Director: Steve McQueen
Cast: Michael Fassbender, Stuart Graham, Brian Milligan, Liam Cunningham
The debut film by Turner Art Prize winner Steve McQueen is nothing less than stunning. Depicting the struggles IRA members to gain their status as political prisoners, a title denied to them by the British Government under the guidance of Margaret Thatcher, in the notorious Maze Prison. As the film progresses focus is turned to Bobby Sands, IRA member and leader of the 1981 hunger Strike that would inevitably result in the death of ten prisoners, including his own.
Despite the particularly heavy subject matter, Hunger is an immensely beautiful film. McQueen’s artistic expertise is perfectly honed as he utilizes weird and unsettling angles. One such stunning scene, between Sands and Father Dominic Moran, lasts for an uninterrupted 22 minute shot. The whole experience feels like a sensory deprivation experiment that suddenly shocks its patient by immersing them into a pool of extreme sound and intense lingering visuals.
The film pulls no punches. The audience is thrown into the experience of living in the Prison as inmates smear their excrement onto the walls of their own cells and flood corridors with urine. The consequences of which are not saved for the frames of the screen as the brutal beatings, given by the prison guards, prove a difficult watch. However the audience is never allowed to fully sympathise with the ‘political terrorists’. We are reminded of the full brutality extracted on the opposition to the IRA when one prison officer is murdered in front of his mother, in a scene that will haunt you longer than the trip home from the cinema. Upon much reflection the piece feels more horrific than the recent spate of ‘horror porn’ films as it demonstrates that the real horror lies in history and what men can do to fellow man.
The film shows a rare occasion where the quality of visuals is matched by equally brilliant performances. The cast itself should be commended for the realism, humanity and sheer torture that they brought to their performance. But it is Fassbender, who reportedly starved himself for 2 months for the role, that turns in an incredible performance that is comparable to the dedication shown by Christian Bale in The Machinist.
It makes one wish that those that see them as glamorous, like actress Rose McGowan who recently claimed “had I grown up in Belfast, I would 100 per cent have been in the IRA”, that the troubles were nothing to be romanticised. If this film does nothing else but educate the ignorant or bring art to the mainstream it will have done its job.
Hunger is released on the 31st of October