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Faith, Desire, and Addiction in Steve McQueen’s “Shame”

Faith, Desire, and Addiction in Steve McQueen’s “Shame”

It is Oscar Season and this year Steve McQueen’s 12 Years a Slave is one of the favorites. At Killing the Buddha, S. Brent Plate reviews one of McQueen’s less well known films from 2011, Shame, which sheds light on religious faith as a (potential) form of addiction:

Shame is a film about desire—desire to the point of addiction, a sickness unto death. To sum it up in a sentence: It’s about a sex addict named Brandon living in New York City. There are many addictions that befall us Homo sapiens; most are made and kept in secret, keeping us from the most intimate of intimacies. The film portrays the destructive tendencies of desire turned inward, the bankruptcy of an aesthetic and/or religious life that would establish the individual as sole proprietor of spirit. Desire gives way to despair, gives way to disease, all festering within the individual closed off to the world.

What follows here is not a “review” of the film so much as a meditation, looking at what this cinematic narrative tells us about the life of the individual and intimacy, the threats of disease and despair, and a life of faith.


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