Awake with blunt noise and images of stunning clarity, Steve McQueen's Hunger only indulges in one real section of dialogue. Most of the film, set in Northern Ireland's infamous Long Kesh (Maze) prison, frames this conversation, one between a priest and an inmate. Filmed 17 times and clocking in at over 25 minutes long, McQueen allows for this central dialogue about the "Troubles" and how they relate to religion and protest, but his real aim is to let you experience the sound and physicality of the dialogue of revolution. Full of echoing drips, clattering batons, wet grunts, and bludgeoning exclamations, McQueen's film might have been easier to ignore if said inmate wasn't Bobby Sands, the controversial martyr of the IRA stronghold that died from a hunger strike he enacted in response to the restriction of rights imposed on Sands and his IRA brethren at the Maze.
This fact is largely rendered moot, however: McQueen changes up his central character rather randomly, from Sands to a fellow inmate to a doomed guard. It's 30 minutes into the film before Sands is introduced and, thanks to the Gaelic accents, it's not even clear what his name is until the dialogue with the priest commences. The only other tip is that he is played by Michael Fassbender, the German-born actor of 300 fame. (For the many, like myself, who found it a somewhat tumultuous task to tell one Spartan from another, he was the one who answered "Then we shall fight in the shade.") Though we never witness a proper verbal retort to Margaret Thatcher's "A crime is a crime is a crime," watching Fassbender waste away speaks volumes. A Hollywood remake might highlight this line: "Then we shall use what God gave us."
Continue reading: Hunger Review