Hunger (15)

Film

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Time Out rating:

<strong>Rating: </strong><span class='lf-avgRating'>5</span>/5

User ratings:

<strong>Rating: </strong><span class='lf-avgRating'>4</span>/5
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Time Out says

Fri May 16 2008

What an extraordinary film is Steve McQueen’s study of life and death in Northern Ireland’s Maze Prison in the early 1980s. At every twist and turn this artist-filmmaker, who won the Turner Prize in 1999 for a video piece inspired by Buster Keaton, resists expectations and defies conventions – of pacing and performance, of editing and sound – to create a portrait of political resistance that flips disconcertingly and effectively between the thoughtful and the violent, the ugly and the beautiful. McQueen also blurs these distinctions so that we find transcendence or solace in the brutal or the stark, whether that’s shit smeared in a circular pattern on a wall during a dirty protest or urine leaking down a corridor when prisoners empty their buckets under their cell doors.

This portrait of Belfast prison life in the shadow of Thatcher’s refusal to give political status to Republican prisoners slowly shifts from the communal to the personal to become the story of Bobby Sands. After we observe several prisoners and their methods of survival, from smuggling radio equipment up their backsides to smoking the pages of the Bible, we spend the final chapter with a dying Sands, the first of ten men who died during the hunger strike of 1981 and played in an admirable performance of psychological conviction from Michael Fassbender.

‘Hunger’ glides through three clear movements – life, debate and death – each with its own mood and method of inquiry. The first section of the film deals with daily prison life and, while it’s nearly silent in terms of dialogue, it couldn’t be louder in its frank portrayal of beatings and the mechanics of the ‘dirty protest’. Later, when it comes to the depiction of Sands’s hunger strike, a final section of the film that takes place almost entirely in one room, McQueen wrenches the external from the internal, the political from the corporeal, by preceding an expressionist portrait of dying (distorted sound and vision; the flow of childhood memories; a feather floating in the air) with a 20-minute, locked-frame take of Sands in deep discussion with a priest (Liam Cunningham).

This long, intellectually meaty scene is a tour de force of acting and writing (courtesy of playwright Enda Walsh) and means that McQueen is later able to shift his focus from the ideas behind the hunger strike to the mental and physical reality of seeing it through.
This is no tale of martyrdom; no inevitable story of messiah-like protest and punishment. Neither is it a partisan tale: McQueen seeks balance in both a sympathetic prison warden (Stuart Graham), who is as far removed as is charges from the haunting voice on the soundtrack of Thatcher in Westminster, and a saddening moment when we see a riot policeman break away from his colleagues to weep behind a wall.

Imagine how most filmmakers would tell this story and then see ‘Hunger’: the differences are bold and powerful and restore faith in cinema’s ability to cover history free from the bounds of texts and personalities. It’s not an easy watch – but it’s an invigorating one. Long live McQueen.
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Release details

Rated:

15

UK release:

Fri Oct 31, 2008

Duration:

90 mins

Users say

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<strong>Rating: </strong><span class='lf-avgRating'>0</span>/5

Average User Rating

3.6 / 5

Rating Breakdown

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  • 4 star:2
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LiveReviews|15
1 person listening
amm08x

I read in Fangoria magazine that this film is supposed to be featured in a new contest called FrightFest. Has anyone heard any bit of news on it cause I really want to check it out?

amm08x

I read in Fangoria magazine that this film is supposed to be featured in a new contest called FrightFest. Has anyone heard any bit of news on it cause I really want to check it out?

Katherine

A truely awsome film. It was spell binding from the very first frame ubtill the last. By which time I was totally absorbed by this masterpiece. This film did the rare thing for me. I wanted to do the whole thing again. The subject matter was hard hitting and at times challenging. Having read the, highly recommended book, Ten Men Dead. I feel this film told the storey well. I would recomend it to anybody. To those who say this film has no soul, remember these brave men gave their lives so others may live as free poeple. Sometimes art has to be more that just a distracting entertainment, it has to inform.

Katherine

A truely awsome film. It was spell binding from the very first frame ubtill the last. By which time I was totally absorbed by this masterpiece. This film did the rare thing for me. I wanted to do the whole thing again. The subject matter was hard hitting and at times challenging. Having read the, highly recommended book, Ten Men Dead. I feel this film told the storey well. I would recomend it to anybody. To those who say this film has no soul, remember these brave men gave their lives so others may live as free poeple. Sometimes art has to be more that just a distracting entertainment, it has to inform.

paulis

We will not forget you Jimmy Sands was the black humour shouted across streets in Belfast by Loyalists poking fun at moviegoers. This film is a classic and will for good or ill immortalise the name of Bobby Sands. Go to see highly reccomended

paulis

We will not forget you Jimmy Sands was the black humour shouted across streets in Belfast by Loyalists poking fun at moviegoers. This film is a classic and will for good or ill immortalise the name of Bobby Sands. Go to see highly reccomended

David

Hugely over rated. The film fails to place the events in any context and is ultimately emotionally cold and rather tedious.

Justin Berkovi

A completely overrated film by the critics. For such a strong subject matter the film was soulless and in some places extremely boring. What should have had a sense of underlying tension and oppression and struggle and sense of irresolute purpose was replaced by perfectly executed cinematography, colour, lighting but little else. A huge disappointment and immediately forgettable.

David

The film is beautifully made, but it is surprisingly unemotional. I didn't really feel anything at the end of it. Perhaps it is because it is so starkly filmed - lots of silence, not much camera movement, little music. It definitely feels like it is made by an artist rather than a filmmaker

Nin

stark, beautifully made and stylish but very hard to watch at points. not for the faint hearted!

Andy

I think it is one of the most important films of this decade. Powerful performances, assured directing and well done to all the cast and crew involved

Andy

I think it is one of the most important films of this decade. Powerful performances, assured directing and well done to all the cast and crew involved

Fiercehairdo

This is an amazing film. Shocking and powerful cinema of the body. Stylish, unconventional, innovative, moving, powerfully somatic.

Fiercehairdo

This is an amazing film. Shocking and powerful cinema of the body. Stylish, unconventional, innovative, moving, powerfully somatic.

ace

I just saw this today at Cannes and while I personally didn't like the film. It had a lot of elements of film stylizations from soylent green, the expressionist themes for the death sequences to even tarantinoesque 70s laden dialogue for one scene. But it just didn't click for me.