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Hunger reviews

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Post by Admin on Sun Mar 07, 2010 7:57 pm

http://moviemusingswithafilmstudent.blogspot.com/2010/03/fish-tank-and-hunger.html

Hunger: Michael Fassbender's performance made watching this movie bearable. Not to say it was a bad movie, because it wasn't, but it was one of the most intensely horrifying movies I've ever seen. Fassbender's character, along with several others, are on hunger strike, starving themselves for a cause. The movie is silent, having no score or barely any dialogue. There are several long takes, some excruciatingly so. There are several haunting scenes, especially the one where the guard is shot and his body falls on his catatonic-like mother, blood splattering everywhere. The camera lingers for what feels like minutes, allowing the audience to take in the horrifying image. Similarly, the last 30 minutes serve as a montage of the deteriorating health of Fassbender's character. He can't even support his own skeletal frame or barely even open his eyes. This film seeped into my brain so much that I couldn't even sleep right away, regardless of the fact that I'd been up for almost 20 hours straight. I couldn't get the haunting pictures out of my head. You won't either.

Rating: B
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Post by Admin on Mon Mar 08, 2010 5:41 am

http://middleofnowheremoviereviews.blogspot.com/2010/03/alice-in-wonderland-mini-reviews-hunger.html

Hunger - Co-written and directed by Steve McQueen, starring Michael Fassbender - Not Rated
This film, which seemed to take forever to get a video release, is best known for Fassbender's performance and for good reason. Fassbender plays Bobby Sands, an Irish political prisoner who died during a hunger strike in prison. Fassbender deserves every bit of praise he gets. He's actually not on screen as much as you would think, but his moments are extremely effective. It's not only his physical transformation (which I found even more shocking than Christian Bale's weight loss in The Machinist) that is impressive. I found the lengthy dialogue scene with a priest to be just as effective. And that is really saying something for this movie in general: I found a twenty-plus minute dialogue scene in which the camera never moves to be completely enthralling, not to mention impressive, as it was one continuous take. That scene alone makes this film worth watching. That doesn't mean the rest of it isn't good, though. Steve McQueen did a great job of putting the viewer in prison. It's not pleasant and it shouldn't be. And it is very effective.
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Post by Admin on Mon Mar 15, 2010 1:10 am

http://regularmoviegoer.blogspot.com/2010/03/mini-reviews-on-dvd-dead-snow-hunger.html

Sunday, March 14, 2010
Mini Reviews on DVD: 'Dead Snow', 'Hunger', 'The Stepfather'
'Mini Reviews on DVD'

'Hunger' (R) ***

Writers: Enda Walsh and Steve McQueen
Director: Steve McQueen
Starring: Michael Fassbender, Liam Cunningham

"Hunger" tells the story of Bobby Sands, a real life political prisoner in the early 80's, who started a hunger strike in prison as part of the IRA. He was railing against British rule as Bobby and other IRA members were put in prison as political detainees. This movie is not for the faint of heart as it pulls no punches showing Bobby Sands's body deteriorate into a shell of his former self. It won't keep you on the edge of your seat but it is an excellent character study. It also has a brave and quietly powerful performance by Michael Fassbender (Inglourious Basterds) which announces his arrival as a highly sought after actor now with this and Basterds.
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Post by Admin on Tue Mar 16, 2010 12:38 am

http://wwwirajoelcinemagebooks.blogspot.com/2010/03/new-post-mostly-about-movies.html

The other prison film I saw is “Hunger” made by the the black British artist, filmmaker and darling of the international art scene Steve McQueen. This too is a striped down film, but not stylized like Bronson. McQueen’s surprisingly moderate style tells the story of IRA political prisoner Bobby Sands and his horrible ordeal in prison and his hunger strike which not surprisingly led to his death. I didn’t care for the much talked about 20 minute long shot dialogue scene between Sands and a priest but I guess that was the artist in McQueen directing. This is gritty stuff maybe too gritty (Bronson is also) but with a superb and again transforming performance by Michael Fassbender, a young handsome German-Irish actor who had a small but attention grabbing performance in Inglorious Bastards. Fassbender who lost lots of weight for this film brings a hefty presence to this role and he gives a star making performance which might be his downfall. I hope not. .

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Post by Admin on Tue Mar 16, 2010 12:44 am

http://foolishblatherings.wordpress.com/2010/03/15/hunger-2008/

Hunger (2008)

Posted by Branden on March 15, 2010

Hunger is a movie that I have heard from on the Filmspotting podcast when themselves and various critics have put this movie on there top tens of 2008 and 2009. I have heard scant things about this movie, but I didn’t want it spoiled for me. In retrospect, I thought that this movie was magnificent debut film from Steve McQueen. (No, not that Steve McQueen.)

Taking place in Northern Ireland in 1981, the story deals with a couple of inmates at the Maze Prison that are held there by the government. They think that they are political prisoners, but the government doesn’t seem to think so. The prisoners are under a blanket/no wash protest until they get political prisoners status.

The story follows all side of the controversial moment by looking at the lives of prison officer Raymond Lohan (Stuart Graham), who is afraid of being murdered. He checks under his car for bombs, looking over his shoulders for assassins, etc. He is one of many guards that are taking the prisoners out one by one and beat them up for smuggling contraband into the prison. His knuckles become bloodier as the protests goes on.

Next, the action focus on a new Irish Republican Army prisoner, Davey (Brian Milligan) arrives at the prison refuses to wear the standard uniform. He is asked to take his clothes off, given a single blanket and have the walk of shame to his cell where he meets his cellmate, Gerry (Liam McMahon). Gerry is serving out a twelve year sentence, while Davey has only six. Looking around the room, Davey sees that Gerry has covered the walls of the cell in his own s$#!, putting his food in a slop corner on the floor and using his urine as a last act of defiance.

About thirty minutes into the film, we meet the main protagonist of the movie, Bobby Sands (Michael Fassbender) who is the mastermind of the protest. The reason why the guards are beating up the prisoners is they get their visitors to smuggle notes to the outside world by being a drug mule of sorts. Gerry gets his girlfriend to smuggle radio transmitter in her vagina.

The prison guards force the inmates out of their cells to beat them into giving up their seemingly lost cause. They perform cavity searches on them, getting them to wash and cut their hair. That breaks some of the inmates.

Regrouping for the cause, Bobby Sands wants to go on a hunger strike to make the point to get the Irish government to name them political prisoners. He calls for a local priest (Liam Cunningham) to come talk to him. It culminates in a riveting seventeen minute unbroken shot with Bobby and the priest discussing the morality of the hunger strike.

The next moments of the movie shows the effects of malnutrition does to the human body.

Today’s filmmakers are so keen on quick cuts and being overly glossy, but McQueen does something that is raw and real and hits you to the core. The movie is tough to watch, because it shows that one person’s sacrifice could mean a lot to others. Michael Fassbender gives a brave performance in this movie.

Not knowing the story of Bobby Sands and this era, I had trouble getting into why the events happened the way they did. Why did we focus on a prison guard? Why do we focus on a riot officer at one point? Being that this is an Irish movie, I had trouble understanding of what the people were saying, even though there is very little dialogue in the movie.

Judgment: I would suggest reading up this subject before seeing the movie.

Rating: ****
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Post by Admin on Thu Mar 18, 2010 12:54 am

http://alinaderzad.blogspot.com/2010/03/word-wars-hunger.html

WORD WARS: "HUNGER"

One recent afternoon our editor-in-chief had a heated exchange with one of the staff writers about the film 'Hunger.' Threats were made and egos were bruised. Here's what was said:

(A.N.) Is film art or an embodiment of it? Does celluloid exist merely as a medium for the art form? It's been argued that 'Hunger's' claim to fame is to be ornamental, a museum piece--as a movie it barely scrapes by. A writer also questioned whether this was McQueen's first movie, which I found troublesome given the pleasures this pure cinema gave me.

I've been struck by the film's beauty, the running through the woods, conversation with the priest, all vivid, razor-sharp images unspooling in slow-motion. 'Hunger' should be considered a contribution to art, something that someone from the YBA generation shot on a streak of zen-like inspiration (though the narrative is, obviously, anything but 'zen'). But 'Hunger' is purely cinematical. This is not Matthew Barney country (though I enjoy his movies immensely). His 'Drawing Restraint' is a work of art, not a movie. One aspect of 'Hunger' in particular is its constant attention to how it will be consumed by an audience, by way of the five senses. Sometimes, it's not a thing of beauty. You can't avoid the smell of the feces prisoners smear on the cell walls; when Bobby Sands (played by Michael Fassbender) is on his last breath, you can touch, poke the cold, spongy skin on his throat.

Sure, 'Hunger' is at times long. That scene with the priest does linger. But the tension within us, and the buildup between the two characters (and then the rather surprising, anticlimactic conclusion) is a great, if surprising, enhancement. And it reinforces that the onus is on the audience to think, to question, to wonder what stuff happens this way. Perhaps McQueen saw the length in that clip as taking a risk. I wonder about this. Part of the beauty of the film is that it was made by total unknowns--random people with an obvious brilliance in their respective trades. Michael Fassbender won numerous acting awards for his Bobby Sands. The prisoner's slide into a famine-induced hallucination, slowly dying on an infirmary cot have imprinted themselves permanently on the retina. 'Hunger' makes a social contribution by illuminating an important moment in Britain's history. Bobby Sands' act of consciousness was irreversible and McQueen, deriving all that he can out of the camera, told that story well. That day in Cannes I did question the director's motives (why this movie, why now, why like this?) but like anything that has turned out to be vital for me (whether it's a painting by Vermeer or a song by Joy Division), 'Hunger' has haunted me ever since.

(S.P.): Of course a film can exist as a pure art work, many do. See “The Passion of Joan of Arc” by Dreyer, see Kenneth Anger films in the heyday of the underground. Yet coherence is important, a steadfastness of purpose (much like Bobby Sands deciding to take his hunger strike all the way to death). Cinematographic language has its rules, in “A History of Violence” as well as a film by Tati or Jean-Luc Godard. That language I found missing in Hunger. The long scene of the discussion with the priest, so boring when you’re not fluent in Irish brogue, goes on and on, making the viewer long for a change of angle or a close-up, and suddenly there you have it, close-up on Michael Fassbender’s face and then the ashtray, and then that goes on and on.

There’s no sense of continuity and the whole scene remains curiously static. You never get a sense of a thought or a reflexion on photography choices, it’s more like, “okay, enough of this, how about we try that for a change?” Also, I missed the political context. For people who don’t know about the hunger strikes of the 1980s, IRA terrorist acts and the Brits’ inhumanity, this remains purely abstract, more an exercise in how much s$#! you can smear on walls and how much beating the human body can take. Hunger is interesting but more as a draft than an accomplished film. If critics applauded it at Cannes and elsewhere, it’s in part, I suspect, less about the film than about Bobby Sands and his nine cohorts who died after him. It speaks to the rebel and the revolutionary that each of us hides deep inside, the secret us envious of anyone who travels to the end of dreams, no matter how benighted.
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Post by Admin on Fri Mar 19, 2010 1:38 am

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Hunger (2008) ****
Director: Steve McQueen
Writers: Enda Walsh, Steve McQueen
Starring: Michael Fassbender, Stuart Graham, Liam Cunningham, Brian Milligan

This is the second British prison film I’ve seen in the past month. Like the more outrageous “Bronson”, this film is driven by the experience of prison more so than by dialogue. That is the extent of what it shares with “Bronson”, however. “Hunger” goes deeper and much more seriously into the prison experience, dealing with Britain’s policy of not recognizing political crimes differently than other criminal acts. Of course, this was not actually the case as the political prisoners were brutalized in ways the general prison population was not for their refusal to be recognized as anything but political prisoners. Artist Steve McQueen, in his debut directorial effort, does an amazing job immersing the audience in the prison experience for IRA member Bobby Sands, who would eventually lead a hunger strike that would finally see to changes in the British policies. Michael Fassbender’s performance and physical transformation as Sands is nothing short of amazing.
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Post by Admin on Fri Mar 19, 2010 1:40 am

http://guru.greencine.com/archives/2010/03/hunger.html

March 18, 2010
Hunger

Reviewer: Erin Donovan
Rating (out of 5): *****

British artist Steve McQueen's directorial debut Hunger focuses on one of the darkest periods in Britain's recent history. When Irish republic activists were arrested en masse and staged a brutal protest campaign to make their imprisonment as costly, exhausting and embarrassing for the British government as humanly possible. The prisoners banged on walls, screamed all day, refused to bathe or use toilets and eventually went on hunger strikes that created a martyr out of a then 27 year old Bobby Sands (played by Inglourious Basterds' Michael Fassbender).

McQueen's background as a performance and video artist is expertly translated to screen -- cocooning a series of small, contrasting political screeds within images and juxtapositions that cannot be easily erased from the viewer's mind. Hunger contains many of the trappings of the historical biopic: the young police officer who considers himself apolitical, locking himself in bathroom stall and sobbing; a young protester recounting a story of getting into trouble as a kid that provided the foundation of his political ideology; Margaret Thatcher's defiant pronouncements filling the air anytime someone turns on a radio; an older, Protestant dead-ender now a prison doctor, whose cruel acts provide contrast to the young staffers all growing weary with concern and personal doubts as the hunger strikes begin to claim lives; and, much to my personal delight, the use of Buddhist imagery to underscore death.

Similar to Kathryn Bigelow's (who was also a visual artist prior to becoming a film-maker) recent Oscar winner Hurt Locker, McQueen fills each frame with piercing visual details and applies a brutal sound design, delighting in taking each extreme human experience into an equally extreme viewing experience. There are moments that recall the similar tactics of the (fortunately) declining "torture porn" genre, but here with a positively Kubrick-ian approach to pacing. Modestly plotted scenes are made up of extremely long takes and very little dialogue while moments of extreme brutality are presented with so much detail they create a sense of slow delirium.

The 17-minute uncut take of a Catholic priest trying to talk Sands out of the hunger strike has become much discussed, mostly as a tour de force in execution. But within Hunger's structure it's difficult to imagine a better way of depicting internal disagreements for the Irish. It's striking to look at and intellectually honest but almost unbearable to watch.

But for all its brutality, Hunger is only as political a film as the viewer wants it to be. The outcome has already been written for the participants' fate, one can choose to walk away with only having seen the meticulous craft that went into things like an emotionally-gutting scenes that consists of only a fly and a snared piece of barbwire fence. One can also view it through a post-9/11 lens to be reminded that institutions have never been well-equipped to deal with a small group of ardent believers.

The looseness of these threads is the mark of a director who understands there are still complexities within the extremes of human behavior, without hesitating to show how paranoia and mob mentalities can bubble up in repellent ways under oppressive circumstances. It's an astonishing film in any respect, but as a directorial debut feels particularly brave.

DVD extras include typical Criterion luxuries: lengthy interviews with director Steve McQueen and lead actor Michael Fassbender, a making-of featurette, a 1981 news magazine piece on the Maze prison hunger strikes and a theatrical trailer.
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Post by Admin on Fri Mar 19, 2010 5:29 pm

http://genxvideo.blogspot.com/2010/03/maggie-2010-monumental-catch-up-begins.html

#27. Hunger

It's amazing what some actors will do for their roles, and Michael Fassbender is no exception. For the role of Bobby Sands, leader of the 1981 IRA Hunger Strike who died of starvation in protest of Northern Ireland's refusal to classify certain prisoners as political (with all the added rights therein), Fassbender embarked on an extreme, though strictly-monitored, diet (results seen above). Fassbender's commitment to this performance is matched only by some of the most powerful directorial choices (care of Steve McQueen) I have ever seen incorporated into a piece about life in prison: the first half of this film is an exceptionally visual masterpiece, conveying worlds of nuance and character investment in the minutest acts. Through these striking images and pristine uses of sound and silence, one sees quite clearly all the players involved in the intolerable situation created within the prison, and furthermore the impossibility of protest -- even in "passive" forms such as the hunger strike -- escaping violent outcomes. Even just for the imagery in the first half of this film, Hunger is worth the time of anyone who seeks a prison piece that balances monotony with fear, brutality, and the overarching question of human dignity.
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Post by Admin on Wed Mar 24, 2010 2:58 pm

http://theflickerproject.blogspot.com/2010/03/hunger-2008.html

Wednesday, March 24, 2010
Hunger (2008)
Steve McQueen's Hunger is undoubtedly destined to divide audiences, and not just because of its provocative subject matter.

Even once you get beyond the politics involved in the 1981 hunger strike by imprisoned IRA operatives, this is a movie that refuses to take the easy route at every turn. The end result is as frustrating as it is challenging.

For starters, its story doesn't really get going until 30 minutes in, and even then it's slow to progress. Only the last third of the movie actually deals with the hunger strikes themselves, and McQueen shies away from the obvious emotional melodrama in favor of some shocking images of physical and mental decline.

So what exactly is Hunger all about? Given the strikes' relegation to the third act we have to look elsewhere for its core, and it's here that it comes up a little short. It's a fascinating portrayal of the resolve and determination of a small group of men, as well as being a detailed criticism of the British prison system, but the narrative at its heart feels unusually slight.

At times the lack of narrative can be McQueen's strength, as we're simply shown the shocking, near-documentary footage of deprivation and squalor without the need for an overriding message. What we see is presented as simple fact, and we're left to draw our own conclusions from the blood-and-s$#! stained cell walls.

At the same time, though, you can't help feeling that the director has distanced himself just a little too much, especially when it comes to something as fundamental as plot. Hunger starts out by following IRA prisoners Davey (Brian Milligan) and Gerry (Liam McMahon) as they rail against the prison system that confines them, expressing their disapproval through violence and their faeces-smeared cell.

Then the focus suddenly shifts, following their leader, Bobby Sands (Michael Fassbender), as he's ritually abused and humiliated by the prison guards, leading him to the idea of a hunger strike. We're treated to a virtuoso unbroken 17-minute conversation between Sands and an IRA-sympathetic priest, which is as breathtakingly dramatic as anything we've seen on the screen - but it's hard to care when Sands himself has been introduced to us so late in the game.

Then the focus shifts once again, towards the hunger strikes that Sands instigates - it's as if Hunger is actually three short films taped together to make a feature-length movie, and at times the pieces barely stick at all.

What makes this even more frustrating is the fact that these brief fragments are utterly engaging and eye-opening in their own right. If McQueen had been able to work them into a recognisable narrative then we might have been faced with one of the best movies of the last decade, a vivid exploration of violence, loss, and political conviction.

As it is, we're left with three short movies that barely hang together to make a whole. It's enough to intrigue us, but without some character development or plot to hang it on their story feels curiously cold.

The one thing that truly saves Hunger is Michael Fassbender's jaw-dropping performance. Like Emile Hirsch in Into The Wild, Fassbender lost vast amounts of body weight to take on the role, and his final moments as Bobby Sands are among the most troubling and uncomfortable that you'll see on film. It's an incredible achievement, echoing his subject's own dedication, and you can't help wishing that Fassbender had been on our screens from the start.

Hunger ends up being a wonderful technical display - but it seems to have lost its heart along the way.

4/5
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Post by Admin on Sun Mar 28, 2010 9:55 pm

http://blogundine.blogspot.com/2010/03/steve-mcqueen-hunger.html

Sunday, March 28, 2010
Steve McQueen: Hunger
Goldsmiths'-trained artist Steve McQueen's first feature Hunger is a beautiful film about an ugly chapter in British history, the treatment of IRA prisoners in the Maze prison in Northern Ireland in the early years of the Thatcher administration, when in response to being stripped of their status as political prisoners Bobby Sands and several others refused to wear prison issue clothing and eventually organized a staggered hunger strike to the death. The episode resulted in the deaths of Sands and nine others, which in turn electrified tensions and deepened sectarian divisions in the province, with a slew of riots through the summer of 1981, a spike in brutality and casualties for both civilians and military personnel, renewed IRA recruitment on both sides of the border and considerable political advantage for Sinn Fein over the more 'collaborationist' SDLP in the north. It was, to say the least, a deeply traumatic experience for the Irish and a highly-charged chapter in the history of British politics generally, one that has remained unexamined until now. The DVD version of the film issued by Criterion includes an episode of the BBC news programme Panorama from 1981 which dealt with the issue in depth, and it is a fascinating object lesson in politics and the media, as supposedly 'objective' BBC journalists harangue Sinn Fein spokesmen in the most biased and patronizing tones imaginable; it is easy to see how, in retrospect, a credulous British public trying to keep abreast of events might be persuaded of the rectitude of the government position, when earnest and articulate English presenters who seem to know the subject inside-out plead with heavily-accented, slightly scruffy Irish leaders to see the error of their ways. 'We' the British are the reasonable, the rational, the well-turned out and well-informed and, crucially, concerned outsiders doing our best to bring the light of reason to a somewhat less enlightened province confused by its own obscure emotional needs. It is a highly effective tactic in the state-sponsored war against political insurgence everywhere.
McQueen, who was born (in 1969) and raised in London, recalls (in a fascinating appendix) the British press coverage of events at that time, which included front-page countdowns of days spent starving - Sands lingered for 66 days - and mentions that his sympathies were always with the hunger strikers. It's a position that is communicated in the film without, significantly, dehumanizing the opposition; prison life is portrayed as a kind of hell for guards and prisoners alike, as is the wider social arena for all who were caught up in the vortex of events, except perhaps for Thatcher herself, who does quite a good job of dehumanizing herself (in clips of actual news footage) with high-handed rhetoric about "criminal murder, criminal bombing, and criminal violence" delivered to an adoring Tory House. But there is no mistaking the brutality of prison guards who regularly beat naked prisoners to a bloody pulp or drag them through enforced baths like animals in a factory-farm until they pass out. Sands himself (played brilliantly by Irish actor Michael Fassbender) is a sympathetic character whose humanity is inextricably and fatally mixed up with his unbending political passion. An entire third of the film is spent in wordless contemplation of his gradual decline, and this segment reflects the first section, similarly focused on visual events which are eloquent enough to speak without recourse to words, scenes of prison life from both inmates' and guards' perspectives. It is the sort of filmmaking that exposes its roots in visual art generally, with gorgeous cinematic images, of benumbed Chief Officer Ray Lohan (played by Stuart Graham) smoking outside in the snow, of Sands' bloody head surrounded by a sea of turquoise-tinted concrete, of swollen knuckles underwater or of bare white space opening inside a feces-smeared wall as it is power-washed. Such images are all the more arresting for their bleak aspect, because bringing such beauty to bear upon events as disheartening as these allows for a curiously poignant and subtle response in the viewer. It is sophisticated, visually confident filmmaking such as is rarely seen in first features, and McQueen ups the ante even further with the elegant structure of the whole, which positions his two image-oriented segments symmetrically about one long, static, extended take of Sands and a Derry priest (played by Liam Cunningham) who sit backlit, silhouetted and virtually motionless in intense discussion for a full 17 minutes before the camera pans to faces, so that we feel we are sitting at the next table and listening to a conversation in which both sides of an already excruciating struggle are raised to the highest possible degree of rhetorical persuasion, pitting the dignity and commitment of the one against the not uncompassionate pragmatism of the other. It is beautifully staged and acted, but the dialogue itself (scripted by Enda Walsh) is utterly exhilirating and should have won every award for screenwriting in the book. Hunger is a beautiful work of art and, more importantly, it is made by an artist whose political sensitivity has magnified his work's significance to a level of awareness we sorely need if we are to face our memories of these events and perhaps even the roles we played - if only as passive observers - in them.
Posted by sally at 10:03 AM
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Post by Admin on Sun Mar 28, 2010 10:23 pm

http://griffinfinity-film.blogspot.com/2010/03/hunger.html

Sunday, March 28, 2010
Hunger
The world has been dominated by overbearing, greed fueled and power mad religions, armies and monarchies since the rise of humanoids. It goes on to this very day in it's many forms. Some are refined and cloaked in self-righteousness. Others through blunt force evil. The common denominator is always the same: The conquest and subsequent enslaving of the innocent. What inevitably follows is the systematic attempt to destroy those who speak out against the tyranny. Though voices are silenced, the spirit endures. It is a reality the barbarian can never grasp. For it has no soul.

One such voice came in the form of Bobby Sands. The story of 'Hunger' concerns him, but it would be a mistake to believe that he was it's sole bearer. He was a representative of a much larger effort to see a united Ireland join the world of independent and free countries. A cause that stretched from the footsteps of men, women and children to the prisoners of the the notorious H-Block prison.

I had read about the hunger strike in 1987. A book by the name of 'Skylark Sing Your Lonely Song' documented the path taken by it's author, Bobby Sands. Each page of that book was more difficult to turn than the last. It was painful, yet necessary to understand what happened, what series of events that led to the strike.

I had heard rumors of movies under consideration to portray the life and times the prisoners in the Maze. Over the years, I lost track of what might eventually get made. So when I came across 'Hunger' by random on Netflix, I was hopeful. Remembering the book, I went into the screening just wanting to see an accurate portrayal. What I found was a matter of fact retelling of the hunger strike without fanfare, special effects or heroic sappy dialog.

There is an extended one shot scene that features Sands (Michael Fassbender) and a priest named Father Dominic Moran (Liam Cunningham). The scene is brilliantly written and acted respectively. The banter plods along, darts and sometimes dances until it gets to the heart of the matter. Clearly one of the finest moments in film that I have come across in some time.

'Hunger' was crafted in stark tones by director, Steve McQueen. It is an intense, and direct portrait of a dynamic event that unfolded during the early 1980's. In many ways, it was one of the last powerful protest movements that the world would witness after decades of causes borne of action, not lip service. What had been won will be debated for centuries time to come. What was lost, forever mourned by the descendants of freedom.
Posted by griffinfinity at 6:20 AM
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Post by Admin on Mon Apr 05, 2010 7:27 pm

http://danandthemovies.blogspot.com/2010/04/some-updates-before-embarking-on-large.html

Monday, April 5, 2010
Some Updates Before Embarking On a Large Project
Hi everybody, just thought I'd throw a few random thoughts on here since I haven't updated in a while.

I caught Steve McQueen's (no, not that Steve McQueen) Hunger, an excellent film that I likely would have included on my belated best of 2009 list if I had seen it in time. (Or maybe not. It did screen in limited release in the US in December '08, but didn't become available on home video until this year. Either way its a newish movie worth discussion.) The film is a harrowing account of the 1981 Irish hunger strike, the first half detailing prison life leading up to the strike (both the IRA prisoners and the guards), the second half focusing, in grueling detail, on IRA member Bobby Sands' (played by Michael Fassbender) slow, grotesque death from self-imposed starvation. Amongst other things, the film boasts so very impressive long takes, for example a brutal, extended beat-down of prisoners by the guards, and a bravura 17-minute unbroken shot of Sands consulting/verbally sparring with a priest about his hunger strike. Fassbender, after his small but awesome role in Inglourious Basterds and now this, has shot up the the top of my list of actors to look out for.
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Post by Admin on Sat Apr 10, 2010 1:42 am

http://mainstreamforeigner2.wordpress.com/2010/04/09/hunger-2009/

HUNGER (2009)

Cast: Michael Fassbender

Directed By: Steve McQueen
Written By: Steve McQueen & Edna Walsh
Cinematography By: Sean Bobbitt
Editor: Joe Walker

A powerful film.

The first 15 minutes of the film are nearly wordless but convey the toll. The guards must go through and deal with. It’s a haunting beautiful sequence which I can also say about the rest of the film.

The film begins stylishly though in a subdued way throwing you off guard by beginning on the prison guards. One in particular thinking we are going to follow him and his role in all of this. But it is just a peak of how we are going to at least show both sides in this drama of the prisoners and the guards but really this is the only time we see the drama involved in there side of the story.

Once we meet the prisoners it just is brutal the beatings, the cells, they’re protests. It can get disgusting especially the scenes introducing us and the new prisoner to the cells. This is a depressing movie and one. Not to definitely watch while eating.

Take the scene where Bobby Sands is talking to a priest as a warning sign after this point if you have made it this far now it gets brutal emotionally and physically. Though at this point most of the film has shown suffering on both sides

It’s a colorful film that only uses dark dull colors.

Michael Fassbender is excellent. Since he is a screen actor who is new to me. He disappears into his role making it seem more realistic.

Since it is based on a true story we know or can find out how it ends but you still stay riveted and amazed at how deep the characters believe in something that they will sacrifice there lives and health for what they believe.

The scene with the priest is a masterpiece as most the scene is done in one unitnterupted take no flashy distracting camera movements it stays put in a mid-shot and feels like a play but it is so full of emotion and faith that it almost feels like the priest is arguing with a suicide note. If that makes sense to you. It lasts 16 minutes.

The film is great and the directing debut of Steve McQueen not the deceased actor but a british acclaimed artist who happens to be African American. This is a skilled debut from filmmaker I look forward to seeing more work by.

Especially since he made a film about a historical tragedy that I would think would be cut and dry to me. Yet he managed to bring me in and feel something and be amazed by what he was putting on his palace the movie screen in this instance.

Defiantely a must see. It more then gains it’s reputation.

GRADE: A
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Post by Admin on Mon Apr 12, 2010 8:34 pm

http://www.joshtaylorsfriendsforever.com/uncategorized/hunger

12
Apr
Hunger

Description
With Hunger, British filmmaker and artist Steve McQueen has turned one of history’s most controversial acts of political defiance into a jarring, unforgettable cinematic experience. In Northern Ireland’s Maze prison in 1981, twenty-seven-year-old Irish Republican Army member Bobby Sands went on a hunger strike to protest the British government’s refusal to recognize him and his fellow IRA inmates as political prisoners, rather than as ordinary criminals. McQueen drama… More >>

Hunger
5 Comments
5 Responses to “Hunger”

1. Denzel Lockheart Says:
April 13th, 2010 at 12:20 am

“Hunger” is definitely not an easy movie to watch. Knowing the content, Bobby Sands, you know that it’ll be a very depressing ride into the depths of hell. And that’s exactly what “Hunger” is.

Michael Fassbender does an excellent job at playing Sands. He seems to really get into the role and towards the end, because of how much he starves himself, he really looks frighteningly skinny. If anything, the movie is worth watching for him alone. The whole time he’s on screen, he’s hard to look at because of how thin he is.

The movie has a very dirty and grimy look to it, maybe to make the film a bit more ugly. But the cinematography is feinitely something to behold, as the visuals enhance the depressing feel of the movie. And the content is very disturbing too. The scene where the two guys are beaten and then anally searched is prood that nobody under 15 should watch this. And the bedsores bit… pretty gnarly!

However, as well shot and acted as the movie is, it also felt a tad shallow. The “scene” (of course the 17 minute conversation scene) is a tad boring and seems to drag on forever, as if McQueen was trying to achieve a Tarantino effect. The violent scenes are too long and drawn out, as well. And we didn’t need 5 minute shots of things… a janitor was shown mopping the floor for 3 minutes. Also, for a 96 minute movie, it seemed to go on forever.

In short, I’d say see this movie for the performance from Fassbender alone because he makes this movie worth watching. But beware, if a happy and hopeful movie is what you’re looking for… you’d best look elsewhere.

IN TOTAL:

Entertainment: 6/10

Sex: 2/10

Violence: 5/10

Fassbender: Makes the movie

Swearing: Especially with the thick Irish accents, it’s epic!

Prozac sales: Will boost undoubtedly
Rating: 3 / 5
2. J. Ocampo Says:
April 13th, 2010 at 1:14 am

I wasn’t impressed with this movie. It takes more than blood, feces, urine, and starvation to impress me. In a nutshell, the makers of the movie used Bobby Sands and the hunger strike to make a brutal and disgusting movie that would receive its high marks on shock value alone. In other words, you’re guaranteed to see plenty of gut wrenching scenes, such as a janitor sweeping up urine for 5 minutes, a man using a high pressure sprayer to gradually clean smeared feces off the wall, bloody bed sores, naked men beating each other up, people being beaten to death, vomitting, spitting, masturbation, and Bobby Sands’ starving body. If you are impressed by uncompromising visual effects and these scenes still impress you, then maybe you’ll like the movie.

However, if you’re like me, you’re not easily shocked by such things, you’ll probably find the movie to be boring. Because aside from the shock value in the scenes that I described, there is nothing to this movie.

When used effectively, especially in a movie that is based on a true story like the 1981 hunger strike, the brutal events that took place in the prison maze CAN be used to make one heck of an inspiring and moving film. Unfortunately, this did not occur in “Hunger.” It is shock value and brutal visual scenes WITHOUT a story line, WITHOUT character development, WITHOUT dialog and ultimately, WITHOUT emotion and meaning.

Here is why:

- the movie does not do enough to put the hunger strike in context, all of the emotion and desperation that was attached to the 1981 hunger strike is shockingly absent in this film. Rather than context and story development, the makers of the film tried so squeeze as many visually shocking scenes into the movie as possible. It left little time to actually develop the plot.

– the character development is poor. There are only a few characters so there was an ample opportunty to develop them deeply and with detail. However, you hardly get to know any of them. Dialog is almost absent and when it is present, it is only shock value dialog, vulgarity, sarcasm, and cynism.

-The ending is very abrupt. If you actually watch the movie, you’ll see how the abrupt ending makes sure that even the small amount of drama and emotion that was left, is stolen. You’ll be bored by the time the movie ends, but you’ll still be expecting the makers of the film to be able to produce some sort of lasting emotion. They fail.

The makers of the film had the luxury of a very dramatic event and had the opportunity to make a great movie. But they cheapened the 1981 hunger strikes by only using them to create a shock value movie, devoid of any plot or meaning.
Rating: 2 / 5
3. Malfoyfan Says:
April 13th, 2010 at 2:14 am

I rented this movie because I had read that Michael Fassbender was very good in it and that is true. Looks like he went through a lot, including weight loss to make his appearance realistic for the character.

However, this movie is so relentlessly depressing, disgusting and violent I can’t recommend it except for the acting by Fassbender and some of the others. Some of the scenes go on too long, and some scenes are truly revolting to watch (do NOT watch this while eating). There is very little narrative or back story to give viewers who are not familiar with the history of this situation to understand why these men are being treated the way they are. I understand what the filmmaker was trying to do but I think he could have succeeded better with more story and less disgusting imagery.

I would only recommend this to those interested in the period or history of political prisoners in Ireland.

Rating: 3 / 5
4. M. R. Griffin Says:
April 13th, 2010 at 5:10 am

The world has been dominated by overbearing, greed fueled and power mad religions, armies and monarchies since the rise of humanoids. It goes on to this very day in it’s many forms. Some are refined and cloaked in self-righteousness. Others through blunt force evil. The common denominator is always the same: The conquest and subsequent enslaving of the innocent. What inevitably follows is the systematic attempt to destroy those who speak out against the tyranny. Though voices are silenced, the spirit endures. It is a reality the barbarian can never grasp. For it has no soul.

One such voice came in the form of Bobby Sands. The story of ‘Hunger’ concerns him, but it would be a mistake to believe that he was it’s sole bearer. He was a representative of a much larger effort to see a united Ireland join the world of independent and free countries. A cause that stretched from the footsteps of men, women and children to the prisoners of the the notorious H-Blocks.

I had read about the hunger strike in 1987. A book by the name of ‘Skylark Sing Your Lonely Song’ documented the path taken by it’s author, Bobby Sands. Each page of that book was more difficult to turn than the last. It was painful, yet necessary to understand what happened, what series of events that led to the strike.

I had heard rumors of movies under consideration to portray the life and times of the prisoners in the Maze. Over the years, I lost track of what might eventually get made. So when I came across ‘Hunger’ on Netflix, I was hopeful. Remembering the book, I went into the screening just wanting to see an accurate portrayal. What I found was a matter of fact retelling of the hunger strike without fanfare, special effects or heroic sappy dialogue.

There is an extended, one shot scene that features Sands (Michael Fassbender) and a priest named Father Dominic Moran (Liam Cunningham). The scene is brilliantly written and acted. The banter plods along, darts and sometimes dances until it gets to the heart of the matter. Clearly one of the finest moments in film that I have come across in some time.

The ’supplements’ are filled with more on the story and the making of the film. We find out exactly who this ‘Steve McQueen’ is, hear from the actors and are treated to a BBC piece on the Hunger Strike that was never shown in the United States. I highly recommend these extras.

‘Hunger’ was crafted in sparse, stark tones by director, Steve McQueen. It is an intense, and direct portrait of a dynamic event that unfolded in the early 1980’s. In many ways, it was one of the last powerful protest movements that the world would witness after decades of causes borne of action, not lip service. What had been won will be debated for centuries to come. What was lost, forever mourned by the descendants of freedom.
Rating: 5 / 5
5. J. McNally Says:
April 13th, 2010 at 5:29 am

This is an amazing and brutal movie. It is an ongoing effort over the last few years to show the suffering that has occurred in the North of Ireland. Of course, being part of the Criterion Collection assures top quality with even a detailed booklet included. If you have any interest in “The Troubles” (at least from the Nationalist side) you should see this one. Little pricey but worth the dollars.
Rating: 5 / 5
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Post by Admin on Thu Apr 15, 2010 2:19 pm

http://www.keeneequinox.com/a-e/hunger-provides-food-for-thought-1.2223691

‘Hunger’ provides food for thought
Film shows hardships in 1980’s Ireland

By Danielle Rivard

Equinox Staff

Published: Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Updated: Wednesday, April 14, 2010
Hunger

Keene Equinox

Imagine getting the life beaten out of you as your stomach turns and body trembles as a result of self inflicted starvation and dedication to your country.

This is what the Irish prisoners of the Maze Prison in Northern Ireland endured on a daily basis. “Hunger” is both visually and mentally stimulating.

Steve McQueen takes a glorious artistic approach to a sensitive subject; the Irish hunger strike. The 2008 film won a series of awards, including an Academy Award.

On the evening of April 8, 2010 the Irish Spiritual Heritage Association hosted a special showing of the film “Hunger “followed by panel discussion with the audience. Some of the audience members found themselves in awe after the film.

Keene State College film production professor Lance Levesque found himself at a loss for words by the end of the film. “This is the first film in a long time that rendered me speechless,” Levesque said.

The film opens with an intimate account of one of the British prison guards. He cleanses his battered and bloodied knuckles in the sink before he is served breakfast. Food crumbs fell on his lap as he devoured his food, marking a significant theme to the overall concept of the film.

The movie then shifts its focus to the prisoners and their struggle. Aside from heightened sound, words are scarce throughout the film. This cinematic design adds to the film’s intensity and artistic beauty.

“Although it has little dialogue, there’s so much story told through visual and sound. The repercussions hit me at the end of the film,” Levesque said.

The prisoners are locked inside small, disgusting cells in which they dwell in silence or quiver after a beating. Maggots are also common company in the cells.

Since the prisoners don’t eat their food, it piles up in the corners and becomes a breeding ground for the larva.

They also horde liquid contents and create a makeshift funnel in a rebellious attempt to flood the prison hallway.

One moving scene of the film features a prison guard as he squeegees the hallway ridding it of all the spilled liquid.

In the scene, a guard cleans the entire hallway, working his way from the background to the foreground. There are no words, yet the scene is powerful through the heightened sound, which creates a feel of the prisoners’ perspective from behind closed doors.

The film also has some violent heart-wrenching scenes.

Bobby Sands’ perspective is brutal. Over time, he becomes emaciated and hardly mobile. This embodies sheer dedication, as he sacrifices himself for a political protest along with other prisoners.

McQueen presents Sands’ story up close and personal. After a long day of fighting to function, Sands’ severely malnourished body rests stagnant and in a blood bath.

After a long struggle and 66 days of starvation, Bobby Sands succumbed to hunger and died in honor of his country along with more than 2,100 other Irish prisoners.

But from the tragedy of Sands’ death, a bright light emerges. Sands’ death marked the dawn of a progressive peace between the British and Northern Ireland.

As tragic as the death of so many Irish prisoners was, it was their dedication and relentless efforts that finally shed light on such an injustice.

One of the founders of the ISHA, Michael Billingsley, hosted the panel discussion. He began the discussion by stressing the story of Sands.

“I need you to understand that Bobby Sands’ death was the beginning of the peace process,” Billingsley said.

During the discussion, the audience expressed their feelings and reactions toward the film. Billingsley said he is very fond of the film and even voted for the film to receive an Academy Award.

“I was one of the people who voted to give the film an Academy Award in 2008, so I saw some of the best films from Ireland that year and this overwhelmed and I can’t tell you how much I was moved by it,” Billingsley said. “And as a film-maker, it captured something very difficult to capture on film.”

KSC students also shared their feelings about the film. Senior Andrew Misler was particularly surprised by the film.

“I was not expecting anything of this magnitude. After seeing it, I found it uniquely polarizing…this is one of the few films where I actually felt anxiety,” Misler said.

In addition, the film stirred up the emotions of both freshmen Kristin Greco and Mike Murphy.

“It was powerful, a lot of the shots you feel like you’re there. It’s very emotional,” Greco said.

“I’m mainly speechless and angry that this kind of treatment still goes on, no matter how many times it’s shown,” Murphy said.

Senior Laura Hopkins was also impacted by the hunger strike. She expressed her gratitude for the showing of “Hunger” as well as her discontent for the inhumane treatment depicted in the film.

“I’m really glad the film was here; it’s important to see a lot of things people at Keene don’t know much about. It’s something we should all be aware of. Just the empathy and passion left me feeling a little hollow, seeing how people treat each other,” Hopkins said.

The performance of Micheal Fassbender (Bobby Sands) was dedicated and intricate. He lost about 38 pounds for the role, a personal health risk to him, but a sign of sheer drive and commitment to his character. The realistic depictions are a reminder to the audience that such drastic and terrifying events are a part of history.

Danielle Rivard can be contacted at drivard@keeneequinox.com
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Post by Admin on Tue Apr 20, 2010 10:12 pm

http://kriofske-mix.blogspot.com/2010/04/two-prison-films.html

HUNGER depicts the fatal 1981 strike conducted in Belfast, Ireland by Bobby Sands (Michael Fassbender, absolutely magnetic but plausible) and his fellow IRA inmates. For these men, the idea of prison as rehabilitation is completely irrelevant. Jailed primarily for political rather than criminal acts, neither they nor the audience are ever under any pretense that imprisonment will alter their beliefs. The English government sees them as pests one can control but not exterminate, so they respond via an extreme means of protest—first, by not washing (covering their cell walls with their own feces and simultaneously pouring chamber pots under their doors into the corridor, creating a surreal urine river of sorts) and then by not eating.

In his impressive first feature, director Steve McQueen (a visual artist, obviously not the long-dead iconic actor) goes to great lengths for his audience to really feel the s$#! and piss that dominates the film’s first half, but he does so with such unexpected, understated grace. Employing tight close-ups, precious little music or dialogue, lighting as the focal point and a subtle, nearly dreamlike pace (even the sudden dark-to-light contrasts never overwhelm or disengage), McQueen constructs an uncommonly personal biopic of Sands. Midway through, as a bridge between the film’s two acts of protest, he temporarily breaks the silence with a ten minute dialogue between Sands and a priest. This simple, beautiful sequence effectively outlines why the hunger strike must occur and why it will render Sands more than a mere martyr. Presented in a lengthy two-shot without an edit before separating the two men in a series of back-and-forth cuts, it provides all of the context and rationale any viewer will need. Since imprisonment offers no rewards in this case, we see and fully understand how only sacrificial protest can hope to bring about the greater good.
Posted by C. Kriofske at 9:34 PM
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Post by Admin on Tue Apr 20, 2010 10:16 pm

http://ecstatictext.blogspot.com/2010/04/hunger-new-movie-review.html

Hunger (New Movie Review)
Posted by Maxwell Anderson at 8:29 PM 20 April 2010

Hunger (Steve McQueen, 2009) – Hunger is an arty film about hunger strikers in a prison in Northern Ireland. I know what you’re thinking… why would I want to see this? Well, I’ll tell you. First, it’s gorgeous to look at; the compositions are incredibly precise and beautiful. Second, it’s a true story that is underrepresented in American and international press, and it approaches the very difficult question of terrorism as a means of political action from a refreshingly humanistic point-of-view. Third, you’ve got to see the dedicated and unnerving performance by Michael Fassbender, who, after Inglourious Basterds and Fish Tank, is fast making his name as one of the most gifted and versatile actors of his generation.

For those who don’t know, director Steve McQueen is a British artist who many years ago made the switch from still to motion photography. (No relation to the deceased American actor.) His films in the past were projected in art galleries, and thus were avant-garde, and explored the implications of what happens when a camera is running in a specific place and time. In other words, McQueen is far more interested in what happens visually within the frame and how we respond to that as viewers than he is in other aspects of filmic storytelling (such as setting up character or plot expectations through dialogue).

Thus, the opening 30 minutes or so of Hunger, his first narrative feature, has very little dialogue. (For that matter, the final 30 minutes of the film are virtually silent as well.) Save for one title card at the beginning and a couple well-placed bits of archival radio-news clips, very little energy is expended giving us context for the story we are about to see. We are soon thrust into the hellish reality of being locked up in a dark prison cell. These prisoners were hated more than any other by the British, and their treatment was consequently horrific. When we meet them, the prisoners are protesting their lack of “status” – that is, they consider themselves political prisoners, not criminals, as the British government classifies them. Having status as political prisoners would allow them to wear clothes of their choosing, and other perks that McQueen chooses not to focus on. Instead, he focuses on the creativity of their protests: pouring buckets of their saved urine into the hall all at the same time, smearing walls with their feces, refusing to wear the prison clothing. They methodically coordinate with their loved ones on the outside to smuggle in things like small radios and to pass notes to and from IRA leadership. To put an end to the protests and smuggling operations, the guards organize ritual beatings, roughly inspect their anuses and mouths, and brutally force-bathe them.

It is in these circumstances that we are introduced to Bobby Sands. Despite his horrible treatment, he remains unafraid and unbowed. With chilling calm he tells his parents not to worry about him, even though he has large ugly bruises on his face. He is the leader of the organized protests, and it is as a result of his decisions that much of the brutality occurred to begin with. The question of “who-did-what-to-whom-first?” belongs to a partisan way of thinking that McQueen is trying hard to avoid, (which is why he focuses so much on the visceral). Nevertheless, as if to prove his humanistic impulse, McQueen shows us that he has sympathy for the guards who have to do the brutalizing as part of their day jobs. Thus, one high-level guard must check under his car for bombs every morning before heading to work. Another deals with the terrifying reality of the ritual beatings by crying alone in the corner. At no point are they really safe from being targeted by the IRA. There are no easy heroes or villains here, except maybe Margaret Thatcher, who is painted as a political opportunist with little need for the complexities of reality, and is dehumanized by being depicted only through highly mediated, sound-only, clips of public broadcasts.

The centerpiece of the film, and nearly the only with actual dialogue, is a sit-down between Bobby and a priest with whom he has an established relationship, though probably only after he got to prison. As if McQueen didn’t want to get in the way of the dialogue, most of it is comprised of a single wide take, nearly 20 minutes long, where their figures are silhouetted so that we can't really see their faces. Only at the very end of the scene does he finally cut to close-up, which is also thrilling because of how long he kept us in suspense. Rarely does a scene with that much dialogue keep us from seeing the characters’ faces, and to be finally rewarded is thrilling. The conversation begins with some surprisingly candid small talk about Father Dominic’s jealousy of his younger brother, designed to convince Bobby that “Dom” is as real as your everyday Irishman. Bobby tells Dom about his intentions to go on a hunger strike, and the two go back and forth with a power struggle of words. Dom says, “When you’re answer is to kill everything, you’ve blinded yourself. And you’re scared to stop it!” In close-up, Bobby recounts a story of his youth, when he was out playing with his friends and they came upon a mortally wounded foal. What he learned about himself from that experience crystallizes his characters point of view perfectly, and he wins the war of words decisively.

Hopefully McQueen in the future finds a way to more synergistically combine his admirable visual sense with the dialogic needs of narrative filmmaking. If I had any complaint about Hunger, it is that the central scene is so compelling, well-written and well-performed, that I would like to see McQueen tackle stories with more talk, and not be so frightened that the dialogue and visuals would step over each other. Sound and Vision can constructively interfere as well as destructively interfere. Like a sculpture artist or photographer, McQueen has made a picture that in a sense is a visual study of a male body decaying. He really flexes his visual muscles during the final third of the picture, often taking us into Bobby’s point-of-view with great imagination and execution (if you can stand to watch the body’s deterioration). While Fassbender is never less than compelling in the painful starvation scenes, he really shines in the scene in which he gets to bite into some really great dialogue. I feel McQueen could find ways to introduce more narrative propulsion without so dramatically divorcing it from the visually-intoxicating rest of the film. In other words, this isn’t an “either/or” choice, as McQueen seems to treat it.

This is a film that winds up generating a good deal of sympathy, even unusual admiration, for Bobby, who was in historical fact a member of a terrorist organization in the IRA. This is nothing if not an extremely complicated position for the film to take, especially because it asks a lot of us viewers who might not be so inclined toward sympathy. But by toning down the rhetoric and focusing on the physical reality of self-imposed starvation, McQueen allows us to admire the courage and forthrightness of the man Bobby Sands, rather than the politics. The politics of the story are elucidated entirely in the central scene between Bobby and the priest, and what we take away from that is Bobby is certainly not insane. McQueen has forced us, as Bobby forced the British in 1981, to take another serious look at the IRA and the root of political violence. While in many ways the British can justify their treatment of IRA prisoners on paper, the fact that a sane man would do this to himself, 9 others with him, and 75 in total signed up in support, is reason to pause.
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Post by Admin on Wed Apr 28, 2010 8:27 pm

http://jmar.asteeg.net/2010/04/28/artistically-hungry/

Artistically hungry

In Movie on 28 April 2010

Bobby Sands and the priest talk about the morality of a hunger strike. This is the record-breaking scene for the longest single-shot lasting for 17-and-a-half minutes.

Hunger
(2008)
Directed by Steve McQueen

A hunger strike seems like a difficult idea and I don’t think I will consider doing it as a form of protest. My dad just laughed when he heard in the news that Jamby Madrigal is on a hunger strike in pursuit of a parallel manual count in the coming elections. But I don’t really think she will last long up to the point of reenacting the 1981 Irish hunger strike where a lot of men died and then eventually in the future, some artist-turned-director will create a film about her and what she did, that will garner praises from critics. Hunger, directed by renowned visual artist Steve McQueen (Wikipedia says he has “no relation to the late actor of the same name”), enacts the events in the Maze prison leading to the 1981 Irish hunger strike.

The film shows Bobby Sands (Michael Fassbender), a member of the Irish Republican Army (IRA), who’s imprisoned together with other IRA prisoners who try to regain political status. Inside the prison, they engage in the no wash protest wherein they refuse to wear the prison uniform and they were just given blankets since they were naked and all. They also don’t use the bathrooms so they just dump and pee in their prison cells where the film shows the cells all covered in human excrement from the floor to the walls; and their piss overflowing out the cells all over the hallway. These were magnificently executed that the viewer, instead of imagining the filth of all the crap and piss on the floor, will otherwise extract emotions from them.

The first part of the film dramatizes the events inside the prison. During these part, there were little dialogs and conversations. This was also dominated by slow shots, depicting the events inside the prison. There is a scene where riot officers line up in the prison, beating their batons against their shields to scare the prisoners, who are hauled off their prison cells and thrown off in between the lines of the riot police as they are beaten violently, hitting them with their batons. This scene was shot excellently, with the camera moving around, following the naked prisoners as they get beaten. In this scene, taken mainly with a fluid shot, all you can hear are the beating of the batons on the shields in the background and the prisoners as they scream and curse. The scene ends when a prisoner head-butts a guard and then a riot officer beats him brutally. McQueen’s cinematography techniques in this scene exhibit a beautiful masterful artistry amid the violence and brutality.

The second part unfolds when a priest (Liam Cunningham) visits Bobby Sands and they discuss the morality of a hunger strike. Unlike the first part, the second part contains a long important conversation between Sands and the priest, taken with a record-breaking 17-and-a-half-minute single steady shot, being the longest. The rest of the film depicts Sands in a hunger strike to continue their protest. During this time, he is all weak and thin, almost immobile in his bed. Fassbender aparently wasted a lot of body weight just to portray a prisoner on a hunger strike. And he did great in acting, complemented with slow shots and close-ups on his thin torso. The last scene shows Sands with his mother beside his bed, as he remembers his childhood and then he dies.

Hunger won the prestigious Golden Camera award at the 2008 Cannes Film Festival. It shows that McQueen is a real film-maker. It is a violent, visually disturbing film but beautifully conceived with MCQueen’s execution and artistic background. Nonetheless, it is a film about the 1981 hunger strike, it’s about Bobby Sands and the rage of the IRA. But above it all, the film depicts a tragic moment in human history and portrays how much human beings can resist.
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Post by Admin on Wed Apr 28, 2010 9:35 pm

http://mikebegnal.blogspot.com/2010/04/hunger-2008.html

Tuesday, April 27, 2010
Hunger (2008)
Steve McQueen’s film Hunger (2008) touches on some of the wider issues surrounding the hunger strikes by Irish republican prisoners of war in the H-Blocks in 1981, but focuses primarily on the figure of Bobby Sands, who was the C.O. on the blocks there, and who became one of the central figures in modern Irish republicanism. A brief recap of history is given at the beginning of the film. Republican prisoners are protesting for recognition of their political status and thus refuse to wear prison uniforms or do prison work like common criminals. McQueen employs excerpts of British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher’s public proclamations that “crime is crime is crime” and so forth, and succeeds in making her sound ridiculous simply by letting her speak for herself, in her arrogant, slightly sarcastic tone. Ultimately it is Thatcher who stands behind all of the misery and the horror inflicted on the prisoners. She is like the ghost in the machine, the voice that informs the brutality of the H-Blocks, although it is the screws, the prison guards, who enact her will. It is this will that Bobby Sands will finally have to confront. Though he ended up dead, and Thatcher still lives, Sands has emerged in history as the true victor. And while McQueen is concerned to portray the common humanity of everyone involved in this conflict, he also clearly sees Sands as the film’s hero.

McQueen cleverly takes his time before we encounter Sands (played by Michael Fassbender). It is a non-linear approach (which made me think of Terrence Malick’s The Thin Red Line somewhat). The opening scenes are of a screw (a prison guard) suffering the negative repercussions of the oppressor in an oppressing situation. He wants to pretend his life is normal — there is a scene of a breakfast, in painstakingly slow detail. But there is no conversation between the man and his wife, who serves him. Instead, in a moment of brilliance on McQueen’s part, our view is suddenly below the table (yes, we are now viewing the situation from the beneath the dining room table) where we witness some crumbs falling on the man’s lap. The clarity of the shot is shocking. Our perspective is off-kilter but clear. How else are we to view such a f&%$#&-up situation? Something is not quite right here. The house is like a morgue, a dead environment; there is nothing to say. The action that occurs is below the level of human communication; crumbs fall silently. Upon leaving for “work,” the guard checks under his car for explosive devices, as many had to do at that time in the fractured society of the North of Ireland, Belfast, circa 1981. The wife looks worryingly from the window as he gets in and drives off to another day of torturing. Yet these people too are human beings — human beings in a society in conflict, who have consciously taken a side and a role in that conflict.

After the guard enters the Maze Prison (the H-Blocks), the point of view changes. Now we observe a republican prisoner by the name of Gillen being checked into the Maze. He is made to strip naked as two or three screws eye him almost, no not almost, salaciously. The process of undressing is painfully slow and deliberate. McQueen does not let us hurry through this. Being a prisoner of war, the man refuses to wear the uniform of a common criminal so is branded a “non-conforming” prisoner, is given a blanket (which will be his sole garment), and joins the no-wash blanket protest presently underway in the jail. The one and only moment of the film that seems a little off occurs when Gillen meets his cellmate, a long-haired, blanket-clad, fellow IRA man. For some reason, he is cold towards Gillen, when he probably would have been glad for the comradeship. And when the man speaks in Irish, Gillen seems confused, as if he’d never heard the language before. In actuality, even if he didn’t speak Irish fluently, he’d have been well aware of it from his school days and from the numerous Irish-speakers in the republican movement and the wider nationalist community. He would also have been well aware that the prisoners in the Maze spoke it as often as possible (and even conducted classes in it for those POWs who were still learning).

We can easily forgive McQueen this brief lapse. The bleak reality of life as an Irish republican prisoner throughout Hunger is portrayed with precision and a keen aesthetic sense. With few other means at their disposal, the prisoners in rebellion smear their cell walls with s$#!; inedible food is dumped in a corner and becomes a spawning ground for maggots. The piss from the prisoners’ slop buckets is poured under the door and out into the halls. Someone’s job is to clean it up, and McQueen again tests the viewer’s comfort level by showing this process from start to finish — a prison worker suited head to toe puts down some cleanser, scrubs with a type of broom, inevitably pushes the urine and chemical mixture back under the cell doors. Meanwhile prisoners are routinely beaten, given forced baths with harsh detergents, forced haircuts, and are anally raped under the guise of “strip searches.” The amount of abuse is incredible, but the prisoners, intensely politically motivated, resist. They endure subhuman conditions with nothing but a blanket to wear, they pour urine out their cell doors, they smear their s$#! on the walls, they smuggle communications written on cigarette paper in and out of the jail, they speak the Irish language, all at great risk to themselves. The amount of physical pain they are willing to endure in their struggle is incredible. The British administration and the screws cannot stop them. This is the crux of it — the British prison system cannot control the POWs’ minds, so they attempt to control their bodies. In the H-Blocks, the body itself becomes the site of the struggle. Ultimately, with no further recourse, this situation will lead to the hunger strike.

But it doesn’t happen right away. An earlier but key moment of the film to my mind occurs when a prison guard, in head-to-toe protective suit and mask, enters a vacant cell to water-blast the s$#! off the walls. A circular design swirled in s$#! catches his eye, and he pauses to look at it. It seems to resemble something like a cave painting. The man even takes off his mask for a second to get a better look. Where he initially appears robotic, outfitted as he is, we suddenly get a glimpse of his common humanity. But then he pulls the mask back down and begins the cleaning. The circle design slowly disappears. It is an amazing scene, and one that is resonant with meaning. At the most basic level, McQueen seems to be saying, this is a conflict of the artist versus the machine. The prisoners, even in the most dire of circumstances, are still in their essences artists. Bobby Sands himself was a poet and writer, who smuggled his work out bit by bit on tiny pieces of paper. One of the books he wrote in prison, One Day in My Life, is in part the basis for this film. One thinks of other Irish republican leaders in this context. Pádraig Pearse and Thomas McDonagh, for example, leaders of the 1916 Easter Rising, were also poets. Here the artistic urge is expressed in a form of painting, a primal design that alludes to our earliest ancestors. The prison worker seems to puzzle over it for a second, as if asking himself, “Me too?” But he chooses to suppress those feelings, puts the mask back down over his face, and starts spraying the water jets. The round swirl slowly fades as the emerging white wall blanks everything out. It is a destructive impulse, as opposed to the prisoners’ creative impulse.

I don’t think I’m exaggerating the point. For one, this scene forms the design of the movie poster and the DVD cover. The actual disc features the s$#! circle too, in full brown, as opposed to the poster/cover which shows it in the process of disappearing. A number of earlier reviews of the film criticized McQueen for supposedly aestheticizing the struggle. Similar accusations were made against Francis Ford Coppola when he released Apocalypse Now, that he was aestheticizing the Vietnam War. But I think Coppola’s response also applies here. Coppola noted that Vietnam was a television war, that it existed for many people as television images from the start. McQueen mentions in an interview included in the DVD’s special features that he remembers as a child seeing images of the hunger strikes and of Sands on television, and that this stuck with him (he also mentions that he innately sympathized with the hunger strikers). The hunger strikers knew full well the propaganda value of their almost Christ-like images. Not in any cynical way; they were people who were involved in a political struggle, who were doing everything they could to gain public support not only for the immediate cause of the prisoners, but for the aims of the republican movement on the wider scale (those aims being the defeat of the British government and unity of Ireland). They were conscious of aesthetics, partly for political reasons, but partly also because some were artists too. McQueen is not therefore “aestheticizing” the struggle in Hunger. He is saying that the struggle itself is aesthetic, that in some way it actually is a form of art (Kafka’s story “A Hunger Artist” comes to mind here). As awful and bleak and brutal as it often was (the initial prison guard character gets assassinated in front of his mother in a nursing home), the impulse to smear a spiral of s$#! on the wall represents something essential in all human beings. And the impulse to sacrifice oneself for the benefit of others, through the deliberate wasting away of one’s own body, as emblemized by Sands, is a tenderness beyond comprehension to most, including me.

The film’s pivotal scene is the no-cut 22-minute back-lit shot of a conversation between Sands and a priest named Fr. Moran (played by Liam Cunningham). A number of things stick in my mind about this scene. One of course is the length: 22 minutes (I’ve also read 17 minutes), with no cuts, of intense, incisive dialogue. This is when Sands announces his intention, and the intention of other prisoners, to go on hunger strike. The priest tries to argue him out of it on moral grounds, and a sort of battle of the wills ensues. The other aspects that resonate for me are what clinch the argument for Sands. How do we know Sands has the strength of will to carry this out? After all, other republican prisoners had recently attempted the same thing, and it ended in failure and disarray. Sands conveys his resolve to the priest through a parabolic story from his childhood, a story redolent of poetry. Bobby and some other Belfast lads go to Gaoth Dobhair, Co. Donegal, on a school trip. Off in the woods, they find a fawn stranded in a stream, near death, but still alive. They debate about what to do with it — put it out of its misery, attempt to rescue it? Bobby and the others go into the water. Just then, the priest arrives, orders them all back, and the boys are in trouble. Bobby, however, strangles the fawn to death before the priest’s very eyes and takes responsibility for the whole thing. He gets the priest’s wrath, but he is satisfied that he’s done right by the fawn. He has taken action. The story is conveyed solely through dialogue, yet the viewer feels as if he is watching it unfold. As the conversation comes to a climax, Sands makes himself unambiguously clear — the time now has also come for action, a purity of political action. There can be no more fence-sitting. The hunger strike is going to happen, and you are either with us or against us. In defeat, Moran lets it be known that he and Sands will not meet again, and that is that.

The rest of the film is an awe-inspiring display of both McQueen’s feel for poetic imagery and Fassbender’s intense act of body-modification (which I would venture to suggest surpasses even that of Robert DeNiro in Raging Bull — De Niro only had to put pounds on; Fassender loses them to the peril of his own health — and this further serves to raise the thought: what of the real Bobby Sands, and the physical torments he went through? — and Margaret Thatcher scoffed!).

Despite McQueen’s protestations (no doubt necessary in public interviews) that he explores the trauma endured on all sides of the conflict in the North of Ireland (and in fact he well depicts this in practice; we all know that the oppressor is affected in untold ways by his inflicting of oppression), this is not a film that anyone can be neutral about. As Sands himself says here in no uncertain terms, you cannot remain on the fence about this. You either support Sands and his fellow hunger strikers, or you support British occupation and oppression of Ireland. You either support Sands, or you support anal rape, beatings of prisoners, forced baths and haircuts, concentration camp conditions. You either support Sands, or you support the negation of art and poetry, the negation of humanity. You either see the greatness of this film, or you do not know film.
Posted by Mike Begnal at 12:24 AM
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Post by Admin on Fri May 14, 2010 12:36 am

http://www.studioproject.org/wordpress/2010/05/13/hunger-bobby-sands-in-agony-on-film/

Hunger: Bobby Sands in Agony on film

“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 dialogue, 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.

May 13, 2010
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Post by Admin on Sat May 15, 2010 2:59 pm

http://spooky-miss.livejournal.com/28250.html

Film 28 - Hunger

This film was brilliant. In the same way as Requiem for a Dream is brilliant, but you never ever want to watch it again as it is just so horrible at the same time. It described what happened in the Maze Prison in the 1980s when the hunger strikes were taking place, focusing on Bobby Sands and his death. It was an extremely arty film, with very little dialogue - apart from the famous scene which is a 17 or 18 mintute long shot of Bobby Sands talking to the prison priest and explaining why he is going on a hunger strike. The first part of the film followed "normal" life in the prison, and I admit this is the only film that has ever made me feel physically sick! The first few scenes were in cell where the inmates had smeared their own excrement on the walls - and it showed him doing it, which actually may have been a bit much. Then it showed a bit of how the guards treated the prisoners, and showed a prison guard getting shot while visiting his mother at an old people's home, which I didn't understand at first, but then after reading up on the subject I think it was to show how so many of the prison guards were shot by people on the outside. After the scene with Bobby Sands and the priest the film then focused on Bobby Sands and his hunger strike. The actor playing him - Michael Fassbender - lost so much weight to play this part, so it looks very realistic, which in a way contributes to how horrible it is. It shows how he becomes more and more ill until his death. Some reviews of this film have said that it makes you feel sympathy for the Irish terrorists - but I don't agree with this. I confess to knowing nothing about this event until I saw this film (and looked up more information on the internet afterwards), I didn't know why he was in there, why any of them were in there, yet I still felt sympathy for him. Sympathy for him as a man, not a terrorist. It made me feel terrible that he felt that to starve himself to death was the only way he could achieve what he was aiming for. I definately recommend this film, although not for those with weak stomachs, as it was quite disgusting at first. 9 / 10
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Post by Admin on Wed May 19, 2010 10:35 pm

http://courtneywelsh1.blogspot.com/2010/05/hunger.html

Wednesday, 19 May 2010
Hunger
Hunger (2008), Film 4 Cert:15


Dir. Steve McQueen
Michael Fassbender, Liam Cunningham, Stuart Graham, Liam McMahon.

McQueen tells the untold story of Bobby Sands. The story is a dramatisation of Sands’ (Fassbender) last 6 weeks in Maze prison, where he led the historical hunger strikes of 1981 in a bid to win political status. The film is based completely on Sands and his fight and struggle to maintain his beliefs in a hostile environment. Sands’ shares a cell with fellow Republican Gerry (McMahon) who seems unable to cope with life in prison, regularly mutilating himself in front of Sands. It is this and his ongoing battle with the enemy of the prison guards that fuels Sands to go on with his hunger strike despite the horrific consequences to himself.

McQueen does not hold back in depicting the last 6 weeks within Maze Prison, getting to nitty-gritty of the conditions and situations the prisoners faced. No stone is left unturned in terms of the violence and mental torture experienced, and at times it is difficult to watch. This however was sharply contrasted to the beautiful shots created by McQueen’s artistic eye. Dialogue is few in far between but instead the story is told visually; with at one point the static shot of the prison corridor being cleaned last nearly 10 minutes. Sparking two very differing reaction from ovations to walk outs, Hunger has undoubtedly made and impact.

Nothing less than a visual masterpiece, the untold story of Bobby Sands last 6 weeks of life is not glamorised but instead shared with a very true and realistic interpretation. McQueen doesn’t hint at violence he shows it; he doesn’t hint at intolerance he shows it. It is for this reason Hunger is simply unrivalled in terms of an honest, brutal, beautiful and poignant biopic of a human being whom opinion is very divided.

Posted by Courtney Welsh at 5/19/2010 09:34:00 PM
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Post by Admin on Sun May 23, 2010 3:27 am

http://wondersinthedark.wordpress.com/2010/05/20/hunger-no-61/

Hunger (no 61)

May 20, 2010 by wondersinthedark

by Allan Fish

(UK 2008 95m) DVD1/2

Business of the soul

p Laura Hastings-Smith, Robin Gutch d Steve McQueen w Edna Walsh, Steve McQueen ph Sean Bobbitt ed Joe Walker m David Holmes, Leo Abrahams art Tom McCullagh

Michael Fassbender (Bobby Sands), Liam Cunningham (Father Dominic Moran), Stuart Graham (Ray Lohan), Liam McMahon (Gerry), Ciaran Flynn (young Bobby), Helen Madden (Mrs Sands), Des McAleer (Mr Sands), Dennis McCambridge (governor),

There’s something about the Irish ‘Troubles’ that meant that, so long as the sectarian disputes were raging, filmmakers tended to shy away. Since the shaky peace, we’ve had stacks of films, from In the Name of the Father to The General, from The Crying Game to Bloody Sunday, not to mention films of a more historical standpoint, like Michael Collins and The Wind That Shakes the Barley. All are intriguing films, all excellent films on their own level, but not really capturing the real struggle of that horrendous time.

Growing up in Britain in the early 80s, it’s impossible not to know of Bobby Sands, the IRA political prisoner (though they weren’t granted that status, which was largely what the protests were about) who led a group of 10 men into starving themselves to death on a hunger strike in the Maze prison in 1981. I remember vividly as a boy hearing daily reports on the radio about Sands’ condition and thinking, with each day of his 66 day strike, that I couldn’t last so many hours without food, let alone days. More than any other film, Hunger captures the real unshaking belief not just in the cause the IRA fought for, but in their belief to be taken seriously, ransoming their own bodies as a final means of protest to ransom the hard-line Thatcherite administration.

Hunger’s a hard film to watch, especially in the early scenes where the prisoners, on a no wash and blanket protest, smear the walls of their cells with their own faeces. What perhaps doesn’t seem apparent is that the whole sorry tale can easily be seen as a religious parable. The very first image we see is of a prison guard washing his hands in the sink in the manner of Pontius Pilate. When we first see Fassbender’s Sands, he has hair and a beard not dissimilar to traditional views of Christ, and in time-honoured fashion, he’s subjected to beatings and indignities worthy of the Romans. After all, what were the British in Ireland to the nationalists but Romans in old Judea, with the IRA and their various alternatives merely the modern day equivalent of the religious zealots of old. And what were the riot police called in to do a sickening cavity search, banging their truncheons against their riot shields, but the old Roman army clashing their swords against their shields in either a declaration of ferocious intent or of homage to their leader. There’s a war going on; psychological, physical, political, even moral. In one fall swoop, then, Sands changes from Christ to Barabbas, a modern day freedom fighter.

Hunger shakes one as if from a coma, emphasising just how short a period of time has elapsed since these awful events took place and also warning us of how easily, if we rest on our laurels, those times could come back again. It’s fearlessly directed, quite stunningly shot and acted with feral conviction, but if I was asked what it was that made an excellent film into a near-as-dammit great one, it would be a single scene that takes place about half way in. It runs for 22 minutes, of which 16 consist of one uninterrupted take with Fassbender and Cunningham (as a priest he knew before joining the struggle) talking across a table with only a packet of fags between them. Quite simply, it’s the greatest extended single take two-hander I have seen in a long, long time, and the performances of both Fassbender and the always welcome Cunningham are uncanny. The mutual respect, the occasional bits of humour beneath the serious discussion (Cunningham offers Fassbender a cigarette as an alternative to smoking pages of the Bible and asks him which book was the best smoke, Fassbender replying “we only smoke the Lamentations, a right miserable cigarette”). Both a truly fearless debut by its director and a shatteringly painful breakthrough performance from Fassbender, it’s essential stuff.
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Post by Admin on Wed May 26, 2010 6:28 pm

http://www.moviefodder.com/reviews/hunger.html

Hunger
DateWednesday, May 26, 2010 at 12:00PM

Release Year: 2008

Director: Steve McQueen

Review: Prison is brutal. Starvation is even worse. 'Hunger' is a visually arresting, painfully authentic, peek into the 'blanket', 'dirty' and hunger strikes of Irish republican prisoners during the 1980's. I'm not up with European history. I knew little about the political turmoil in Ireland at the time, and certainly nothing of the hunger strike. The film doesn't go out of its way to set the political climate up. You enter the prison in the middle of the strike. Instead of taking sides, it shows both vantages. Opening with both a prison guard entering the prison showing up for work, and a new inmate, being booked into prison, and entering the strike. These were the only two entry ways into the hell.

Director Steve McQueen does not shy away from any scene that is too brutal, too disturbing, or too disgusting. The 'blanket' strike came about when the prisoners refused to wear prisoner uniforms, opting instead to go naked, with only a blanket. The 'dirty' strike meant they refused to shower, smeared their waste on the prison walls, and emptied their urine into the hallways. Its a completely incomprehensible lifestyle, and not a situation that one would think any human could possibly survive in. It was crucial that McQueen show the details of this lifestyle. He had to force the audience to understand how committed these prisoners were to their cause. It were these details which were essential to understanding the mindset of these individuals who would later go on to participate in the hunger strike. McQueen delivers, almost revels in, these shots of inhumanity. It is raw, it is cold, but it is honest.

The visual style is the important element in the film. McQueen comes from an art background, specifically in experimental films, with 'Hunger' being his first full length feature. This aspect came through in his effort, and not always in a positive light. He is very methodic in his framing, feeling completely content to find an ideal camera location, and without moving the camera, have a scene unfold in front of it. He explained in an interview that his painting background influences his work. That he frames shots like a painting, only film is more powerful since movement is capable. Very often this effect is seen. The static camera focuses on a mundane, but highly stylized scene, and it just sits there for a long time, with very little going on. A beautiful painting, with just a hint of life, which we are forced to look at for extended periods of time. The pacing is very slow, the scenes very deliberately executed, and little is said. McQueen focuses on feeling rather than narrative or action. Giving the theme, this atmospheric approach is effective.

As beautiful and meticulously framed as the film is, it all would have fallen completely flat without believable acting. Fortunately great acting is in no short supply. The physicality and sheer unpleasantness which the movie demands it put its actors through is a testament to the talent of the actors for pulling it off. Given that there isn't much dialog, the actors had to show great subtlety resulting in powerful performances, led by Michael Fassbender. His physical acting and the emotional range he can show without uttering a word was stunning. There was nothing easy about the acting in this film. This point is no more evident than in the 17 minute, uncut, all dialog conversation which carries pivotal information about the motivation of the strikers. Without this scene being delivered perfectly by Liam Cunningham and Michael Fassbender, the movie would lose its purpose.

As much as I appreciate the environment which McQueen creates, I wish there was more background given and a proper narrative intertwined. Going in I didn't know much about the situation going on in Ireland, and I didn't know any more after watching the movie. It could have been much more powerful had more context been given. McQueen sacrificed content for style. It felt like he got lost in mundane details which derailed the flow and took away from the plight of the prisoners. 'Hunger' is a visually haunting film, which is difficult to watch, but then again, that was the point.
Rating: 3.5/5
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