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Hunger

A movie directed by Steve McQueen

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A visually astounding and artistic film; hopefully not the last we'll see out of Steve McQueen.

  • Feb 15, 2011
Rating:
+4
***1/2 out of ****

"Hunger" is the kind of film that most will find difficult to watch and on the contrary, difficult to ignore. It's hard for this one to pass under your radar, especially when you're someone like me. The film sounded interesting, and that's why I wanted to watch it. And like all "disturbing" movies, I felt rewarded in the end. This is a great film; one that works because it is artistic and well-made. There are moments which you love, moments which you like, and then moments which you will forevermore remember because most would find them "boring". This is a film about one man's hunger strike; which was some sort of "stunt" in order for him to be heard. If that's what it takes to be heard, then people are damn ignorant. I mean, a hunger strike is extreme. I do not believe that this is a true story, but it is based upon the Irish Hunger strike; thus there is some truth involved. It makes for a powerful story, and like most tales of its type, it's also a very powerful movie. I will not say it is for everyone; the subject matter makes for some pretty intense stuff. But that's the beauty of "Hunger"; the directorial debut from Steve McQueen who, if you ask me, has a damn good future in filmmaking ahead of him. I love what he has done here, and for the most part, I love "Hunger". But again, it's not for everyone. And I do not think it is perfect. So what's wrong with it, you ask? Nothing; I just don't think it's a perfect film. But it's still a great one, and I found it to be very entertaining (if not relentlessly depressing). But "Hunger" proves that, through all the intense and disturbing content shown, you do not need words to tell a story. Hell, "Hunger" doesn't care about words. It uses imagery, and respects the fact that films are often times about visuals. I mean, you've got to have good visuals to have a good movie; and this movie tells half of its tale through what you can see. Perhaps that's the kind of rare genius that I found in this film; an intoxicatingly ominous abyss of emotion, pain, and power. The film is much recommended by me; but only if you can stomach watching it. It's not an easy sit-through, but in my opinion, it's not too bad. But that's just me; being a person who has most certainly seen worse when it comes to content. But if you can get past what the film decides to show you, then you will find that it's actually very well-made. Therefore, there's a damn good chance that you will enjoy it. Again, you have been warned; it's not the easiest film to watch. But it is fascinating in its own little ways. And that is what I love about it.

This film is about the 1981 Irish Hunger Strike. This was a time when prisoners went on strike in a particularly strange ways; they starved themselves to death, refusing to eat any food that way laid out before them. "Hunger" is about one such protester named Bobby Sands, whose actions had a particularly big impact on those around him. He, like all those on "Hunger Strike", starved himself until it became dangerous to his mental and physical health. He became extremely thin, developed boils all over his body, and had increasing sickness and pain for the last few months of his life. But this, like everything this man did, was his choice. A lot of the film is not focused around this man being on Hunger Strike, but rather the brutality of prison life and the emotional loss that comes out of it. Sands endured so much, and director Steve McQueen intends to show us everything. Somehow, I admire that choice and the personal ambitions of McQueen. I find it interesting that he is daring enough to create emotional resonance through horror; and beauty through disturbance. Not a lot of people can do that; especially not in today's world. Perhaps McQueen can repeat it next time he makes a film. I sure hope he can, because while "Hunger" was definitely a powerful and satisfying movie, I want more out of him; and I want it soon. "Hunger" is an interesting film; not only as a quiet, nigh poetic character study but also as an artistically crafted humanistic drama. There was a lot to look at with this film; and that's why I enjoyed watching it through-and-through.

Never could I have imagined that an actor such as Michael Fassbender was capable of delivering a performance this powerful. You may know Fassbender from his more recent "Centurion", which he was decent in. But then again, "Hunger" came first for him, and it's also a film in which he works to the best of his ability. This may even be his best performance yet; interesting, intelligent, and full of grit and raw power. This is how I love my actors, and Fassbender never fails to surprise. His performance is endearing in a bleak sort of way; and I kind of love it. Liam Cunningham also stars as a priest, who only appears in the film for a very important seventeen-minutes. His performance is more crucial than one would suggest, and he is perhaps worthy of praise. But Fassbender runs the show here; and he seems proud to do so. He evokes emotion with passion and flare; and I genuinely like that. I may even love it.

Some films tell stories through imagery. This is one of those films. There's not too much dialogue in this film and when there is, it's extremely important that you listen to it. Some of the most important dialogue comes from a seventeen minute long scene in which Cunningham's character speaks with Fassbender's. The shot remains the same for the entire time, and the conversation remains interesting as long as you can sit through it without being bored. It's quite fascinating, actually, that a filmmaker would want to be as daring as to try something like this out. I also admire how gutsy this film is, and while that might not be a good thing for some, it's a disturbing success all-in-all. It's a divisive film; but some of the best ones are. Power can come from what you depict; as long as it's not exploitative and therefore pornography. "Hunger" is by no means pornography, or particularly exploitative. Everything shown is supposed to affect the viewer emotionally and frankly, it kind of worked on me. The film is also visually stunning in terms of cinematography; and the shots that were taken in this film are truly artistic. This FILM is artistic; and not only on a visual level. The story is told artistically, and the film is directed artistically as well. One could even call the film an "art-house drama". There's something both endearing and fascinating about most art-house films; and nothing changes for this one. It's still endearing and it's still fascinating; at least, when it needs to be. It's truly different as a film. You may or may not enjoy the film for its uniqueness, but either way, you're in for a rewarding, artsy film if you take the ticket. It's depressing and therefore not for everyone; but I'd recommend just about any film that I find good or great. And this film is indeed, quite great.

It's easy to make a film like this melodramatic and empty, but Steve McQueen approaches the subject matter in a skillful and artistic sense. His direction is taut, Fassbender's performance is moving, and the imagery is unforgettable. From the man who creates art out of the feces he smears on the wall, to the scene when a prisoner is beaten and forcefully bathed, this film has many haunting qualities. I will never forget it; and it's a film I would recommend to those who enjoy art-house films of any sort. I will not, however, recommend it to those who are not cinematic-regulars. This is not a good film for casual movie watchers; there's some seriously deep art involved that an inexperienced person may not catch. But if you can look at the film as both a visually and emotional trip, then it's entertaining and artistic to the max. I enjoyed this film for both its intensity and its merit as good cinema; and I believe it is very different from most dramas. This film does not use its subject matter as a melodramatic gimmick; and it does not, by any means, abuse its stars and its skillful qualities. McQueen has made an emotionally moving work with "Hunger", and I find it hard to get it off of my mind. Half the interest comes from watching it; and the other half comes from thinking about the film. I believe that you will remember it if you choose to think of it. If you don't, then it's simply a forgettable but artistic drama. In my eyes, art is never forgettable. Neither is a haunting, depressing, and artful film such as this. I do not want to forget it. I want to cherish it. And cherish "Hunger" I shall; for this is good cinema, and this is good filmmaking. I highly recommend it.

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February 23, 2011
Another great review, have yet to see this one
February 25, 2011
Please see it.
 
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More Hunger reviews
review by . December 29, 2009
posted in Movie Hype
In spite of the care and patient control with which this powerful film is shot and edited, "Hunger" is a deeply visceral and moving film, featuring a brilliant performance by Michael Fassbender in the lead role. There are scenes of violent and intense brutality here, but what is more powerful are the simple shots, of a face, of a look, of a gesture, washing hands, of sores on the back of a dying prisoner. While the film is based on real events, with deep political ramifications, the film itself …
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Ryan J. Marshall ()
Ranked #11
It's very likely that the only kind of reviews I'll ever post here are movie reviews. I'm very passionate about film; and at this point, it pretty much controls my life. Film gives us a purpose; … more
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Wiki

With the exception of Julian Schnabel, visual artists have had a tough time at the cinema, but like the American painter before him, Britain's Steve McQueen beat the odds with the award-winningHunger. In his visceral depiction of a political hunger strike, McQueen emphasizes specific moments over plot mechanics. Guard Raymond Lohan (Stuart Graham) serves as a guide into the hell of Belfast's Maze Prison, circa 1981, where Bobby Sands (Michael Fassbender in a remarkable performance) and his IRA brethren hunker down in blankets, since they refuse to don uniforms and can't wear their own clothes. They dump food on the floor, smear waste on the walls, and sleep with maggots in protest against their conditions. Even after moving the prisoners, the mistreatment continues, so they step up their campaign. It's no way to live, and it isn't easy to watch, but McQueen provides a reprieve through Sands's riveting conversation with Father Dominic Moran (Liam Cunningham), a scene his backers pressured him to cut, but the filmmaker wisely stood firm In his director's statement, McQueen says he wanted to "show what it was like to see, hear, smell, and touch in the H-Block." Because he avoids editorializing, it's as easy to condemn his subjects for their naïve idealism as it is to admire their singularity of purpose. Art background aside, McQueen clearly knows his U.K. film history, and appears to have spent time with the works of Alan Clarke (specificallyElephant) and Stanley Kubrick ...
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Details

Director: Steve McQueen
DVD Release Date: February 16, 2010
Runtime: 96 minutes
Studio: Criterion Collection
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