Wednesday, 12 September 2012

The ultimate protest

15 March, 2008

Directed by: 
Steve McQueen

Produced by:
Laura Hastings-Smith
Robin Gutch

Written by: 
Enda Walsh
Steve McQueen

Michael Fassbender
Liam Cunningham

Summary: ‘Hunger’ follows the lives of imprisoned members of the IRA, including Bobby Sands, as well as a guard at the Maze Prison in 1981 Belfast. The film leads to the hunger strike which brought the IRA head-to-head with Prime Minister, Margaret Thatcher, and resulted in the death of ten IRA members.

My Favourite Scene: The main scene in ‘Hunger’ is a 15 minute conversation between Bobby Sands and a priest (Father Dominic Moran). In this scene, Sands tries to justify his decision to  call a second hunger strike and the priest attempts to make him change his mind.

This entire scene is shot from one angle. We only see the two figures, but not their facial expressions. This makes the scene focus on the words of the characters, which I found interesting. Rather than watching them, I found myself listening to the words and making a mental picture instead. This was the one scene that actually explained the motivations behind the actions in the film.

My Favourite Quotes: 
Bobby Sands: (referring to When you’re hung from a cross you’re gonna say anything. Jesus offers him (the thief being crucified next to Jesus) a seat next to his daddy in a place called paradise, you’re always gonna put your hands up and have a piece of that.
Father Dominic Moran: Aye. Even when it’s nailed to your cross.
Father Dominic Moran: (In reference to smoking pages of the Bible as cigarettes) Anyone work out which book is the best smoke?
Bobby Sands: We only smoke the Lamentations. A right miserable cigarette.

My Thoughts:  Having studied this period in history, I was interested to see how McQueen was going to present the IRA’s struggle. Watching ‘Hunger’ reminded me of the strife that took place but I also felt that it was quite lost as a film. I think unless one has some knowledge of the events in Northern Ireland, it would be quite difficult to understand what was happening!

‘Hunger’ raised the issue of prison conditions and the treatment of, debatably, prisoners of war. This problem is one that resurfaced recently with ‘Abu Graib’ prison in Iraq.  This film only proves the words of documentary-maker Michael Moore: “Immoral behaviour breeds immoral behaviour”.  ‘Hunger’ is most defiantly thought-provoking and shocking – with many scenes being extremely difficult to watch.

However I thought it lacked any sort of direction. With the exception of the 15 minute conversation between Bobby Sands and the priest, the film was more like an assortment of scenes with artistic angles. This did make the film interesting to watch and a change from the so many films that require no effort. However many scenes were far too long, and came across as pretentious. I spent much of the film wondering when the plot or structure was going to be made clear.

‘Hunger’ reveals a gruesome struggle for Irish independence that resurfaced in the late 1960s and continued until the signing of the ‘Good Friday Agreement’ in 1998 . The film brought to light many issues and provoked a debate amongst my family about hunger striking and Margaret Thatcher’s approach. Many of the scenes of how the prisoners were treated left me intrigued as to what the British government actually did. Although ‘Hunger’ was shocking and interesting, I was left confused about what McQueen was actually trying to say.

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