Hunger

Year: 2008

Writer: Steve McQueen & Enda Walsh

Director: Steve McQueen

Budget: ?

Gross: $98 652 (as of April 16th, 2009)

Hunger is the story of the last six weeks of bobby sands - an irish republican who went on a hunger strike while in prison in 1981. what is so interesting about this film is that we don't really get introduced to bobby sands until maybe the second third of the the movie. the first third of the film is focused on one of the english guards in the prison and two other inmates. actually there are so many interesting things about this film, and that is but one of them.

Hunger is a great example of what i call "big cojones film making". when a director/filmmaker takes chances and has the cojones to do things that many other films and film makers wouldn't (and it works).

except for a few words here and there, there is basically no dialogue until about two thirds through the film. this is not something we see everyday, if ever (except for Wall-E). but it works. we watch the prisoners on their "no wash" protest/strike sit in cells with shit-covered walls, pass and receive information from visitors, get dragged and pushed through a gauntlet of night-stick wielding officers to have their ass and mouth searched, being forcibly held down while they are beaten and their hair is chopped off and then thrown in a bath that turns red with their blood.

this doesn't need lots of talking and speeches and conversations for us to understand what is going on. but, we do hear little bits of news broadcasts and speeches from margaret thatcher which provide a contextual detail to what we are seeing. and then after all this time we get bobby sands....

sure we see him around during the first part of the film, but not until the one major dialogue scene do we really know who he is. as the camera stays still in a wide shot we get a riveting 20-minute or so (possibly even longer) conversation between bobby and a priest. bobby tells the priest about their plans for the hunger strike and they argue about what the movement is fighting for and what is truly best for everyone. the room is bare and a little dark and as they talk the smoke from their cigarettes floats between them. the scene finally does cut as we move in close on bobby as he recounts a story from his childhood meant to explain to the priest why he is doing what he is doing.

wow! for 45 minutes there is almost no dialogue then for about 20-30 minutes all we get is one long conversation with almost no camera movement... big cojones! also, mcqueen isn't afraid of silence or long moments (in one scene, a guard cleans the hallway floor between the cells and we get a simple and still shot from one end of the hall as he pours the detergent and brushes his way all the way down from one end towards us and past the frame).

speaking of "camera work" the cinematography is wonderful. sean bobbit works with angles and framing, colors and close-ups that brought to mind sven nykvist and what he did on Cries And Whispers. the image of one of the officers crying against a blue wall framing half the screen while on the other side of the wall - filling the other half of the screen, and a beige color - the other officers are beating the prisoners, is one i wont forget.

while a couple of the flashback moments near the end of the film seemed a little unnecessary, Hunger is a really good film and some interesting, completely engaging and moving, "big cojones" film making.