Hunger left me full
Hunger is the first feature film from visual artist Steve McQueen, and man is he going to be someone to look out for in the future. While this movie is not going to be for most people, those who can stomach the nature of this beast are surely going to be impressed.
The movie is about the hunger strike lead by IRA member Bobby Sands, and the life and times of being in and working for the HM Prison Maze during the 1980s. What the amazing thing about the film is that pretty much 3/4’s of it plays out like a silent film. There is action on the screen and we hear a lot of background noise but there is no forced narrative or voice over work letting us know what is going on. SOOOO that means you are going to have to pay attention. The only real dialog we get in the film is a 16 minute single shot done in one take of a conversation between Bobby and a priest right before he starts his hunger strike.
I would not be the best person to comment on the actual events or times of Ireland during that period but this movie is not really about that. It is more of a fly on the wall look of what these men did to them selves and what was done to them. The only time you ever question what is going on is when the priest tells Bobby that he doesn’t care about his life, and you have to think if what they are doing is really worth it.
It feels odd saying I like a film this brutal and intense, its grosser and more disturbing then any Saw film, yet its one of the most dramatic and well acted films I’ve seen in some time. Its similar to The Passion of Christ. But its not just beating we see on the screen, we see the gross things these prisoners did to themselves (like smearing feces on prison walls) to get their point across. Also we see how this life effects one prison guard. It’s a captivating film and certainly not for the weak. McQueen’s goal is to get you to feel the effects of the beatings, smell the nastiness of the living conditions and it does so to amazing effect.
This film is McQueen’s film but at the same time it would have been nothing if not for his lead, the soon to be well known Michael Fassbender. While pretty much being a blonde version of Christian Bale he also takes a page out of Bale’s book of acting and went all out crash diet for this film. Luckily for him though the hard work paid off thanks to the director. We first see Fassbender about 20 minutes into the movie as he is being thrown down a beating line for the prisoners, and yes they used real billy clubs on the actor. He looks like a typical skinny guy, but after he makes the decision to start the hunger strike he looks so emaciated and just skin and bones, covered in bed sores its almost sickening to see.
After hearing McQueen talk about the film on the DVD you can tell he is just a mad genius, also what was odd is that he is nothing like you would expect someone who has made a movie like this. He seems like this nice jovial sort of a guy and not some pretentious super artsy guy in love with his work. I think he knows he is good and is why he is a bit cocky. The funniest part about this interview was when he was talking about the 10 week hiatus they took from shooting so Fassbender could lose the weight. He talked about the toil in his head leading up to seeing Michael. Hoping at first that he had lost enough weight and then BRILLIANT HE HAS….is he alright? but BRILLIANT he looks perfect!
I cannot wait for McQueen’s next film, while hopefully its not as soul crushing as this, and not showing off what he can do with the camera. Either way it will be interesting none the less.
An early McQueen work: