Grant McLanaghan’s review published on Letterboxd:
🎵 Hollow inside, I was hollow inside
But I couldn’t find out what the reason was why… 🎵
It’s the kind of coincidence that happens every now and again... this time, I just happened to watch a film that followed another single-title film beginning with ‘S’, which also concerns a protagonist dealing with an uncontrollable compulsion.
Unlike Swallow, Shame is, I believe, perfect. Even down to its phenomenal use of needle drops, which seem rather arbitrarily placed in the 2019 movie. Here, they’re wholly apposite, not just in terms of mood but also in terms of some of the film’s themes, one of which is concerned with surface levels, and what lies beneath.
Brandon is a successful, charismatic, charming, handsome executive. And he’s made it; he’s self-sufficient and has the pick of any woman he lays his soulful eyes upon, especially when he engages that sweet, sweet smile.
And yet he’s profoundly unhappy. Why this is, we don’t know exactly. And though he’s ‘arrived’ in terms of career and social status, he’s forever travelling. Or to put it another way, he’s almost always cumming. Or desiring to do so, at least – grasping at some kind of revelation that will provide his life with meaning. It’s a fruitless endeavour, however. He’s near-dead on the inside. And no matter how well things appear to be going in his work life – and to a certain extent, his private life, he’s never more than a few seconds away from pushing the self-destruct button.
I can’t speak for others, of course, but I feel that anyone with a compulsive nature can relate to Brandon in some way. And while he has the necessary wherewithal to lead an ‘ordinary’ life – psychologically, he’s trapped by an overriding desire to orgasm, whether it be with the aid of a prostitute, a pair of prostitutes, a date, a one-night stand or a guy administering a blowjob in a gay bar. And when he’s not copulating or masturbating, he’s watching hardcore pornography on his personal laptop or on his workplace desktop. And when he’s not doing that, he’s looking for his next potential lay, whether she be in the office, in a restaurant or bar or on a subway train…
So this compulsion, regardless of why it manifests itself, it’s a part of him, something he can’t quite fathom, something he feels shame about, something he might try to repress but something so powerful that it won’t relinquish its tight, five-knuckle grip.
Yeah, I reckon this film’s perfect, from beginning to pitch-perfect ending. It even has the balls to play just one piece of music over the end credits. And what a piece of music it is. I’ve had the soundtrack to Shame for almost three years (and yet I’ve only just got round to watching the film) and Harry Escott’s main theme, which is repurposed about three times throughout gives me the chills, even more so now that I can think of the visuals that go with it.
And you know what? Swallow and Shame would make for a pretty sound double bill – not exactly a fun way to spend three to four hours, admittedly. But should you choose to pair them, be sure to watch this one last because it’ll almost certainly deliver the coup de grâce.