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What I Watched Last Night: Hungry Like the Wolf edition

July 10, 2010

Hunger (2008) dir. Steve McQueen

Do you like my wildly insensitive title? Do you like the way I reduce the Troubles and the 1981 Dirty (or Blanket) protests in the Maze prison to an overplayed Duran Duran reference?

Well I’m not proud, but I don’t have a whole lot of time to pull together my thoughts on this movie, which I watched last night in fits and starts. Pausing frequently because literally shit got really real, and became very, very difficult to watch.

Hunger tells the story of the 1981 hunger strikes in the Maze prison and the death of their leader, Bobby Sands, in a manner both loose and terribly, terribly focused and specific. Almost wordlessly, McQueen uses his camera to capture small glimpses of life in the Maze: the blood on a prison guard’s hands, the almost-artistic swirls of brown (oh my god is that what I think it is holy fuck it totally is oh my god) on the walls of a prison cell, a trembling guard after administering a brutal beating. I say “wordlessly” and “almost” because there are very few words in the movie, the bulk of them during an extended twenty-two minute scene between Sands and a priest, as they dance around each other on the morality of what Sands is about to do, about what he’s about to ask others to do:
Towards the end of the movie, as Sands is dying in his bed, the camera dances around him like an anxious parent as a flock of birds flutters and retreats- it’s a scene that breathtakingly combines Sands’ hallucinations and reality, as he dry-heaves without the strength to hold himself up.
Steve McQueen, the director, is apparently primarily known as a visual artist and also sharing a name with another BAMF, Steve McQueen.

One of these things is not like the other, although both rule.

You can really see it in the really painterly way he composes his shots. Aaagh. I really have many Feelings And Thoughts about this movie but they’ll have to wait.
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