The students have their own digs off-campus, an old Victorian house that the Bellwether family owns. So even within the Cambridge campus they are a hothouse group held apart. The 20-something group has a shared identity like a vaporous social envelope. They see the world through collective eyes. It’s as if Benjamin Wood has created this group of friends as a proto-character in itself.
But one evening (this sounds like a fairy tale or an improbable upsurge of romanticism in the story), Oscar passes Kings College Chapel on the way home from work. There is an open-to-the-public performance of evensong taking place. Entranced by the singing and the extraordinary eloquence of the organ, Oscar goes in to listen. Oscar is an atheist but he is drawn in by the experience.
In the end, the brother and sister played by Michael Fassbender and Carey Mulligan in the searing but warmly realistic ‘Shame’, are so clearly ruined that it is hard to imagine a pain they have not endured. But what? I don’t care what it was, to be honest. Perhaps this incident was so horrendous that nothing they ever do, good or bad, will match that moment.
What we’re up against is Alphaville, the deconstruction of the human which can’t be accomplished unless our everyday literary culture is dismantled first. That’s a world where no one can ask why only because. Where there can be no rebellion and words are systematically banned from the dictionary because they would encourage independent ideas.