted love. You want to see Kevin pushed off a cliff. You want to see him hang, see him riddled with bullets. But he lives. This is not a thriller, or a horror story. There is no vengeful resolution, because the heart of the drama isn’t: Who will stop Kevin? It’s: Who’s to blame? His mother is an accomplice to the crime. She’s not the hero.