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Hunger 2008


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Hunger follows life in the Maze Prison, Northern Ireland with an interpretation of the highly emotive events surrounding the 1981 IRA Hunger Strike, led by Bobby Sands. With an epic eye for detail, the film provides a timely exploration of what happens when body and mind are pushed to the uttermost limit.

Larry Cowan, Stuart Graham
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Product Details

  • Feature ages_15_and_over
Runtime 1 hour 31 minutes
Starring Larry Cowan, Stuart Graham, Liam McMahon, Liam Cunningham, Laine Megaw, Michael Fassbender, Dennis McCambridge, Helena Bereen, Rory Mullen, Brian Milligan
Director Steve McQueen (i), Steve McQueen
Genres Crime, Drama
Rental release Limited availability
Main languages English
Hearing impaired subtitles English

Customer Reviews

4.2 out of 5 stars
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Top Customer Reviews

Format: 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.
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Format: Blu-ray Verified Purchase
"Hunger" is an intense and powerful dramatization of the 1981 Irish hunger strike. What began as a protest in 1976, against the British government's withdrawal of 'Special Category Status' for convicted paramilitary prisoners, culminated five years later with hunger striker Bobby Sands being elected a Member of Parliament, prompting major media interest from around the world. This hunger strike resulted in the death of ten prisoners - and it radicalised Irish nationalist politics (with Sinn Féin becoming a mainstream political party). The significance of these events cannot, then, be over-stated. This film presents a horrific vision of the conditions endured at HM Prison Maze during these difficult years, and focuses on the final months of Sands life, who died for his cause as a volunteer with the Provisional Irish Republican Army (IRA).

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.
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Format: 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 i.e. that Sands desperately wanted to be included in the Pantheon of Irish Republican martyrs such as Tone and Pearse.
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