Hunger (UK, 2008)

A hunger for a life worth living

A hunger for a life worth living

This film, about the final months of IRA-man Bobby Sands’ life, had to be harrowing otherwise it wouldn’t be doing its ‘duty’. It was. As Sands starves to death, the body horror of actor Michael Fassbender’s deterioration make difficult viewing and it’s a relief when he dies. The justification for his hunger strike (to gain political prisoner status from the Thatcher government) is discussed in an extremely long take (see image). There are other ‘avant garde’ devices: such as the banal actions of mopping up of urine after a ‘dirty protest’; the ‘birds flying’ metaphor as Sands’ life slips away; the extreme close up on Sands’ body as he dies.

This we might expect from a Turner Prize-winning artist (he’s not going to do a ‘straight’ movie is he?) and it’s invigorating to watch such challenging film: not just the body horror, there are also long scenes with no dialogue. It’s a film that demands thought.

What under-40s would make of the opening half hour or so I’m not sure. I can remember how Sands’ (and others’) protest dominated the news. This film gives virtually no social context, except for extracts from the execrable Thatcher’s speeches of the time. Will it be read as a philosophical film about the human need for freedom rather than being about disastrous British intervention in Northern Ireland?

One Response

  1. […] feature director Sam Taylor Wood follows Steve McQueen (Hunger) into film from art. Whilst McQueen makes an impact with his direction, Wood’s less showy […]

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