28 of 32 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A powerful, poetic and provocative work - both emotionally and intellectually.
On a literal level, Steve McQueen's feature debut, Hunger, delineates the events surrounding the 1981 IRA Hunger Strike, led by Bobby Sands. It is also a meditation on the human body as political weapon, as well as an abstraction on what it means to die for a cause.
In spite of McQueen's celebrated status as a Turner Prize winning artist who has a long experience...
Published on 15 May 2009 by Elias M
3.0 out of 5 stars Fassbender is great
I have to say Fassbender plays a blinder in this movie. It stays true to the events but is a bit slow.
Published 4 months ago by GaryC
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28 of 32 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A powerful, poetic and provocative work - both emotionally and intellectually.,
This review is from: Hunger [DVD]  (DVD)On a literal level, Steve McQueen's feature debut, Hunger, delineates the events surrounding the 1981 IRA Hunger Strike, led by Bobby Sands. It is also a meditation on the human body as political weapon, as well as an abstraction on what it means to die for a cause.
In spite of McQueen's celebrated status as a Turner Prize winning artist who has a long experience working in the film medium, the journey to realising his creative vision with Hunger was far from problem-free. At a Q&A session I attended towards the close of 2008, the film's producers, Laura Hastings-Smith and Robin Gutch, described the difficulty they encountered in trying to raise funds for the project. McQueen's perceived "radical" ideas, which included exploring the possibility of making a silent film, made some potential sponsors feel jittery.
The first third of the film is almost devoid of any dialogue at all whilst it works to set the scene. Silence is contrasted against the centrepiece of the film - a twenty-two minute duologue between Bobby Sands and a Catholic priest, in which both men discuss the utility or futility of a hunger strike. This is followed by a monologue by a doctor's detailed description to Sands' parents about the effect of starvation on the human body. The third act observes the six-week disintegration of Sands' body during his hunger strike, which proves to be both engrossing and almost impossible to watch. Hunger, in the end is an indelibly powerful, poetic and provocative work - both emotionally and intellectually.
34 of 41 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Very Good effort at showing one aspect of the "Troubles",
This review is from: Hunger [DVD]  (DVD)It is, of course, impossible to make a non political film about the Maze Hunger Strikes of the early 80's. The events came from the political situation in Northern Ireland of the previous 12 (60?) years.
In my opinion McQueen does the right thing by concentrating on a single particular and admittedly very dramatic event of the period. Perhaps someone will one day make a comprehensive epic about the period but maybe it isn't the time yet. The general political details of how the protests arose are given in the film but mostly the camera just shows the events as they arise without comment.
The film has 3 parts. The first shows the self imposed conditions the prisoners lived in during the Blanket and Dirty protests. While I knew this involved them spreading their own excrement on the walls of their cells it is still a bit of a shock to see it re-enacted on screen. There are also long scenes showing the mistreatment by the prison guards. At one point I was thinking that the filmmaker was showing bias by spending so much time on this brutality. There is then a brief scene showing one of the prison officers being shot in the back of the head while visiting his senile mother in a nursing home.
Which actions are more brutal? Are any of them justified? McQueen leaves it up to the viewer to decide.
The middle section is an extended converstion between hunger strike leader Bobby Sands and a priest before the strike begins. They discuss the morality and motivation of the strike. Again McQueen sets out both views and leaves the decisions up to the viewer. I found one suggestion the priest made very interesting ie the Sands desperately wanted to be included in the Pantheon of Irish Republican martyrs such as Tone and Pearse.
The final section shows Sands physical decline to death during the strike. I thought the flashbacks to his childhood a bit unnecessary and out of tune with the tone of the rest of the film.
Overall I thought it was a dispassionate attempt to show the events of the time. Go to see it without preconceptions and make up your own mind.
15 of 18 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars a film to endure rather than enjoy,
This review is from: Hunger [DVD]  (DVD)If Steve McQueen, the writer and director of this incredible film, was never to make another film in his life, he could at least be happy in the knowledge that he has created something truly astonishing. Taking as its central core the last six weeks of the life of IRA prisoner Bobby Sands as he embarks on the hunger strike that will lead to his death, this film pulls no punches in showing the graphic nature of life for both prison officers and prisoners within the notorious Maze prison in 1981.
Beginning with a sequence involving prison officer Ray Lohan (Stuart Graham) getting ready for work and checking under his car for "suspect devices" as his wife looks on, the film then moves on to quickly establish the brutal realities of life for IRA prisoners in the Maze. Refusing to wear prison uniforms as they consider themselves political prisoners and hence should be allowed to wear their own clothes, the prisoners embark on a series of what became known as "dirty" protests (although this term is never used in the film), but here are referred to more correctly as "Blanket" and "No Wash" protests. The harsh realities of these protests are prisoners smearing their own excrement on the walls of their cells, refusing to bath or cut their hair, and wearing only blankets as they have no other clothing. Coupled with this is the unbelievable brutality with which the authorities attempted to maintain order, including forcibly cleaning the prisoners, and submitting them to degrading cavity searches.
The film then focuses on Bobby Sands (Michael Fassbender) as he reaches the decision to embark on a hunger strike, justifying this desperate action in a simply stunning set piece where he discusses the morality and reality of what he and his fellow prisoners are about to embark on with a priest (Liam Cunningham) in a relatively static 20 minute sequence which is simply two men talking, one justifying his actions of last resort, whilst the other tries to convince him of the foolhardiness of his decision, and one of the most riveting pieces of cinema I have ever seen, simply because it is simple and un-self conscious, well acted and well scripted.
This is a film that makes no judgements, and never says who was right and who was wrong (that's up to you to decide), but instead shows a snapshot of a particular moment in recent history with brutal and graphic immediacy, in particular the extended sequence of Bobby Sands death and the brief and unbelievably shocking murder of a prison guard by a Republican hitman. Fassbender is simply mesmerising as Bobby Sands, a man driven to do what he did out of desperation and dissatisfaction with a leadership on both sides of the fence that either marginalised, belittled or ignored him. The fact that Sands death lit the touch paper for many more years of sectarian violence is left unsaid, but hangs heavy throughout the closing moments of the film. But this is McQueen's film, and he handles it beautifully. Skilful use of voiceover to establish the political climate at the time (Margaret Thatcher is an unseen but brooding presence throughout the film thanks to some fantastic moments featuring her various statements and press conferences) is coupled with imagery that literally does say more than words can. Both compelling and repellent at the same time, this is not an easy film to watch, but still comes thoroughly recommended.
52 of 64 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars not for the faint of heart,
This review is from: Hunger [DVD]  (DVD)I watched this film last night at the cinema and it justifies the hype that is surrounding it. The director, Steve McQueen, is of course most famous (up till now anyway) as the winner of the Turner Prize in 1999 (when he pipped Tracey Emin to the prize). He has been a film-maker for a long time, (his debut was Bear in 1993 which is a stark, stripped-back look at masculinity), but this is his first feature film. It retains the stripped-back feel, focussing mostly on one location, the Maze Prison, and the brutal horrors that go on therein. It is not for the faint of heart at all. Some parts of it are shocking, and yet Mcqueen has a great talent for stalling at particularly striking images and holding the shot for some time while action continues. I find this really effective, noticing the eery beauty in even the most brutal, unhappy, awful situations. This for me is the opposite of euphemism (an example of which, 'the troubles', used to refer to the war that went on in Ireland, is exposed as the lie it is in this film)... it takes a searing, brave, honest look at things, sees their terrible beauty and holds it so that you revile yourself in even thinking of beauty. These conflicting emotions are also embodied in the central character, Bobby Sands, who led the tragic 1981 hunger strike that resulted in 10 deaths.
Mcqueen's film is remarkably un-cluttered and yet a wealth of different kinds of scene are employed. We have a scene of extended dialogue in which Sands discusses the ethics of hunger striking with a priest. Thatcher's ugly voice is used as a voice-over. There are very violent scenes. A scene where a man is in tears, while extreme violence goes on beside him.
I think this is must-viewing for anyone interested in film, interested in recent history, interested in the way history is formed. It is not a simplistically judgemental film. The performances, particularly Michael Fassbender, are similarly uncompromising, brave and dedicated.
7 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Hunger Artist,
This review is from: Hunger [DVD]  (DVD)Hunger does what it says on the tin,it abstracts from a polemical,ideological situation about hunger strikes in the Maze Prison in Northern Ireland in 1981 and removes the heat of the local personalities and history of the time, and gives us a film based on the individual humanity and decisions of individuals based at a stressful time.We get the essence without the controversy,coming as it does 27 years after the events described.We also get a film maker who has come from making video art works into the strange world of film making with all its taboos and shibboleths.Bobby Sands is the central character but doesn't come in until 35 minutes into the film.So the performance does not shout:this is Bobby Sands,he arrives as an organic part of the central and last triptychs.The films tripartite structure moves through the physical-the sheer claustrophobic hell of physical beatings,to the ideas at the heart of the motivation behind the hunger strike in the immaculate boxing match dialogue,to the wasting away of a human body in its last defence against an all powerful state.
The film opens with taking us through the daily rituals of Officer Lohan(Graham) as he prepares himself for another day's work in prison.He is lonely,suffers stress,we see crumbs dropping as he eats his breakfast.We see him smoking outside and snowflakes falling on his bloodied knuckles.As he leaves and opens his front gate like a prison door,he searches under his car for any bomb devices.In the Maze we see the admission process of another prisoner Brian and his refusal to wear prison uniform,and his receipt of a blanket as he is lead to his cell.Inside his cell, walls smeared with faeces greet him and he is met by Davey.There are scenes where the blanket protest is followed by the `dirty' protest,where prisoners object to having the status of `political prisoner' removed,they smear their cell walls with faeces or they empty their urine under their cell doors into the main corridor where it meets other streams of urine. Also the prisoners don't wash,let their hair grow long, leave food to rot on the cell floor. Every so often the men are pulled out of their cells and made to run the gauntlet of officers in full armoury as they run naked under the blows that rain down on them or they are forcibly scrubbed in a bath by several warders,hair cut.All the prisoners want is to be able to wear their own clothes, freely associate,receive letters and parcels once a week and not be treated like criminals.They have to resort to smuggling thingslike radio receivers up their anus from visitors or concealing paper notes in their mouths.The prison officers,often of the UDA,resent the conditions and stress of their work and the anxiety of being killed themselves as Lohan is when he visitshis dementing mother in an old people's home.Sixteen in all were killed at the time.We get the cold hand of the state with an implacable disembodied voice of Margaret Thatcher on radio.
The central unexpected part of the film is a static two takes 22 minute dialogue shot backlit in the visitors room between Sands(Fassbender) and Father Moran (Cunningham).Before this everything had been filmed without dialogue, setting the context of the dysfunction and degradation of the prison environment.Now Sands goes head- to-head in an argument with the priest .They both start off bantering,then talk of their respective childhoods,Sands telling Moran how he became a leader. They move into more serious gear with Moran arguing that he is speaking to a dead man,why not value his life and family more? Sands wants to be a martyr like Pearse.Sands showing the steel in his determination to go through with the hunger strike to the death as leader of many more.This scene is remarkably intense and has our full attention.There is rhythm as the two dance around,testing each other's mettle.Following this scene there is a warder clearing the corridor of urine,laying down disinfectant,pushing it forward with a squeegee in slow,methodical strokes.This scene is impressive as he moves from one end to the camera at the other where the viewer is. The repetition and the movement serve to underline the dialogue scene.They both take place in real time and help us absorb what has happened.
The final part of the film has a different tone:it is about Sands slowly starving to death over 66 days, so he becomes an emaciated ghost.This largely takes place in the hospital section of the prison in one room.Time passing suggested by meals brought,taken away and replaced by other uneaten meals.As he is lifted there are suggestions of him being like a Christ figure.There are flashbacks to his childhood.As he lies in bed a feather glides down poignantly in one shot,which seems heavier than him.McQueen has spoken of the difficulty of watching even actors beating other actors,where he did the prison beating scene in 6 takes.He also sent Fassbinder away for 10 weeks to diet severely to 58 kg.Due to the trust he created on the film set what he asked of his actors they delivered like performance artists of extreme authenticity.So the camaraderie amongst the film crew was high. Because he is primarily an artist he also evokes the material nature of the faeces,the urine,the physicality of being beaten and starvation,the claustrophobic enclosure and terror.The film was made in N.Ireland.The only thing missing is the collective camaraderie of the prisoners,the singing of songs,the noise.He gives you the minimum of information and mostly lets the images speak,gives the desperation of using the human body as the ultimate form of protest.Shortof narrative the film as body installation speaks more eloquently of that time.
7 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Harrowing but will rivet you to your seat!,
This review is from: Hunger [DVD]  (DVD)This does not despite some reports see McQueen make a hero out of first to die IRA prisoner on the infamous hunger strike campaign Bobby Sands, an utterly compelling and truly committed performance by Michael Fassbender.
McQueen's chooses to show us through is obvious artistic eye the brutal reality of what went on in the Maze prison in 1981, he isn't interested of showing Sand's and his colleagues as terrorists he takes this as a given. His unflinching camera just shows us what it was like to be a prisoner and guard in the maze at the height of the troubles.
He draws obvious parallels between Abu Ghraib and Guantananmo, to accept this actually went on in Britain. A disembodied voice of then Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher appears issuing they will not relent to the pressure of terrorists. Witnessing naked prisoners been beaten with no concessions for detail while a young guard hides terrified and tear filled at the brutality of his fellow colleagues.
The film has a sparse amount of dialogue and McQueen chooses to show rather than tell the events. As a prisoner arrives and refuses to wear is prison uniform as the men wanted to be accepted a political prisoners as opposed to terrorists, criminals, we watch him strip naked and then his led to his cell. On arrival is enters to find a darkened cell, the camera follows around the cell showing the excrement smeared across the walls as the men are at the height of their infamous dirty protests and his cell mate sat amongst it all.
McQueen's background as a video artist is present throughout, a prison guard stands against a white wall smoking a cigarette, his eye trains on a snow flake melting on his hand. A prisoner putting his hand in and out a wired window playing with a fly and the vision of seeing inmates poring their urine out of a door as part of their protests, we see it pour out into the corridors given a almost beautiful quality by his artistic vision.
One long sequence which sees a guard pour disinfectant down the same corridor and mop from one end to the other. The majority of the dialogue appears in the films centre piece a discussion between a Catholic Priest the always impressive Liam Cunningham and Fassbender's Sand's. One 20 minute fixed camera take which see the two men place their arguments with no sides taken each having an equal chance to present his side, there is mutual respect between them but a huge gulf between each others beliefs, this moment goes some to explaing why Sand's an obvious intelligent man would subject himself to such a thing, his determination is unrelenting.
The rest of the film watches as Sand's through making the decision to go through with a hunger strike deteriorate before our eyes. McQueen does not hold back from showing the sheer horror of his body breaking down, showing someone attending to the sores on his back with painstaking detail.
McQueen apparently stopped filming for a number of months so Fassbender could loose the weight, which he lost on a diet of berries and sardines, his commitment to the role makes the methods of Christian Bale and Robert De Niro seem tame in comparison.
Would you want to return to such a work again? to watch this is an exhausting exercise and one which is not pleasant but it begs to be seen and never loses your interest, McQueen's film is highly original and important statement.
4.0 out of 5 stars Hunger-y for some top notch grim politically charged cinema.,
This review is from: Hunger [DVD]  (DVD)Item arrived on time and in good condition. The film is boss if you're into that sort of thing. Its pretty depressing but also beautiful at the same time.
5.0 out of 5 stars Not for the fainthearted.,
This review is from: Hunger [DVD]  (DVD)Totally recommend this tour de force for Michael Fassbender and McQueens directing. Compelling but not sentimental or bias to either side. Left you with the underlying message that no one wins in a situation where neither side will talk. An absolute must see.
3.0 out of 5 stars Fassbender is great,
This review is from: Hunger [DVD]  (DVD)I have to say Fassbender plays a blinder in this movie. It stays true to the events but is a bit slow.
5.0 out of 5 stars Hunger review,
This review is from: Hunger [DVD]  (DVD)Sometimes shocking but very good film Great performances. I think it benefit from more than one viewing to appreciate the film as a whole
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Hunger [DVD]  by Steve McQueen (DVD - 2009)