The English director Steve McQueen evokes in Hunger the true story of Bobby Sands, political prisoner and symbol of Irish republicans who died on May 5, 1981 after a hunger strike of sixty-six days… Raw and extremely realistic, Hunger is a must-watch.
1981, Nothern Ireland. Maze Prison is the place where the political prisoners of the IRA are interned. They begin a protest to show their anger : no washing and wearing blankets rather than uniforms. They want to regain their status as political prisoners, instead of simple criminals. We follow the daily life of two of those prisoners : Davey Gillen and Gerry Campbel who are living together in the same dirty cell (they paint the walls with their own excrement). Constantly harassed and beaten by the members of the British police, .but it’s Gerry who soon is going to pass to the ultimate level of revolt, the physical one, by beginning an hunger strike…
I’ve seen a lot of movies about people giving their whole life for a cause (In the Name of the Father, Patch Adams, Freedom Writers…) but this one, in addition of being about a fascinating and striking true story, is a work of art in itself.
The narrative is fragmented and the composition is full of smoothness. There are two points of view given by both main characters : prison officers and prisoners. We notice for example that the film starts at the same time as the day of a prison officer. The one we find again later in the movie, more precisely after the riot, smoking a cigarette in the snow with his left hand which is hurts. The director paid attention to all the details, this one symbolizes the violence and proves that the officer, in hurting prisoners, hurts himself.
The most part of the film is silent, apart the speech of Bobby to the Priest. However, all the images in Hunger are so powerful and so powerful that we are not bored, not even one seconde. Each sequence is a concentrate of voltage. We keep the eyes on the screen throughout the course of history.
Hunger all makes sense during the priest’s scene. The dialogue rapidly turns into a philosophical speech. A lot of questions arise. Where are the limits of the rebellion ? After the no-wash and the blanket protests, it seems that the hunger strike is the only and last resource Bobby finds. This is the last fight, the fight of despair.When the body becomes a weapon (a weapon already used earlier in the movie to hide messages and objects during the meetings with close people). Bobby chooses to use his body because it’s the last thing he can use, it’s the last way to make things change, even if it’s not going to work (that’s why sacrifice is also discussed).
After this lengthy scene, the movie is nothing but a relevant and strong description of Bobby Sands dying slowly. A period of time when Sands can still decide to stop this hunger strike, to choose life.. But he prefers to sacrifice himself, to undergo all of that than being passive and letting things go on.
I must admit some scenes were sometimes hard to watch without looking down at my shoes because of its violence and the impressive realistic performances from the actors but it was worth it.
The movie won the Caméra d’Or in Cannes, the Discovery Award in Toronto and the Carl Foreman Award in BAFTA. I am happy Steve Mc Queen received good prices because the movie is an awesome work of art dealing with an intense topic. We are touched by the message of Hunger, most of important historical facts are too often forgotten, it’s good to remind us all of this.
Afterwards, we are obviously completely dazzled by the beauty of the film.