Review – Carlos Atanes’ Maximum Shame (2010)

A while back, I wrote a little something about the Fetisch Film Festival.

Held annually during the month of October in Kiel (Germany), the Fetisch Film Festival doesn’t seem too unlike most other film festivals: all sorts of content relevant to the theme are screened, filmmakers and producers on hand to answer questions and chat, and awards and a big party at the end.

So when one of the festival’s 2011 participants, Spanish filmmaker Carlos Atanes, contacted me recently and asked if I would like to view his entry, Maximum Shame (2010)… well, how could I say no? Enjoy!!


(pictured: Maximum Shame)

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Maximum Shame (2010) is “an apocalyptic fetish horror musical chess sci-fi weird underground feature movie” written, directed, and produced by Spanish cult filmmaker Carlos Atanes.

Basically, what happens is…

The end of the world is coming. In anticipation of it, a man (Rook) crawls under his bed and lands in some sort of limbo space between reality and fantasy. Then he gets a little stuck so his wife (one Bishop) goes looking to rescue him. Both end up trapped in a strange burnt-out warehouse/world where a nutty and narcissistic Queen on roller skates reigns (for a while, at least). The dialogue comes mostly in the form of monologues (verses conversations between the characters), and there’s some singing.

There’s a lot of Alice in Wonderland in Maximum Shame.

Further, most of the characters can’t eat, speak, or move about freely. Some don’t seem to mind their servitude, like little minion Pawn, but others do. For example, The Queen has this restrained pet, another woman Bishop, who resists her the entire time. There’s also The Knight, who tries to be helpful… but he ends up restrained by the Queen, too.

(pictured: this Bishop can’t eat)

 Here’s the trailer…


…but I actually liked this one a little better:



Honestly? I really didn’t understand Maximum Shame.

This may be because I am neither familiar with Carlos’ other work nor versed in this style/genre/scope of filmmaking. And although The Queen was played quite clearly with amazing sadistic glee by Marina Gatell and even though Ana Mayo (one of the bishops/”Alice”/Rook’s wife) is just lovely and luminescent, only through study of Carlos’ Director’s Statement (scroll down some) was I able to figure out something close to anything regarding the film’s plot.


I found this film to be really interesting in terms of fetish.

Fetishism is the attribution of human and/or human-created qualities to “inanimate” objects – like obsessing over a really great bag or a living prize (ie a puppy or a plant) as a reward for or symbol of something super awesome you did.

Sexual fetishism is attraction to objects, body parts, or situations not *conventionally* viewed as being sexual in nature. In other words, applying a human quality (desire) to something that is conventionally sexually “inanimate.”

(obviously the definitions for fetishism and sexual fetishism are subjective, situational, and variable)

Okayyy, but here’s the thing: nothing in Maximum Shame is overtly sexual (nor is anything, for that matter, really all that shaming), though much is fetishized.

Everything in Maximum Shame – from numbers to food to plots and plans – is tense and stressful. There are restraints that look titillating and sexy but are really there to starve the chess-piece characters existing in the bleak, spartan setting. There’s a cake that’s all fluff and a feast of spaghetti noodles, neither of which are *that* big of a deal… but the film fashions them into objects of tension and stress. They are fetishized.

Further, some things that may be conventionally sexualized (for good or bad), like a sexy white slip dress of some dude jerking off behind your head, are disregarded as completely banal.

Maximum Shame takes the sexual out of several sexual fetishes and augments the fixation that may come with fetishization in general. In what almost feels like a shout out to Karl Marx and the inhumanity that emerges with the fetishization of commodities, Carlos shows us a vison of the icky nasty discomfort that happens when humanity (communication, lust, interpersonal and common sense – all of it) goes out the window… and all you’re left with is this itch.

(pictured: Bishop and The Queen are totally over it)


Maximum Shame

With performances from Ana Mayo, Marina Gatell, Ignasi Vidal, Paco Moreno, Ariadna Ferrer, David Castro, and Eleanor James.

Maximum Shame (2010) was written, directed, and produced by Carlos Atanes.

Check out Maximum Shame on Carlos’ website here, and/or buy you copy on here.


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