Criterion Collection: Hunger [DVD]  [Region 1] [US Import] [NTSC]
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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.
Director Steve McQueen offers a bleak portrayal of the period leading up to the hunger strike, as well as its immediate aftermath. This is a film devoid of 'fun' and 'light entertainment'. Rather, it's a serious commentary on this particular aspect of the so-called 'Troubles'. The direction is excellent, exploring the brutalities in a highly poignant (but never sentimental) manner. The acting is also fantastic - especially the characterisation of Sands (by Michael Fassbender). A standout moment involves a conversation between Sands and Catholic priest Dominic Moran (Liam Cunningham), consisting of a near-20 minute unbroken shot - with the camera remaining in the same position for the entire duration.
This is not a happy film - and will certainly not be to everyone's liking. Yet I highly recommend it - to anyone interested in gritty and realistic British / Irish historical drama. It's one of the finest pieces of historical film-making of the past decade.
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 i.e. that Sands desperately wanted to be included in the Pantheon of Irish Republican martyrs such as Tone and Pearse.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Firstly, the film description says this film is 'by Michael Fassbender'?!! It is directed by STEVE MCQUEEN.
Excellent film, uncensored and unapologetic. Read more
Shocking, thought provoking powerful film the acting is amazing- in some scenes its quite graffic and don't eat whilst watching it - takes a lot to keep my attention and this film... Read morePublished 1 month ago by harriett durrance
i enjoyed this film immensly it was pretty deep at times but still excellent well done amazonPublished 4 months ago by Dolores Gibson
Good film. Coming from Belfast I had mixed reactions on what to expect, but it's seemingly pretty accurate. Read morePublished 6 months ago by Jw1985
Powerful performances. Tight story line. Keeps to the facts. The UK government should be ashamed of its stand.Published 7 months ago by tintin2015
It was a good film with some great acting from Michael Fassbender.Published 8 months ago by THERESA
Item arrived 2 days early so super happy with delivery. Got text offering me choices for delivery and left with neighbour as instructed.
Great film great acting. Read more