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Hunger reviews

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Re: Hunger reviews

Post by Admin on Sat Mar 26, 2011 5:06 am

http://miamiherald.typepad.com/between_the_covers/2011/03/jane-eyre-a-movie-review.html

"Jane Eyre" - a movie review

Jane

The key to any remake of Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre is simple: Cast wisely, and all will be well. Director Cary Fukunara follows this rule and ends up with an atmospheric, absorbing version of the classic romance between an abandoned, plucky orphan and a wealthy, mysterious older man with a seriously Gothic secret.

Fukunara has at his disposal Australian actress Mia Wasikowska, who played Alice in Wonderland for Tim Burton and appeared as the daughter in the Oscar-nominated family drama The Kids Are All Right. Wasikowska, 21, brings a potent blend of intelligence and vulnerability to this capable Jane, who is nobody’s shrinking violet despite the fact that she was dumped at a young age into a dismal British school by her cruel relations. The damp, inhospitable place chills you with just a look at its moldy walls, but Jane is not fazed, not even when she’s punished or isolated.

“She has a heart of spite,” says her terrible aunt Reed (Sally Hawkins), but the accusation isn’t true. Jane is a deeply moral person; those around her keep trying to break her, and they fail miserably.

But something awful does happen to Jane, as we deduce from our first glimpse of her. The film opens with her traumatized flight from Thornfield Hall, a great house at which she finds work as a governess once she’s out of the dreary school. She lopes across the barren moors and is rescued by St. John Rivers (Jamie Bell), an earnest but dull cleric who lives with his sisters. Rivers never teases the truth about Jane’s past out of her, but Fukunara uses flashbacks to show us her dreadful childhood and how she ended up working at the stately home, which belongs to Mr. Rochester (Michael Fassbender, last seen as a British spy ordering drinks with the wrong three fingers in Quentin Tarantino’s Inglourious Basterds).

Judi Fassbender displays the appropriate heft to play the complex Rochester, a brooding Byronic sort who moves from imperious to intrigued to mocking in just a few moments. Fassbender is especially adept at conveying Rochester’s air of weary dissipation, and Wasikowska is his perfect foil. The actress is hardly plain, but she’ll pass muster by movie standards, and when the two square off there’s no mistaking the fact that she’s his match in every sense but experience. When he asks abruptly, “What’s your tale of woe?” in a voice dripping with sarcasm, she replies simply, “I have no tale of woe.” In her mind, she doesn’t. Life isn’t pretty, but you endure. Even thorny Rochester has to melt a little at her no-nonsense fortitude.

Of course Jane’s steady view is shaken by ensuing events at Thornfield, where she also meets a chatty housekeeper played by Judi Dench (as if Anglophiles needed another reason to see this film). The script is necessarily truncated from its expansive source material — Bronte wrote a fairly hefty novel — but in Fukunara’s hands you never feel like you’re missing a thing.

March 25, 2011

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Re: Hunger reviews

Post by Admin on Sat Apr 02, 2011 2:02 am

http://brycevankooten.wordpress.com/2011/04/01/time-to-review/

HUNGER: 8.42

There is a 23-minute scene (17 and a half minutes of it is a one-take) between an IRA Hunger Striker (Michael Fassbender) and a Belfast Priest (Liam Cunningham). And it is remarkable. It is known now know as The Scene. If you haven’t seen it, you haven’t seen it. So you should probably watch it tonight.

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Re: Hunger reviews

Post by Admin on Tue Apr 05, 2011 9:00 pm

http://www.davidhuntsperger.com/hunger/

A few thoughts on Steve McQueen’s “Hunger”
Posted on April 5, 2011

I recently watched British director and visual artist Steve McQueen‘s Hunger (2008). Written by McQueen and Enda Walsh, the film portrays the tribulations of Irish Republican Army (IRA) members held in Northern Ireland’s Maze Prison in 1981. The last half hour of the film is excruciatingly devoted to the starvation of Bobby Sands (played by Michael Fassbender). Sands died after a 66-day hunger strike protesting conditions in the prison.

Like Ken Loach’s The Wind That Shakes the Barley (2006), a film about the IRA during the Irish Civil War, Hunger is by its very nature politically contentious. According to the British government, the IRA were terrorists. (It’s hard not to think of Guantanamo Bay when one sees McQueen’s portrayal of the treatment of IRA prisoners.) While McQueen’s sympathy clearly lies with Sands and co., he doesn’t ignore the spectacular violence employed by the IRA.

The film begins with a prison guard leaving for work. Having checked beneath his car for bombs, he drives to the prison, puts on his uniform, and goes about his day. In the course of the film, we seem him do brutal things. He is not a sympathetic character. But as we watch him eat lunch out of tinfoil or smoke a cigarette or wash blood from his hands (literally), we get to know him. When he is shot in the head while visiting his mother in a nursing home, it’s shocking.

The cinematography is at times violent, at times poetic. Beauty appears in strange and disturbing places: a fly on a torn window grate, a close-up of a hand-rolled cigarette, human waste pooling in the hallway of the prison. I found some scenes of prison violence to be borderline unwatchable, though that’s not a critique of McQueen’s film.

Fassbender’s portrayal of Sands is memorable. He looks dangerously thin by the end of the film, and he expresses much with slight physical gestures (a fluttering eyelid, for example). His performance reminded me a little bit of Emile Hirsch’s in Into the Wild (2007).

Hunger is a troubling film about the so-called Troubles. It’s also a beautiful film, and I worry sometimes about the aestheticization of suffering. It’s too easy to apply words like “poetic” or “moving” to a film about a man starving death (men starving to death, really, as nine other IRA prisoners followed Sands). The film contains a relatively self-conscious debate between Sands and a priest about the difference between suicide and martyrdom. Perhaps the latter is simply more amenable to artistic treatment. In any case, I don’t know that making ugly art about suffering is more ethical than making beautiful art. Maybe it is.

I do know that I’m glad I watched McQueen’s film.

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Re: Hunger reviews

Post by Admin on Thu Apr 14, 2011 3:17 am

http://moviesandmeals.blogspot.com/2011/04/hunger.html

Tuesday, April 12, 2011
Hunger
'Hunger' is a very different type of movie. Based on the violent 1981 Irish hunger strikes, Steve McQueen directs a unique and visually captivating film. Starring Michael Fassbender (Jane Eyre, 300) as Bobby Sands - the IRA leader who, while imprisoned, leads the historic hunger strike of the Maze Prison. The visual components of the film were beautiful. He contrasts the beautiful life outside with the very violent scenes of torture and human rights violations.

McQueen draws upon the lack of dialog to create an eerie and empty feel throughout the film simply to reflect the solitary life in prison. After an hour and fifteen minutes of minimal dialog, one of the most impressive single-shot conversation sequences (that lasts about 12 minutes) ensues.. and is truly impressive. Sands talks to his priest, warning him that he is about to spearhead the hunger strikes; the two then argue about conforming to the British government and the dangers of staying loyal to Ireland. It took me about three minutes to realize that the dialog was being captured in a continuing shot, and the conversation lasted about nine minutes.

The amazing performance given by Fassbender is nearly overshadowed by his scary physical transformation. Similar to Christian Bale's extreem weight loss for 'The Machinist', Fassbender dropped to an alarming weight in preparation for the role. I was so touched/disturbed by this movie that I was thinking about it days after watching it, it really resonateed with me. I haven't given many movies 5/5, but this dark drama deserves it! 5/5 Stars ★★★★★

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Re: Hunger reviews

Post by Admin on Fri Apr 22, 2011 8:19 pm

http://weareyoung-givemoviesachance.blogspot.com/2011/04/hunger.html

Thursday, April 21, 2011
Hunger
Michael Fassbender
Directed by Steve McQueen
Rating: 3 stars

Based on a true story, Hunger is the story of Bobby Sands (Michael Fassbender), an Irishman locked in the Maze Prison in Northern Ireland, during the 1981 IRA hunger strike. Bobby Sands started the hunger strike and lasted for six weeks up to his death.

This is probably the shortest review I'll ever write, embarrassingly enough, but there's not much to say. Hunger wasn't a long movie but its message was powerful; portraying life in the Maze Prison a little before the strike. It was hard to see how police treated the prisoners and how prisoners lived in their cell. The reason I rated this movie three stars though, is because it was slow. Do not watch this movie at night or if you feel tired. Michael Fassbender has a very, very, long monologue when he's talking to a priest and it's hard to pay attention since the camera is focused on him almost the whole time. I should probably give this movie another try but I would recommend this movie only to those interested in the history of this hunger strike.
Posted by weareyoung at 8:31 PM

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Re: Hunger reviews

Post by Admin on Fri Apr 22, 2011 9:46 pm

http://governpoint.org/?p=477

Hunger – Bobby Sands in Agony – A Review of Steve McQueen’s 2008 Film About the IRA

“Hunger” directed by British filmmaker Steve McQueen, is a frightening look at life in Maze Prison during the IRA “dirty” protests of 1981. As the scenes unfold in this unrelentingly dark film, the camera moves into cells with walls covered in feces, through halls flooded with pools of urine, under the clubs of sadistic prison guards as they beat prisoners and into close-ups of the savage chopping of hair and beards, with bits of scalp and flesh cut away for good measure. This is violence that goes both ways, balancing the savagery neatly with the assassination of a prison guard while visiting his mother in a rest home. He ends up with his brains blown out in her lap, as she stares uncomprehending into the distance.

The graphic violence is difficult to take, and this is certainly intentional. McQueen wanted to make the horrors of that period visual and visceral for today’s audiences. There have been so many other calamities and historical upheaval since those years, that we are in danger of forgetting the suffering that so many went through, and this film very successfully puts the brutality of that era “in your face.” The director achieves a growing tension in the film through several strategies, some of them quite effective. At the beginning there is a sense of barely contained violence in the images, and interaction that eventually explodes into scenes of horrible brutality. This is also reflected in the dialog. McQueen has stated that at first he wanted to begin the film with almost total silence, and then build the pressure to a sudden outpouring of words. He eventually modified this approach somewhat, with the first thirty minutes or so of the film characterized by extremely sparse dialog. The near silence is suddenly ruptured by the first incongruous sound of chattering voices in the prison chapel, where a Catholic priest is saying Mass, his formulaic words barely audible above the din of urgent conversation. The camera pulls back to reveal a crowded room of political prisoners standing around talking excitedly as though at a cocktail party, rushing the words out in this their only opportunity to communicate beyond their isolated cells. It is a highly effective scene, illustrating beautifully the paradox of profanity, humanity and religious mission at the basis of the IRA movement.

Many questions are raised by a film like this. The most obvious ones begin with, “What for?” Why did these men join the IRA, why did they fight so tenaciously in the prison, and why were they treated so inhumanely? And the most pertinent question, why bring this all up now?

Steve McQueen avoids any direct answer to these questions in the interviews he has given regarding the film. It seems that he considers the entire tragedy of those years to have been a force of human nature, an inevitable Via Dolorosa that the Irish and British people needed to stumble through for their own salvation. He says that he created the story in a non-judgmental way, and did not intend to take sides with this film. However, the portrayal of Bobby Sands, the most well-known IRA fighter from that period, is presented with undeniably heroic overtones. For this reason, the film will almost certainly be very controversial in its UK release in October, 2008.

Although the scenes are intense, the storyline of the film has certain weaknesses that detract from its potential impact. The story seems to meander from a distance before it finally takes some direction to chronicle the last days of Bobby Sands’ life. It begins in the home of one prison guard as he leaves for work in the morning. It follows him into Maze Prison where it then takes up with a new prisoner as he is being processed into this vast dungeon. We follow this prisoner into his cell where his cellmate has already covered the walls with his own feces. We are quite far into the 96 minute film before we even meet Bobby Sands, played by Michael Fassbender, and a while more after that before we realize that this silent character locked up further down the corridor is, in fact, the protagonist of this film. In compensation, Fassbender’s performance, when he is finally brought front and center, is outstanding, and his final agony as he struggles with his own responsibilities and slowly dies of hunger, wasting away before our eyes, is an astounding performance.

But besides chronicling the physical suffering, McQueen is interested in also presenting the intellectual dilemma that this situation laid bare: the anachronistic existence of this medieval religious warfare in Twentieth Century Western Europe. He achieves that through the use of a crucial central scene, a polemical conversation between Sands and a priest who has come to visit him in the prison just as the hunger strike is getting underway. This seventeen minute scene, a tour de force filmed without any cuts, seeks to encapsulate through dialectics the entire tangle of contradictions, paradoxes and doom inherent in the situation, with Sands defending the choices made by the striking prisoners, and the priest taking the opposing views.

At the Sarajevo Film Festival, there was much talk about the technical achievement of creating such a long scene without any cuts, as well as the dramatic talents of the two actors in pulling this off. However, the real measure of success for this scene is how effectively it communicates the message. In my opinion, the seventeen minutes without a cut was static and counterproductive. It served to highlight the stagey-ness of the dialog, with the back and forth repartee of Sands and his confessor quickly becoming wooden and artificial. After about five minutes I had the sense of watching a verbose Edwardian production, and the scene still had twelve more minutes to go. Perhaps in an attempt to give it an emotional drive, the actors gradually talked faster and faster, but for me, this only made it worse. It seemed like they were pushing the words out to try to get through the scene before collapsing in exhaustion. With these distractions, I had difficulty listening to the barrage of arguments in those thick Ulster accents and I found myself repeatedly wondering when this scene would ever be over.

Even with its defects, this film is forceful and impressive, reminding us that history can never truly be resolved. The implications go far beyond the borders of Northern Ireland. When the film was shown at the Sarajevo Film Festival in August 2008, the actor who played the priest, Liam Cunningham, alluded to this when he spoke to that Bosnian audience, referring to parallels between the Irish situation and Bosnia’s own “troubles.” Steve McQueen has also hinted at a certain parallel between the brutality of Maze Prison and the prison scandals that have come out of the Iraqi occupation. This may be a story about one time in British history, but in a sense it is about the tragedy of human nature, when one group takes control over another, far beyond the rules of civilized society.

“Hunger” is an important addition to the body of work dealing with this painful period. Hopefully it will inspire a new, more emotionally detached discussion of the meaning of those years. This film very articulately poses the questions. If it has no answers to give, that is because there are still none to give. This is history still being written, very painfully, one page at a time.

Dominic Ambrose is a writer and script developer living in Paris. Take a look at his blogs at http://dominicambrose.wordpress.com and http://ambroseartgallery.wordpress.com

Author: Dominic Ambrose
Article Source: EzineArticles.com

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Re: Hunger reviews

Post by Admin on Fri May 06, 2011 3:05 pm

http://blogs.indiewire.com/shadowandact/archives/2011/05/05/ira_member_bobby_sands_died_today..._steve_mcqueens_hunger_retells_the_tale/

IRA Member Bobby Sands Died Today… Steve McQueen’s “Hunger” Retells The Tale

Today in history... May 5th, 1981, IRA (Irish Republican Army) member Bobby Sands died in a Northern Ireland prison, during the 66th day of his hunger strike.

Fast-forward to 2008... Black British filmmaker Steve McQueen’s debut feature film, Hunger, laconically, dramatically and harrowingly reconstructs the imprisonment of Bobby Sands and multi-week long hunger strike. Michael Fassbender stars in the film, which, by the way, is now available in Netflix’s Instant Watch streaming library. So, you can watch the critically acclaimed and award-winning film this very minute (with a basic Netflix account), within 2 or 3 clicks of your mouse or touch-pad.

So, do it!!

The film also received the Criterion Collection treatment on DVD and Blu-ray.

And looking ahead, as we all already know, McQueen is currently in post-production on his second feature film, Shame, which also stars Fassbender, as well as Nicole Beharie, and should be in theaters later this year. McQueen has also long been prepping his highly anticipated Fela biopic.

A trailer for Hunger follows below:

tambay posted to Today In History at 9:54 am on May 5, 2011

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Re: Hunger reviews

Post by Admin on Fri May 13, 2011 10:38 pm

http://silverturnip.wordpress.com/2011/05/10/150films-29-hunger-2008-michael-fassbender-stuart-graham-cert-15-rating-4/

150Films #29. Hunger [2008] Michael Fassbender, Stuart Graham. Cert 15 Rating 4*

Director: Steve McQueen | Starring: Michael Fassbender and Stuart Graham | Reviewed: 10 May 2011

HungerHunger 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. Hunger documents the last 6 weeks in the life of Sands.

What to say, what to say…

There’s a lot in this film that I don’t like. The obvious slant in favour of the IRA prisoners made me quite uncomfortable at times. I understand that this Sands story so that is naturally going to happen but I just feel you are led down the line of sympathy without ever getting the full picture. The inmates are all political prisoners fighting for a just cause while the guards are vindictive, sadistic bastards intent on torturing and abusing the other side. This may well be the case for all I know but few of the inmates were there for peaceful protests.

Setting that aside this really is a fantastic film about the human spirit. Michael Fassbender’s portrayal of Bobby Sands is striking. He captures the resolve and determination of the man brilliantly. He almost vibrates with passion for his beliefs and never wavers from his chosen path. In particular his scene with the priest is fabulous. The acting and the monologue will stay with you long after the film is finished and leaves you perfectly placed for the scenes that follow. The political messages and side choosing take a back seat and you are left with just a man at the end of his time. Not through illness, accident or old age but purely by his own will. A concept that few of us can comprehend let alone imagine. You feel completely emotionally invested in the character and as the scenes from his childhood play in his memory as the end closes in I defy you all to not have a lump in your throat and a tear in your eye.

Verdict: 4 Stars

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Re: Hunger reviews

Post by Admin on Sun May 22, 2011 3:24 am

http://icinephile.blogspot.com/2011/05/hunger-independent-film-review.html

Friday, May 20, 2011
Hunger (Independent Film Review)
Hunger is a piece of art. There is a plot, and there is exposition, but for all intents, it is not a movie, but art. It is no surprise that the film feels more art than motion picture. The director, Steve McQueen, is a visual artists who uses film to create his art. Hunger is his first film and though based on true events doesn't concern itself with those events.

The film is about three men; a new prisoner to Her Majesty's Prison Maze, Davey (Brian Milligan), a prison guard Raymond Lohan (Stuart Graham), and Bobby Sands (Michael Fassbender) the leader of the hunger strike which gives the film its name. Davey and Raymond's stories intertwine during the first third of the film, while the latter two thirds show Bobby as he decides to begin the hunger strike designed to give Ireland Freedom.

Although it does have plot, as I said, its a piece of art.

The film is made up of moments more than anything else. A character paints the walls of his cell with his feces. A quiet guard stands outside as his peers beat prisoners running a gauntlet of police sticks. Sands sees his past as he begins to die of starvation. A prisoner has a moment where he befriends a fly.

The cinematography is incredible. Parts of the film is crystal clear, and parts of it have been taken out of focus. The camera rarely cuts, but when it does it cuts into montages. There is a 20 minute still shot that is the only real dialogue in the film.

The acting by Fassbender is phenomenal. Most of the film is not dialogue and yet his emotions show through. The one scene that is dialogue is almost like a play, and Fassbender and the Priest his character is talking to (Liam Cunningham) play it out perfectly.
Posted by Alex Galloway at 3:50 PM

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Re: Hunger reviews

Post by Admin on Sat May 28, 2011 4:00 am

http://www.spaceshipbroken.com/?p=277

(2008)

A few years ago I went along to the cinema to see a film about 'some Irish bloke on a Hunger strike', a topic I didn't have much interest in but I'd heard the film was good. What I saw was hugely affecting. I still remember walking out of the screen after the film's finish - every audience member (myself included) was an emotional wreck. If you haven't seen the film, don't let that description put you off. Hunger might be a bit of a downer but it's hugely satisfying.

I was reminded of how good it was when I watched it again recently. Hunger was written and directed by turner prize winning artist Steve McQueen (no, not that Steve McQueen) and his artistic touch shows. Every shot is meticulous - you could take any still from the film and hang it in a photography gallery. But other than looking fantastic this also allows the audience to feel the moment. There's time to look inwards and to contemplate what's going on and how you feel about it. This is also aided by dialogue kept to a minimum. We're allowed to experience life as an Irish republican in a 1980s prison. It's brutal. But then so is what the prison guards go through. There is one dialogue heavy scene in the film: an epic, 17minute single-take conversation between Bobby Sands (played by Michael Fassbender) and a priest (played by Liam Cunningham). This scene is the centrepiece of the film - the bridge between the 'no wash' protest which opens the film and Bobby's hunger strike. It also allows us into Bobby's mind as he recalls his childhood. Mental images painted vividly by Fassbender's delivery, images which make the final scenes even more devastating.

I'm already looking forward to Steve McQueen's next film, called Shame. Again Fassbender stars, this time as a sex addict living in New York City whose younger sister (played by Carey Mulligan) comes to live with him. It’s currently in post production. On the strength of Hunger, I can't wait to see how it turns out.

Hunger really is one of the best films of recent years and I urge everyone to see it.

Rating: ★★★★★

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Re: Hunger reviews

Post by Admin on Mon Jun 06, 2011 1:18 am

http://www.sheilaomalley.com/?p=38358

28 Pages Long
Posted on June 5, 2011 by sheila

The scene is 28 pages long and involves two characters having a conversation, a long conversation: Bobby Sands, Irish prisoner about to go on hunger strike, and Father Dominic Moran, the priest who comes to visit Sands in prison. Bobby Sands is played by Michael Fassbender and Father Dominic is played by Liam Cunningham. The main chunk of dialogue takes up 17 minutes, a back and forth between the two men – and it was decided to do it in one take.

“It’s kind of bizarre to be walking into that particular scene which makes it sound like it’s a small thing but this particular scene that I’m involved in is 28 pages long. To keep the purity of it and the thought processes – it was decided to shoot it all in one go. I think for any actor who’s watching this, the hair will go up on the back of their neck immediately.”
– Liam Cunningham, actor

Indeed. Learning 5 pages of dialogue straight is difficult enough, but 28? Of course, if you’re doing a play, memorizing that much text is par for the course, but film is done in small chunks, sometimes second to second to second. You rarely get the chance to play a scene out, as you would if you were in the theatre – and even then, most one-take scenes run under 5 minutes, maybe a bit more. 17 minutes, especially with as much dialogue as there is in this scene, and no camera movements whatsoever, is so rare as to be almost unheard of.

The film is Hunger, directed by Steve McQueen (no relation), who is a visual artist and photographer. He won the Turner Prize. He’d done short documentaries and film installations, but Hunger was his first feature. He cowrote it with Irish playwright Enda Walsh. His background as an artist obviously gave him a strong visual sense, and a confidence of what he wanted. The film is quite beautiful-looking, although the subject matter is oftentimes grotesque. Mostly grotesque.

The prisoners in the H Block had been naked in their cells – some of them for up to 4 years, wrapped in blankets (hence, the Blanket protest – or “on the blanket”), and wiping their s$#! on the walls. Eating maggot-infested food. They protested being housed not as political prisoners but as common criminals (which, some might say, what’s the difference?), and they refused to wear the prison-issue uniforms. As the years moved on and the situation worsened, there was one failed attempt at a hunger strike. 7 prisoners went on strike at the same time. When the prisoners decided to go on another hunger strike, they had learned the cold-blooded lesson from the first one. In order to be successful, they needed to stagger the hunger strike, one man going on first and alone. Two weeks later, another would go on hunger strike, two weeks after that date, another one, and so on. It was a devastating tactic, not only for the prisoners, but for the guards, their families, and the country as a whole. It paralyzed Ireland. 10 men died on hunger strike before it finally ended when a mother decided to take her son off the hunger strike (this was the subject of Helen Mirren’s wonderful film Some Mother’s Son). Thatcher made a quiet unpublic concession, that the men could wear their own clothes. When Bobby Sands died, 100,000 people went to his funeral. (I visited his grave in Milltown Cemetery when I was in Belfast. That cemetery is a powerful and political place. It also didn’t hurt that I visited the grave with Anthony McIntyre, who was on the blanket/no-wash protest himself in Long Kesh, and knew all of the hunger strikers. Anthony was in Long Kesh for 19 years. He is now married to a good friend of mine – she who gave us such memorable directions to their house in Ballymurphy – you can read his blog here, as well as read an essay he wrote about our visit to Bobby Sands’ grave. McIntyre’s book Good Friday: The Death of Irish Republicanism is essential reading for anyone wanting to get a handle on the ins and outs of claustrophobic toxic Northern Irish politics, especially because he takes a critical view of the peace process, as well as the Sinn Féin/IRA party line which has caused him much trouble and controversy. We went to the Sinn Féin offices, which, of course, is emblazoned with a mural on the side – seen here in a photo I took that day: Bobby Sands’ face and his most famous quote (referenced in the essay by Anthony McIntyre):

Notice the news truck. It was November, 2004, a tense time in the peace process. Carrie, a journalist, talked to the news guys, to see if they knew what was going on inside. Gerry Adams’ car was parked against the curb. It was great to have insiders take us around because of stuff like that: “Oh, look, there’s Gerry’s car.” You know. Gerry. Belfast is a small town.

My family was in Ireland following the hunger strikes, and although we were in the South, the news still dominated. I was just a kid, but I understood that men were starving themselves on purpose in the north, and that reality was in the molecules, in the air that we breathed. The death of Bobby Sands, as well as the Iranian hostage crisis, were the two world events which filtered down into my young head, making a deep long-lasting impact. I worried obsessively over these things. I felt helpless. I didn’t understand the politics, but I didn’t want anyone to die. I don’t come from one of those Irish-American families that romanticize the IRA. Far from it. I have ancestors who were involved, of course, but the IRA of 1920 was quite a different organization from the IRA of 1970, or 1990. Or now. But it’s a complicated issue, even more so on the ground in the day-to-day in Belfast. I really got a crash course when I was there staying with Carrie and Anthony, because they are on the front lines of it. They dare to criticize Sinn Féin, and Gerry Adams, and the peace process. It’s a deep pool, Northern Irish politics. You can’t just dip your toe in to get a handle on what is going on. It requires full submersion.

To make things even more of a circus, Bobby Sands was elected to Parliament while he was on hunger strike (something Steve McQueen’s film doesn’t mention at all). Thatcher wouldn’t back down, and neither would the prisoners. It was a standoff. The IRA has much to answer for. But so do the British. There are no lily-white innocents in this story. Northern Ireland was a disaster, and the H-Block situation was handled disastrously, with escalation after escalation. Implacable. The funerals of the hunger strikers were chances for protests on the other side, the possibility of violence breaking out at all times. The pallbearers often wore black masks, giving the funeral processions a frightening macabre aspect. It was a PR disaster, to be sure, and I suppose that was part of the point. In the past, hunger strikes had been used as a negotiating tool: Starve yourself until the other side caves. Not this time. The 1981 hunger strike, with its staggered-interval participants, was designed to rack up a high body count. Bobby Sands didn’t go into the hunger strike as a negotiator, he went into it as a martyr. Hopefully his death would make the other side break. There needed to be dead bodies this time, not just starving bodies.

As Michael Fassbender says, “I think some people thought Sands was a nutter.”

In the aforementioned 28-page scene, a priest comes to visit Bobby Sands in the dark meeting room at Long Kesh. Father Dominic Ryan is a type of priest very well-known to Catholics who live in rough areas, immortalized perfectly in Karl Malden’s performance as Father Barry in On the Waterfront. No room for prudish notions of piety in such congregations. There are big political battles happening, and the priests are in the thick of it. Drinking, smoking, and fighting alongside the communities. Political men, rough men, men of the world in priest’s garb. There’s the iconic image of Father Edward Daly waving a white handkerchief in the midst of the Bloody Sunday massacre in 1972, he being representative of the kind of priest we’re talking about here.

Hunger begins with the morning ritual of prison guard Raymond Lohan, played by Stuart Graham, in a taut agonizing silent performance. He washes his face in his immaculate sink, he sits at the kitchen table and is served breakfast by his wife. He puts a napkin on his lap, and at one point delicately brushes the crumbs off of the napkin. The first time I saw the film, the cleanliness makes an impression. It’s not just clean, it’s antiseptic. I wondered about it, thinking to myself, “Nobody’s sink is that clean, it looks like a hotel” – it struck me as unreal, and then, 5 minutes in, I thought: “Duh. The man spends his day surrounded by walls covered in feces. Of course he is a clean-freak.” After breakfast, he goes outside to his driveway where his car waits. He lies on the driveway looking under the car. He holds his breath as he puts the key in the door. He holds his breath yet again as he turns the ignition. His worried wife stares out at him from behind the curtain. Nothing bad happens. He backs out of the driveway and drives off. We see him in closeup as he drives to work, his face dead and quiet and still. It’s a war. Every day is a war for this man. He risks his life every day in that prison. He also risks his life at home. 29 prison officers were killed during The Troubles, some gunned down by the IRA in front of their families, others the victim of car bombs. It is a horrible legacy.

By starting the film with Stuart Graham, Steve McQueen’s film lets us know what his approach will be to this huge event, which I think is very smart. Any hint of sentimentalizing the hunger strikers (beyond the obvious empathy a normal person feels when confronted with anyone who is suffering), and portraying the prison guards as faceless villains would have been insufferable, and incorrect. It is that kind of propaganda that continues to pump up both sides with anger and hate. Everyone has very long memories. Don’t forget that. This isn’t some abstract fight. Belfast is a small town. You may think it would be easy to rise above, but perhaps not when you saw your aunt gunned down in the street, when you held your dying brother in your arms. Hate hardens. On both sides. When I was in Belfast, we took the famous black cab tour, and our tour guide, a big tough guy, pointed out a building and said, “See dat pub? My girlfriend’s da got his leg blown off dere.”

The film ends with Bobby Sands’ death, filmed in the most subjective way imaginable, the camera floating around the room as Sands hovers near death, suggesting the vertigo-inducing nausea of such intense starvation. Once Sands enters the story (and he doesn’t do so until about half an hour in), it becomes his narrative, but we don’t start with him. We start with a guard. Trying to get through his day. There is a terribly poignant shot of a group of prison guards in riot gear, and one, obviously a newbie, hides around the corner, in tears.

The Lucifer Effect: Understanding How Good People Turn Evil by Philip Zambardo describes the Stanford Prison Experiment (engineered and set up by Zambardo), and the disastrous effects the prison guard uniform had on the students randomly picked to play guards. Natural enthusiastic fascists arose, those who had no tendencies towards that direction until they put on the uniform. There were those who resisted, and did the minimum, but there were a couple of others who relished their positions of power. The Lucifer Effect is a riveting book about prisons, and Zambardo had gone into the experiment wanting to see what being locked up did to someone psychologically. What he hadn’t expected was the immediate effect the position of power had on the boys chosen to be prison guards, and that has become his main focus of research ever since the experiment in the 70s. Hunger is bold enough, courageous enough, to start with the guards. To start with their lives, and the impact that their environment had on THEM. To hard-line IRA-ers, this would be unacceptable, but that is because they are partisans in the fight. There are scenes where a guard mops up the urine the prisoners leaked out into the hallways as one of Thatcher’s speeches is heard in voiceover. Her stance of non-negotiation starts to look very differently when seen through the eyes of the men who had to work in the prison.

The imagery of those s$#!-filled cells is so vivid and relentless that I actually found myself holding my breath from time to time as I watched the movie, as though the smell could come through the screen. Long Kesh was one of the most state-of-the-art prisons in Europe. This wasn’t a medieval Turkish prison, Midnight Express-style. The facilities were grand, as prisons go. But the H-block prisoners, living coated in their own filth, had turned it into a circle of Hell. The guards, in charge of fumigating the cells from time to time, had to wear Hazmat suits and masks because the stench was so excruciating. Imagine having to do that every day. Imagine NOT being a political person (although that is relatively impossible in the North). But still: imagine being as un-politicized as it is possible to be, just a person wanting to make a living and have a good life, and then imagine having to clean s$#! off the walls all day every day, and what that might do to your heart, your soul, your feeling about the Irish. Imagine being a guy with wife and kids who now has to fear his car being blown up with his daughter in the backseat, and how the rage might grow, the urge to strike back. f&#! Maggie Thatcher and her policies: imagine what it was like for those men who worked in the prison.

And that’s what Steve McQueen wanted to capture in Hunger, especially in the 28-pages long scene between Sands and Father Dominic.

“I wanted to have the left and right of it in one room having a dialogue. It’s like two stones – what you want to do in that situation is make a fire.”
- Steve McQueen, director

Father Dominic does not endorse the death-wish inherent in the staggered approach to the hunger strike, but it takes them about 15 minutes to even get to that point. The opening of the scene has the two of them lighting cigarettes, a bit of banter, chit-chat, essentially.

“That’s what I liked about it – two bright intelligent sharp men – who are opposed about certain things, diametrically opposed, but at the same time they both have the courage of their convictions.”
- Liam Cunningham

They smoke. They size each other up across the table. The room is dark, with windows in the back, so both of them have small light silhouettes, differentiating them from the darkness. It is a beautiful shot, but you quickly stop noticing the beauty because it becomes riveting on a whole other level: the camera doesn’t move, no cut-aways, no closeups, and the first time I saw it (having not heard about this showstopper of a scene), maybe 10 minutes into it, I thought, “Holy shitballs, this is all in one.” Little did I know how much more there was still to go.

There isn’t much dialogue in Hunger before this scene, and what there is is brief and urgent, situational, only. Meetings with family members in the visiting room, nothing of importance being said. There is no exposition. McQueen assumes we will know all the details. After all, this was an event of huge importance. If we don’t know the details, then we need to catch up. We only hear Thatcher’s voice in voiceover, so we understand the policy about the prisoners and their status in the prison. There’s only one scene where all the prisoners are seen together, and that is when they all gather for mass in a prison common room. The poor priest says his mass, by rote, as all of the men chat with each other, catch up, and surreptitiously pass notes. It’s pandemonium.

But all we hear is a clatter of voices, nothing differentiated. We aren’t let in on their secret plans, we don’t see them deciding to go on hunger strike. All of these decisions seem to happen by osmosis, which, of course, is not the case, but the film isn’t interested in the planning phase. It’s not interested in the hows. It’s not a history lesson. It’s a full immersion into that prison. You rarely get outdoor scenes. The most extensive exterior happens in flashback.

So when, suddenly, we get 17 minutes of nonstop dialogue, it’s startling. The accents are thick. I know the accent, and I had to lean forward to understand. As the positions emerge, the scene gets tenser. It is as though there are only two men alive on the entire planet. Father Dominic doesn’t disapprove of the hunger strike because it’s suicide which is a sin. His objection is more connected to the reality of the world outside. He does not spout platitudes. He tells Sands that the atmosphere in the prison, paranoid and claustrophobic, is a filthy belljar, and Sands is in no state to make such an important decision. Sands is clear, though. He expresses his clarity. This is how it will go. It cannot be stopped. Even if Sands wanted to call it off, he couldn’t. He was part of something larger.

“He was taking this priest in just to hear his own thoughts. He needed a sounding board.”
- writer Enda Walsh

The dialogue is incredibly complex, yet the structure of the scene is simple. Played like a play, it’s a real SCENE. Yes, scenes happen with closeup to closeup – but those are reconstructed in an editing room, and played in tiny bits. Actors rarely get a chance to say more than a sentence at one time in film. So here, once the thing starts … it can’t be stopped. And so it mirrors the urgency of the actual situation faced by Sands, and by Father Dominic who knows what a disaster is facing the community. The stakes couldn’t be higher. The script is a masterpiece of construction, and if it had been played with dueling closeups the tension would have been more manipulated. Here, it is organic. It comes out of the progression of the lines, happening in real-time, but also out of the growing sense of awe I had as an audience member that this was all in one take. It all became one. I was in tears by the end. I wanted to applaud. These magnificent actors doing this dance. Accomplishment. The work it must have taken. First, to get all those words down, and then, to PLAY it.

This is why I love acting.

This is why I love the movies.

Because of scenes like this. You can have your 3-D. I don’t care about it. I don’t care about action movies and CGI stunners. I don’t care about dinosaurs and superheroes. I care about acting. And acting is shown in its purest most eternal form in what Michael Fassbender and Liam Cunningham pull off in this scene.

Many actors don’t know how to act if they are not in closeup. I do not mean to diss closeup actors. It’s a skill, to be able to act effectively in closeup. You try being honest and open with a camera an inch away from your face. But anyone who has seen a Hollywood star on Broadway knows that many of them have no idea what the hell to DO without the “help” of a camera. Their bodies are lost, their arms are awkward, they just don’t occupy space gracefully. They don’t need to. Closeups are the cinema’s medium. People who do “too much” are terrible in closeup. You really don’t need to do anything. The camera picks up thoughts, fleeting, quick. But onstage you have to project: not just your voice, but your thoughts. Here, in Hunger, the men don’t even have their faces to rely on. We can’t see their expressions, they are in silhouette.

But they are both such masters at what they are doing that you don’t need closeups.

And that is a brave director, to get out of the way of the event he is creating to such a degree that he doesn’t feel the need to manipulate, tell us where to look. Crazy brave.

It starts with Sands sitting alone at the table.

He hears the door to the room open, off-screen. He looks up. The priest approaches, his head cut off by the top of the frame.

The priest sits. Cigarettes are shared and lit.

They chat. A bit. How are things in the prison. How are things outside. A couple of jokes.

Then, the talky standoff/confrontation begins. You ride it like a wave. It’s not just a slow build, it’s more jagged than that, more real. It’s a jazz riff, not a crescendo.

It lasts for the next 17 minutes, in one unbroken take, with mounds of dialogue.

“Everybody had to be on the money because any mistake was going to mess up all that work. So one component out of place and the whole thing’s ruined. So I love that. I love it and you could feel it in the room that a lot was at stake.”
- Michael Fassbender

The upcoming hunger strike is, for the first time, described. The priest balks. Sands retaliates. The priest finally says, “I don’t think I’m going to see you again, Bobby.”

And there, 17 unheard-of minutes into the scene, we have our first cut. There’s movement in the next shot. We see Bobby take out another cigarette in tight closeup, and then bring the cigarette up to his lips and light it, all in one piece.

When you hold back edits, when you hold back cuts, it’s actually more of an attention-getter than frenetic cutting. That cut, to Bobby’s hands taking out another cigarette, actually means something. It has giant impact. The long unbroken piece we’ve just seen has ended and we know that neither man has convinced the other. We know that because the actors (and the writer) have shown us that in the work they have done in the scene. Steve McQueen was smart enough, bold enough, and trusting enough in actors to let the scene play. And he knew when he had to cut.

As Bobby smokes the cigarette, we stay on him in closeup.

We don’t know Bobby Sands at all. Not yet. We’ve seen him meet his parents in the visiting room, but that’s about it. He’s been peripheral until now. He starts to tell the priest a story about something that happened when he was a young boy and a cross-country runner. And this monologue is also done all in one piece, with no cutaways to the priest. The story he tells, about a wounded foal, is a bit too on-the-nose for me, thematically. The rest of the scene had been played without poetic metaphor at all. The priest and Sands are in a clash of the titans, speaking of politics and religion and the British, all practical, and urgent. So Sands monologue, which actually tells us more about him than we have known until that moment, is effective, dramaturgically – it’s like a soliloquy – but more than anything, what I want to talk about is how it is filmed, and how it is played. The monologue about the cross-country race is 4 minutes long. That’s about 3 pages of straight text. And again, it is done in one big chunk. The priest only interjects one word and that is when Bobby asks him if he understands what he’s talking about. “Aye”, says the priest, off-screen, no cutaway to his face. The camera stays on Bobby the entire time.

Fassbender’s acting is exactly what it needs to be. To me, he is the perfect actor. He’s been doing such good work for a while now, and he was dreamy-sexy-tormented as Mr. Rochester (yum), and now that he’s in X Men he’s getting all this attention, but excuse me, he’s got the role of a lifetime here as Bobby Sands. It doesn’t get any better than this. And the foal monologue is weak, in my opinion, it’s too obviously a playwriting device. But it is almost more interesting (in fact, it IS more interesting) to see what an actor does with less-than-stellar material. This is what separates the men from the boys. Fassbender plays the foal monologue straight and unsentimentally, downplaying the obvious “here is the theme” spotlight. It really feels like he is sharing a memory. It is hard to imagine that what he is saying were ever words on a page, and that, to me, is always the mark of an extraordinary performance. It is literally unthinkable that Fassbender ever sat in his hotel room memorizing those words by rote. No, it can’t be. Can it?

The miracle of acting. Of belief in the imaginary. Of that mysterious thing called talent.

When Sands finishes the story, there is finally a cut-away to the priest. His beautiful face. He says nothing. It looks like he might for a moment, but he doesn’t. The closeup passes with no dialogue.

The scene is over. There is nothing left to say. We go back to the two-shot. Silence. Devastating.

We go back to a closeup of Bobby, and the camera stays on him as we hear the priest push his chair back, get up, walk out of the room, door opens, door closes behind him. All while we watch Bobby watch him go. That’s it. No more contact with the outside world. A weary knowledge of that fact on his face. Letting the world go.

The scene ends with a tight closeup of Sands putting out his last cigarette in the ashtray.

The scene is a tour de force.

In an interview with Fassbender in the DVD extras, he describes how the two men (and McQueen) worked on that scene:

“The diet was just going by numbers, I just had to get to a certain weight but that scene was the one I was nervous about … To have a command of that scene as one muscular piece … All of us knew if we got that scene right it would be great, and if we didn’t, the whole thing would collapse and it would fall on its face. It’s a hard task to ask an audience and just watch dialogue without a movement of camera, especially nowadays when the camera is moving so much. I just worked and worked and worked on that piece… I went out to Belfast 4 weeks before we started filming, just for research and to get the accent – and that piece, and I made a sort of plan of doing it every day a certain amount of times, and so by the time Liam arrived the week before, I had it learned off. Steve said to Liam ‘We’re thinking of doing this in one take’ and Liam was like ‘You must be joking’, so Liam comes to me after, he’s like, ‘How are you doing with this dialogue?’ And I said ‘Well, I’ve got it learned off’, and he’s like ‘What??’ I said ‘Well, you know, I’m playing Bobby Sands, I’m shitting it, excuse the pun, I don’t want to get this wrong, I didn’t want to mess it up. Listen’, I said, ‘why don’t you move in with me. I’ve got this two bedroom flat – why don’t you take the spare bedroom, and we’ll hit it every day.’ So he moved in and we worked on it 10, 15 times a day. Steve would come in the evening, take a look at what we’ve done, give us some notes, and the next morning, we’d do the same thing. And we worked on it like that for a week. …. You’ve got somebody like Liam, he brings so much experience, he’s a fantastic actor – and then he can say I don’t like the way you did that – we talked like that very openly. He gave some really interesting notes as we were rehearsing it together. And then it’s just a matter of working with each other, because if one of you dies, the other one dies out there with you. We were lucky, we had a good chemistry together and a very easy working relationship. As I see it, the way that Sean backlit it, it’s more silhouettes of two people, for the first 17 minute two-shot – which is kind of a reprise of the prison and the outside world, it seems to be a limbo place where they’re having this conversation. The rhythms – that was the important thing – because if you broke it up, you lost texture. There’s that banter at the beginning, but they’re really saying other things. It’s the subtext. It’s all what they’re not saying. They’re sizing each other up, it’s like in the ring, they’re dancing around each other and testing each other’s mettle and their beliefs. The rhythm was definitely something that was very important, and if you lost it for a minute then the whole thing would sag.”

Hats off.

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Re: Hunger reviews

Post by Admin on Tue Jun 14, 2011 3:35 am

http://subtlefields.blogspot.com/2011/06/filth-and-grace.html

Tuesday, June 7, 2011
FILTH AND GRACE

I recently saw the movie Hunger directed by Steve McQueen starring Michael Fassbender. The movie is about a man named Bobby Sands who willingly starves himself to death. It is also about filth.

I know nothing of the turmoil in Northern Ireland in the early 1980s, so I cannot comment on the movie’s political content. To me it was just a bunch of nude men smearing s$#! on the prison walls, tearing their prison uniforms apart and being beaten by the police.

There is an odd sense of serenity amidst all the filth and degradation, and I wasn’t sure if the director’s style is detached or if McQueen was imparting a sense of tranquility on all this. It’s sort of riveting. The movie’s brutality is coupled by artfully framed shots, and I almost want to say there is a disconcerting relationship or an odd disconnect between the subject and the way it is presented. It’s like if Raphael or Veronese painted victims of the Bubonic Plague.

Hunger has very little dialogue, save for an uninterrupted 17 minute scene between a chain-smoking Fassbender and a priest. Fassbender tells the priest “My life is a real life, not some theological exercise, some religious trick that’s got f&#! all to do with living. Jesus Christ had a backbone […] You need the revolutionary. You need the cultural political soldier to give life a pulse, to give life a direction.”

Fassbender and the other prisoners are almost always nude, or half nude. Giorgio Agamben wrote that “Nudity, in our culture, is inseparable from a theological signature,” and he goes on to say that “before the Fall, Adam and Eve were not naked; rather, they were covered by clothing of grace, which clung to them as a garment of glory.” In the theological nexus of nudity and grace, nudity is viewed in conjunction with shame. In Hunger there is no shame. No transgression is too great. Piss and s$#! and maggots are everywhere. No one is disgusted or embarrassed. The prisoners have a profane grace. Their nudity is the clothing of grace.

The savagery of incarceration also transfigures itself into an objective relish for danger, for an edge, that some inner fire is turning them into something like a refined metal, or an artfully blown piece of glass. There is also the absence of veils. The easy ties to martyrdom, self-sacrifice and sainthood cannot be ignored. Fassbender’s deterioration is cloaked in grace, and he is without shame.

Fassbender’s statuesque body is covered in sores near the end. I am naturally very thin, so seeing Fassbender’s emaciated body did not shock me because it’s basically what I look like naked. McQueen glorifies Fassbender’s slow degradation unto death, his nudity cloaked with a profane grace. Fassbender’s body is graceful and glorified, even at its most emaciated. He seems attune to Julius Evola’s Uranian chrism, knowing that cowardice and inaction are far worse than sin. His starvation is ennobling – courageous, even. The whole movie is the decay of the body. His deterioration is like watching Michelangelo’s David turn into an Egon Schiele self-portrait. Perhaps beauty is always brutal. The sacred is always profane. In Rainer Maria Rilke’s first Duino elegy, he wrote, “For beauty is nothing / but the beginning of terror, which we can just barely endure, / and we stand in awe of it as it coolly disdains / to destroy us.”
Posted by Chris Moran

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Re: Hunger reviews

Post by Admin on Sun Jul 03, 2011 7:35 pm

http://www.filmjunk.com/2011/07/01/flix-picks-hunger/

Flix Picks: Hunger
Posted by Aaron on July 1st, 2011

Flix Picks is a semi-regular feature that explores the depths of my Netflix queue and allows me the chance to catch up with some older films that I’ve not yet seen.

With Michael Fassbender quickly becoming one of the most buzzed about actors this year thanks to X-Men: First Class as well as the upcoming A Dangerous Method (not to mention next year’s Prometheus), I thought I would take a step back in his filmography and check out what many would call his breakout performance in Hunger. I recall his work in Steve McQueen’s prison drama receiving rave reviews upon its release, but, for one reason or another, I let the film slip by me. Fortunately, Netflix helped solve that problem via its ever-convenient Instant Watch. After viewing the film, I found that, as expected, it features some tough subject matter that could keep people away, but it’s certainly worth viewing.

Hunger takes place in 1981 Ireland when there was considerable trouble brewing between the British and the IRA. Many members of the IRA were thrown into prison for committing what were deemed terrorist acts. The film focuses specifically on the Maze prison whose inmates participated in extreme protests in an effort to restore their Special Category Status for convicted paramilitary prisoners – what would essentially give them the rights of POWs. Unfortunately, neither side was willing to budge, resulting in some of the worst prison conditions you could ever imagine. Fortunately for viewers, Hunger does not dwell on the political details so much as it wants to present a visceral story on the lengths people will go to get their voices heard.

First and foremost, this film is relentless in its portrayal of prison life. As part of their protests the inmates refuse to wash or wear prison uniforms, covering themselves only with blankets. They also take every opportunity to turn their cells into miniature garbage dumps, throwing uneaten food in the corners and smearing feces on the walls. In a coordinated effort, each cell dispenses puddles of urine into the hallway. Naturally, the guards retaliate with their own efforts, lining up down the hallway and beating the inmates one by one until they eventually receive forced baths and hair cuts. It’s quite possibly the most brutal view of prison life I’ve seen on film and not for the faint of heart.

The film follows a somewhat atypical structure, more divided into three storylines highlighting different aspects of prison life. The first concerns a prison officer as he follows his daily routine. The second follows a new prisoner as he joins his assigned cellmate in protest activities. The third tells the story of inmate Bobby Sands (Fassbender) who decides to organize a hunger strike to stir up support for the prisoners cause. All of these storylines add layers to the film, although I thought the second one wasn’t fully utilized. Even though we spend a fair amount of time with those characters, there is no payoff for them. Instead, any arc they might have had gets dropped in favor of time with Bobby Sands. And, while the material with Fassbender is great, it’s somewhat odd that most of his scenes are left for the last half of the film. But in the grand scheme of things, these issues with the structure are relatively minor considering all the aspects the film gets right.

With his first outing as director, Steve McQueen demonstrates an impressive flare for pure visual storytelling. It’s true that there’s no shortage of shocking imagery, but, at times, the understated moments of daily routine can be equally striking and insightful. For example, the seemingly mundane shots of the prison guard’s routine (both at home and work) efficiently informs us so much about how he lives than pages of dialog ever could. Likewise, the many details of prison life add so much to the overall tone of the film. Just watching Fassbender carefully roll up a page from his Bible to smoke gives you such a feel for the prison setting and you become that much more drawn into it. Even shots of people performing basic jobs like cleaning a urine-soaked hallway have a certain engrossing quality to them. That might seem odd, but when you’re invested in the world of a film, you appreciate the details. As a result, the images of this film have lingered in my mind more than most recent cinema experiences.

Fassbender delivers a powerful performance as Bobby Sands, living up to the praise I’d heard. Like the film itself, he’s completely unrelenting. The main showcase for Fassbender occurs during a 16-minute static shot when his character converses with a priest (Liam Cunningham) about plans for a hunger strike. In the wrong hands a scene like this could turn tedious quickly, but Fassbender proves more than capable of compelling us with Sands’ passion and determinism. In the scenes of the hunger strike, the physical transformation he undergoes ranks among the most dramatic I’ve ever seen. This is Christian Bale in The Machinist level of thin. He doesn’t have to act during this sequence as much as simply exist. His appearance becomes the performance. My only complaint would be that the film doesn’t focus on him from the very beginning so that more time and investment could be spent on the character.

As far as prison films or social dramas go, Hunger stands out as one of the better films of the past few years. The film paints a portrait of prison life that feels altogether convincing, brutal, and haunting. In many respects the story is a devastating experience, but it also highlights the strength of humanity. While I didn’t think it was absolutely perfect, Hunger certainly marks the arrival of a talented visual director and it provided a breakthrough role for Fassbender. Now I’m considerably more interested in their next collaboration, entitled Shame, due later this year.

Well, enough about my thoughts on the film. If you’re a Netflix subscriber, give Hunger a watch, if you haven’t already, and post your comments below.

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Re: Hunger reviews

Post by Admin on Tue Jul 05, 2011 7:34 pm

http://ergo-etc.blogspot.com/2011/07/hunger.html

Tuesday, July 5, 2011
Hunger

I confess, Michael Fassbender put me up to it but it is honestly a pretty good movie. It's about the 1981 Irish hunger strike. It won a Bafta and a Camera d'Or at the Cannes Film Festival. I'm at part 6 still, watching a 90 minute movie in YouTube can be a bit... challenging.

Now, I realize this movie is not for everyone. I just have very queer tastes in movies and music. According to my sister, the movie is very quiet. Very minimal dialogue going on. There's also the occasional nudity, male nudity nonetheless. I made my sister close her eyes whenever those come on haha. She couldn't stand watching it after a while anyway due to the lack of dialogue. I for one, appreciate these things. I think that's why I can't stand loud people places and crowds.

Posted by Aisyah at 12:19 AM

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Re: Hunger reviews

Post by Admin on Fri Jul 08, 2011 10:45 pm

http://fieldingonfilm.com/wp/?p=1463

3) Hunger (2008) – As much as I adore Michael Fassbender, I really disliked this film. Co-written and directed by Steve McQueen, it chronicles the last six weeks in the life of the Irish republican hunger striker Bobby Sands (Fassbender). Sort of. Fassbender doesn’t actually show up for quite a while and when he does, he’s naked, hairy and being dragged down a hallway by prison guards who wash and shave him. He doesn’t begin “starving” himself until the very end of the film. I don’t know that I would call this drama “bad” but I didn’t like it for several reasons. First, and maybe it was accurate, but it really seemed to love showing filth. The prisoners acted worse than monkeys in a cage. They smeared their excrement on the walls and poured their uneaten food into a corner. The guards had to come in – in full biohazard clothing – and power hose the s$#! off the walls. I kept thinking that if someone treats you like an animal, you can at least not give them the satisfaction of acting like one. Second, I couldn’t get behind Sands’ logic. At all. Even though he had a child and family, he was determined to starve himself to death. And when he died – and he knew he would die but didn’t know it would take an excruciating 66 days – another person would begin. I don’t remember how many guys actually died in this “protest” movement that took place in 1981, but it seemed like a total waste. A lot has been said of Christian Bale’s transformation for The Machinist – he looks like he is a prisoner at Auschwitz – a lot more should be said about Fassbender’s transformation for this role. He lost 33 pounds in 10 weeks. He’s a skinny guy to begin with so he looks positively wretched. It’s a fantastic performance, I just don’t know that I would recommend seeing Hunger unless as a curiosity. On the plus side, Liam Cunningham was perfection as Father Dominic Moran, a man who tries talking Sands out of his hunger strike. (He’s the sensible one of the two.) Problem was the way the dialogue was filmed. Fassbender and Cunningham are shot in profile, facing each other seated in two chairs at a card table, for 16.5 minutes. I wanted to grab their chairs and whirl them around. Would it have killed the director to shoot this as you would, you know, A FILM, with close-ups and reaction shots, rather than like a play and giving you the vantage point as if you are sitting in the fifth row?

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Re: Hunger reviews

Post by Admin on Sun Jul 31, 2011 11:00 pm

http://www.moviehamlet.com/review/3265/hunger

Hunger

An odyssey, in which the smallest gestures become epic and when the body is the last resource for protest.

Director Steve McQueen’s feature film debut is an unusually uncomfortable and tangible journey inside the Maze prison and the 1981 hunger strike that killed IRA activist Bobby Sands. There have been many similarly themed screen portrayals (such as In the Name of the Father (1993)), but rarely have we come as close to experiencing the utter misery of not only the tortured prisoners but also the guards; McQueen creates several striking, symbolic images. The story is simple but builds emotionally, especially when Sands begins his hunger strike. That part of the film is horrifying, with a remarkable performance by Michael Fassbender.

The YouTube clip shows a trailer.

2008-Britain-Ireland. 96 min. Color. Widescreen. Produced by Robin Gutch, Laura Hastings-Smith. Directed by Steve McQueen. Screenplay: Enda Walsh, Steve McQueen. Cast: Michael Fassbender (Bobby Sands), Liam Cunningham (Dominic Moran), Stuart Graham (Raymond Lohan), Brian Milligan, Liam McMahon.

Three stars

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Re: Hunger reviews

Post by Admin on Fri Sep 23, 2011 5:23 pm

http://www.rowthree.com/2011/09/22/movies-we-watched-8/

Hunger
(4.5/5)

2008 UK. Director: Steve McQueen. Starring: Michael Fassbender, Liam Cunningham.

Bold. Visceral. Heartfelt. Beautiful. Breathtaking. Epic. Hunger is the sort of film that is difficult to convey beyond the most basic of descriptions – rather, it is a film that must be experienced. The painstaking attention to detail places the viewer in the prison cell with Bobby Sands (Fassbender), allowing us to experience the disillusionment of one being betrayed by his body and the circumstances surrounding his perils, and the strength that it takes to overcome such misery. McQueen does not pull any punches, and it seems difficult to imagine any other fictionalized work having such an emotional impact without resorting to the cliché. Never before has waiting for dialogue felt so jarring, nor has any conversation been so exceptional as the seventeen minute unbroken exchange between Sands and a priest (Cunningham). Fassbender’s turn is equal parts traumatic and wonderful, and I cannot help but wait with eager anticipation for his future films. [See also Marina's review]
-DOMENIC

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Re: Hunger reviews

Post by Admin on Fri Nov 04, 2011 10:41 pm

adventures-in-cinema:
Hunger REVIEW

Almost nothing I can say will do Hunger justice. For one thing, I know next to nothing about Ireland’s provisional IRA and their long struggle with the British government. For another, it’s a movie of extremes, and extremes always have to be seen to be believed. You have to see, for example, Michael Fassbender’s pale, threadbare body for yourself to believe that a film about a hunger strike can be called “gripping.” You have to watch him waste away before your very eyes to understand that other kind of hunger that drives a man to act with such desperation.

Fassbender plays Bobby Sands, a real-life figure who chose starvation where others might’ve chosen compromise. What I can’t judge, though, is the worth of his cause.

Did Bobby and his fellow prisoners deserve better? Well, of course. The prison conditions in Hunger are grim, to put it mildly. Thin blankets are all that separate the men from the icy air of their cells, which are littered with dirt, grime, excrement, and rotting or half-eaten food. But these aren’t the normal conditions of the prison; they’re the result of a blanket protest and a dirty protest.

At the heart of their complaint is their status in the eyes of the British government. As paramilitary prisoners, what they want, above all else, are the rights of a political prisoner, including the right to wear their own clothes instead of a prison uniform. They are not, they insist, common prisoners. But Margaret Thatcher will not budge. These men are not political prisoners, she insists, and they will not be treated as such.

Because I don’t fully understand the situation, I can’t say who’s right here. On the one hand, I sympathize with the prisoners, who’ve done what they’ve done for the sake of an independent Ireland. But if these men have acted violently, if they’ve taken lives to achieve political ends, doesn’t that make them, in some sense, criminals? Doesn’t Thatcher have a point when she insists that violence is violence? And is it really worth committing yourself to subhuman conditions all so you can wear your own clothes instead of a prison uniform?

What I can say about Hunger is that the directing and acting are first rate. In one scene, director Steve McQueen holds his camera on Bobby and his priest (Liam Cunningham) for a total of 17 minutes while they debate the sense of what Bobby is about to do. Rarely has simple talking been as captivating as it is here.

In another, Fassbender’s body is flung about like a rag doll as he’s forcefully shaved and given a haircut by prison guards, then tossed into a bathtub of icy water. I can’t imagine that Hunger was anything but a genuine trial for him and his co-stars. The raw physicality of the Bobby Sands role would be enough to scare away a league of actors Fassbender’s equal.

As impressive as it is, though, Hunger still strikes me as a bit…well, thin. It tells me nothing about Bobby Sands the man, only Bobby Sands the symbol. Nor do I have a sense of what his protest accomplished. These faults may have more to do with my own ignorance, though, than with the film itself, which is beautiful even as it’s hard to watch, stunning and unforgettable even as it leaves me scratching my head.

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Re: Hunger reviews

Post by Admin on Mon Jan 30, 2012 5:02 pm

harrygoldfarb:

365 Film Challenge, #29 Hunger

Director: Steve McQueen

Actors: Brian Milligan, Liam McMahon and Michael Fassbender

Wow. I don’t know what to say. Rarely has a film left me this distraught. The only other film to have ever had this effect on me is Requiem for a Dream (coincidentally, one of my favorite films).

But this is different. Requiem for a Dream shakes you up and leaves you trembling in a corner of your room. Hunger destroys you, ravages you, rips you apart and leaves you on the ground, curled up in a ball and sobbing.

Steve McQueen is a unique director. He tells emotionally raw stories with honesty. He doesn’t patronise his spectators. He makes art that will afflict you and push you to think. Few films can do this; and even less can do it effectively.

Michael Fassebender’s performance is breathtaking. His monologues play with your emotions: you smile and cry. The part where he talks about one of his childhood experiences to the priest is heartbreaking. All he does is stare into the camera and deliver a long monologue. He doesn’t cry, he doesn’t laugh. He just gazes at you and delivers his lines with such power that you do the crying - not him.

There is no other film like Hunger. Nothing as raw, powerful and honest.

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Re: Hunger reviews

Post by Admin on Wed Feb 29, 2012 6:13 pm

reviewingthedrama:
Hunger

image
There is so much to thrill over in Hunger, artist Steve McQueen’s directorial debut (and his first collaboration with his Shame star, Michael Fassbender). Studying the IRA prisoners who staged a hunger strike in 1981, Hunger is really an extraordinary piece of film. It is wonderfully paced, taking time, for example, to watch a prisoner interact with a bug. That may sound uninteresting or too avant-garde for some, but it’s actually a beautiful moment of character development. This man is forced to slow down and focus on the little moments life brings his way.

And for a good chunk of the film there’s hardly any dialogue. That doesn’t mean nothing is happening. On the contrary, much is being communicated and going on. McQueen is less interested in articulating every detail with words. (David Mamet, you could learn from him.) Instead, the visual artist conveys intense emotions with his framing, allowing us to be observers.

Plus, he has phenomenal actors bringing this true story to life. Fassbender plays ringleader Bobby Sands. After saying very little for the first 50 minutes, Sands meets with Father Dominic Moran, played by Liam Cunningham, and the two engage in a stunning, single shot tete-a-tete. McQueen has them backlit so you see the characters in silhouette, forcing us to focus on the words. Sands and Father Moran debate the merits of the pending hunger strike, and it makes you wish the important, complex issues of today were debated with such fierce intelligence.

After the long, single shot, we cut to a close up of Fassbender, and the camera stays there for several more minutes while Sands tells a story. Fassbender is mesmerizing, but that’s just the beginning. He goes on to top himself later in the story, when Sands is near in a hospital bed approaching the last moments of his life. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a look quite as layered and intense as the one of anguish, despair and maybe a little pride taking over Fassbender’s face in that moment.

Hunger is gripping and intense – it’s definitely not for the faint of heart. But those interested in the craft of filmmaking, the art of storytelling and masterful acting should definitely check it out.
#Hunger #shame #movies #netfl

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Re: Hunger reviews

Post by Admin on Sun Mar 04, 2012 1:05 pm

366moviesin2012:

063/366

Hunger; written by Enda Walsh and Steve McQueen (who directed); 2008

Let’s see… I really don’t even know how to speak about this. I will talk about what I thought previous to watching it, my feelings while watching it and my afterthought.

1) I had decided I was not going to watch this because I knew how graphic it was (seen clips and screencaptures) and I didn’t want to suffer through what I considered was the pornography of a drama and a self-imposed suffering as the hunger strike was. I had decided I would never watch it and that was that. I had enough with the idea I had formed into my head. But then I saw Shame and I thought that McQueen has something in him, something in his way of shooting, the coldness and meticulousness of it, that really trapped me in Shame and that perhaps I might as well watch Hunger. Suddenly I wanted to watch Hunger.

2) It was the hardest, most painful cinematic experience of my entire life, to be honest. It was incredibly painful to watch, I cried on and off through it but the moments when I was not crying, it wasn’t because I didn’t want to or need to, but because I was holding into myself xD I’m not kidding, the way this shocked and affected me was quite unexpected and I doubt I will ever forget it.

3) The thing is, I am not sure of what I think about the film as a film in itself. I do have to say that despite just how incredibly raw and graphic it is, how horrifying, I did not find it fell into what I call “pornography” of suffering. I think that McQueen shoots with a coldness and an objectivity* that makes his films the opposite of that. I believe that he wants to obtain a reaction from the spectator (obviously) but it is not one of pity or of sadness. I believe his films expect a certain reactionary reaction, in the sense that it attempts to challenge both, thought, emotion and cinema technicalities. He uses cinema for a purpose, and it is highly uncomfortable, but he does it with a thirst for perfection you hardly see anywhere else. That’s why you can’t enjoy his films. But you will not be able to take them out of your head whether for good or for bad, I don’t think the themes they touch can leave you indifferent.

Throughout the film there is hardly any dialogue, there is hardly any explanation of what is happening or why. I’d say that you can either go into the film with 1)the thirst to know more about Bobby Sands, and therefore a background knowledge that allows you to see the film as… additional information on a political occurrence or 2) no knowledge whatsoever, which forces you to live through the film clueless of what is happening or why and which makes you experience the film in a radically different way: you will go through the process of a hunger strike, you will not know why, you will simply live through it.

The film is about Bobby Sands and his descent into death, and there is no information whatsoever on the IRA or on the Prison or on what the strikes where about or why they were taking place. You see things, but as I said, if you do not possess the background knowledge, these things will hardly mean anything to you. If you don’t have this information, you will be absolutely shocked throughout the entire film because you simply will not understand what is going on. And perhaps that is what’s best for the film, because as I said, despite just how graphic it is, I never saw it as attempting to portray anything other than the decision of a man to go on a hunger strike, and the consequences. It’s an exploration of the mind and the body and to be honest, I saw no political siding in this. I understand completely how it may seem like so (it is clearly only the prisoner’s side) but even then, there is no attempt to redeem them or to give them any kind of atonement.

Anyway, I really cannot tell much else. It destroyed me, really. It destroyed me in all its implications: all sides destroyed me, every single thing that happened destroyed me.

All in all I think it’s a very difficult film which I’m not entirely sure I recommend. But it’s incredibly fascinating that it was made, especially like this, and it shows excellency in filmmaking, really. And needless to say, really, all of the actors, the effort put in by all of them (especially, obviously, Fassbender I mean, I mean… I just can’t…).

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Re: Hunger reviews

Post by Admin on Mon Mar 05, 2012 1:51 pm

redrightman:
Hunger

Pretentious art cinema 4EVA

image


This is a film made by a man who has watched his fair share of Tarkovskies, Bergmans and Herzogs. It is a tightrope making a film like this, a tightrope between falling into nonsense and actually making a watchable film. Shame very nearly fall into nonsense, but manages to pull itself back thanks to the skill and tact of it’s young director, Steve McQueen. In terms of plot, there’s very little here. It tells the real-life story of Bobby Sands, a Northern Irish political prisoner, and his hunger strike. There is very little dialogue in the film, and instead the film is more of a mood piece and a meditation on the suffering a man will put himself through for his beliefs.

The film can be easily split into 3 parts. The first part details the Republican “No wash” protest, and is thouroughly gruesome and disgusting. There is s$#! smeared on the walls, prisoners are brutally beaten and forced to take washes. The middle part is a conversation between Bobby Sands and his priest. It provides the majority of the film’s dialogue, and we also learn more about Bobby himself. We learn about his convictions as a person, his beliefs and we are able to put his suffering in context. The final part of the film is his actual hunger strike and eventual death, as his condition deteriorates.

Michael Fassbender is pretty excellent here as Bobby Sands, clearly dedicated to his role as he lost quite a bit of weight to achieve the final part of the film. The real star here is the fantastic cinematography. It is dark and dull, with lots of greys and browns. It makes the prison feel like the claustrophobic shithole it is. There are many scenes which feel more like ugly hallucinations and perverted Tarkovsky dreams. Yet Steve McQueen knows when to keep things simple. The dialogue between Bobby Sands and the priest is done in about 3 or 4 shots, yet lasts for what feels like a good 20 minutes. The first shot is especially long. The two men in almost silhoutted profile talking for about 10 minutes with the camera absolutely static. And it is gripping. As one man describes his philosophy and the other counters, and vice-versa I was absolutely glued. That centrepiece in the middle is the film’s great strength. It’s a perfect break from the long drawn-out silences that surround it.

The film’s biggest problem I believe is it is really not much more than a really well done mood-piece. There’s a lot of floating around, but it never stings. Unlike a Tarkovsky, Bergman or Herzog film it doesn’t seem to have one overarching statement. It’s more just an meditative observation on one character’s suffering. An utterly fascinating observation, well worth watching, but he doesn’t place it into the wider context of human life as those aformentioned directors do.

That said, I am definitely looking forward to seeing more of Steve McQueen’s work. His grasp of the camera is superb, he just needs to combine it with a truly focussed idea or story and he will soar.

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Re: Hunger reviews

Post by Admin on Mon Mar 05, 2012 1:51 pm

andyfreeds:

The 2012 Hundred Movie Challenge

14. Hunger

Directed by: Steve McQueen

Starring: Michael Fassbender, Liam Cunningham

“When you’re hung from a cross you’re gonna say anything.”

Intrigued by the cathartic and engrossing discomfort of their most recent effort, Shame, I was desperate for another film from the actor/director tandem of Michael Fassbender and Steve McQueen. No, not 60’s sex bomb movie star Steve McQueen, who died in 1980: a british visual artist turned director, for whom this was his first film.

I watched this one a bit earlier in the year. I went in somewhat hoping to be astounded, and I was. Functioning almost as a three act play, it tells the story of Bobby Sands, an IRA soldier living imprisoned in Her Majesty’s Maze prison in the early 1980’s. He organizes a hunger strike, in order for him and his fellow inmates to recognized as having the status of political prisoners.

The first 50 minutes is told through predominantly non-verbal storytelling, with little to no dialogue at all. We catch on to the resistance of the inmates one piece at a time. Essentially, any way the soldiers can find a way to resist, they enact. Simple imprisonment is not enough to stop them from fighting back. We get the sense that, while they may be in an actual prison, these soldiers are no stranger to living under threat of violence, discrimination, and foreign rule. There may be no concrete walls and bars outside of the jail, but England and its loyalist, Protestant Unionists are already influencing every aspect of their lives, as it is. So what’s the difference? Why stop now?

The film’s verbal action takes place almost entirely in the 15 minute scene that is the film’s centerpiece, planted near squarely in the middle of the film. Sands meets up with Father Moran, priest and confidante who comes to talk to him about his proposed hunger strike. Sands and Moran are well aware the strike may lead to his death. The gorgeously crafted, if not hard to follow dialogue establishes the morality the film is trying to construct and deconstruct. As the viewer begins to catch on to the content, you feel yourself enthralled and trapped in every word- since hardly any words have been uttered until this moment, they hit that much harder. Through this we begin to understand everything that came before, and everything that will come after.

The rest of the film moves quickly and feels over in a minute. We get to see Sands liberated from the confines of his cell, but imprisoned in his own free will. We get to see him in flashbacks as a young man, simple and unaware of the grave restrictions his world has placed on his freedom. Perhaps sold as an issue film, Hunger seeks to tell a story with political ramifications through focusing on the rawness of the human characters involved. A beautiful piece of visual poetry that shows rather than tells. I highly recommend.

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Re: Hunger reviews

Post by Admin on Mon May 07, 2012 12:21 pm

sequelpusher:
Hunger: Beauty in the Brutality

Hunger may be one of the best films about the Trouble in Ireland I’ve ever watched. It certainly is the most honest. And in its honesty is brutality. This film is not for the faint of heart but it catapulted Steve McQueen (the Director) way up my list of must see filmmakers.

The film opens with a shot of a man soaking his hand in water. He cringes at the sting of the water against his wounds. The reveal of this mystery is terrifying and one of the most powerful images in the movie; this also brings us to our protagonist in the story, Bobby Sands. Bobby is played incredibly by Michael Fassbender, in possibly one of the best roles of his career, certainly one of his most incredibly horrific dedications I’ve seen in film. Bobby Sands wants to make a difference; he wants to shed light on the struggle and the godforsaken conditions he and the other prisoners are forced to live in. He wants to unite Ireland in an extreme manner, not using violence strictly but by going on a hunger strike. This is the back bone of the film, after all of brutality of the prison is shown the rest of the story unfolds with Bobby taking his stand and leading a hunger strike. Fassbender was incredible during these scenes of Bobby in hospital. He is almost a shade of a man. His ideology stands proud but his body is wasting away. He is haunting. The film’s ending is powerful and without giving anything away it shows how strong a belief Sands had.

The film pulls no punches in the struggle these men faced on a daily basis; it is terrifying to imagine that this is what was happening in Ireland at the time. Steve McQueen has a fantastic way of working the camera; there is a fantastic tracking shot when Fassbender is being brought back to his cell after his “haircut”. It’s almost like McQueen loves playing different style into his filmmaking, one example of this is the near 16 minute two-shot take of Fassbender and Cunningham (the Priest), with Fassbender explaining the motivations and what he hopes this strike will accomplish. It is incredible how such a long take can capture emotion and attention without getting boring.

I can see some flaws in McQueen’s style coming across as pretentious as there is very little dialogue; however McQueen’s movies seem to be a film student’s heaven, at least in my opinion. He’s a fantastic filmmaker and I cannot wait to finally get a chance to see shame. McQueen and Fassbender seem to have worked on some underrated classics and I hope he gets more love in the future without softening his style.

Overall the movie is not for the faint of heart, but if you want a true-to-the-truth tale of one of the tougher times in Ireland, and overall a fantastic film with amazing use of technique, this is a great example and should be seen.

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