Event Review: Michael Shannon Film, Discussion

By Riley Jane McLaughlin
Contributor to the Underground


On January 29th, at six o’clock pm, the DePaul Humanities Center presented a showing of the 2011 film Take Shelter in the DePaul Student Center. This very special event also featured an interview and discussion with the star of the film, Michael Shannon, regarding his career and his thoughts on the film and acting in general.

Take Shelter follows the story of Curtis LaForche, a fictional man living with his wife and handicapped daughter in the suburbs. Curtis begins to struggle with intense nightmares, all surrounding the concept of an extremely large storm. Due to the potency of these dreams, Curtis believes them to be foreshadowing a near reality, and even begins to question his own sanity, as his mother was diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia when she was around Curtis’ age. This obsession with his nightmares and a foreboding storm takes a large toll on Curtis’ relationship with his wife. And although the ending of the film features Curtis confronting his paranoia, the very conclusion of the film showcases an intense storm brewing in the sky, allowing readers to question if Curtis was truly insane all along, or not.

I found this film compelling, as it explores a man’s struggles with the reality of his demons. Shannon provides a thoroughly believable portrayal of a seemingly average man with potent paranoia, evoking sympathy from the viewers and creating a character we hope to succeed in the end.

Following the film was a short introduction to Michael Shannon, which featured an overview of his other films, including spotlights on Bug, Revolutionary Road, Midnight Special, and Nocturnal Animals, among others. The interviewer highlighted how one of Shannon’s lines in Take Shelter, which states “It’s more than a dream, it’s a feeling,” really applies to his acting career at large, as Shannon exemplifies how one must have both rationality and emotion in performance. I found this connection interesting, as it’s always intriguing to see the ways in which an actor’s fictional work reflects a larger concept in his life. Shannon also discussed his environmental activism, and told various stories from his acting experiences. He mentioned that he feels most connected to Take Shelter, more so than his other films. He concluded the session by answering the questions of a few lucky DePaul students, mainly surrounding the topic of acting tips and techniques in his field. Altogether, his interview responses and advice taught me much about film acting and its mechanics that is not noticeable by simply watching the films, for viewers are unable to see the time and effort spent crafting each scene.

If you’re interested in witnessing another extension of Shannon’s work, a play he directed, entitled Traitor, is being performed in Chicago! The show is playing currently at A Red Orchid Theater, located at 1531 N. Wells Street.