I’m going to be totally honest: I was excited to see Hunger for mainly two reasons. A.) Steve McQueen directed it and B.) Michael Fassbender and his dick are in it. Yes, I was very excited for Michael Fassbender nudity. So excited, in fact, that I sort of forgot that a movie about a prison hunger strike probably wouldn’t have sexy nudity. That oversight became pretty clear pretty fast and ultimately I didn’t even want to see Michael Fassbender’s dick because naked wasn’t the best state for his character to be in.
So Hunger actively made me not want to see Michael Fassbender naked. That’s a feat in itself. Aside from all of that, I think if you described this movie to me I wouldn’t have been too excited for it. There is an extreme lack of dialogue, and except for some text in the beginning you’re not told much of what’s going on or who anyone is (which can leave people not very familiar with modern Irish history sort of in the dark at times). But somehow, it worked for me. I usually hate that shit. But I almost didn’t even notice, I think it wasn’t until 15 minutes in that I realized no one had really even spoken yet. There was just so much to watch and understand and the acting was so incredible that you really didn’t even need dialogue, which is something I almost never think.
A lot has been said about Michael Fassbender’s physical transformation, which I admit is really pretty horrifying to see. I never really thought too hard about how a hunger strike works, what it truly does to your body, and I would have been fine not thinking about it had it not been for this movie. But while that transformation was incredible and everyone was on the top of their acting game, that’s not what pushed Hunger over the edge from good to great for me. That, for me, came from one single scene. Bobby (Fassbender) has decided to go on a hunger strike to protest the treatment IRA protesters receive in prison (and for good reason; the wardens at this prison act more like SS officers than people who work in a prison) and is speaking to Father Dominic Moran (Liam Cunningham) about his hunger strike plans. Moran is on his side intellectually but tries to convince Bobby not to go through with the strike because it will likely kill him and the others that follow. But about 10 minutes into their conversation, at a pause, I suddenly realized that this scene had been going on a long time and I didn’t think the camera ever moved. I paid more attention and found that the camera never moved, that this scene was actually a completely unbroken shot of the two men talking. The dialogue was so amazing that the unbroken shot was hard to even notice. I was floored by that, especially considering this was a movie where dialogue was not high on the priorities list. I don’t even know what more to say about this scene, because it literally is just a filmed conversation between two men. But it is incredible and made me completely love the movie.
Hunger was hard to watch at times, especially toward the end, but it is so good.
Sadly, this is the first Steve McQueen movie I’ve actually seen. I remember when this came out I really wanted to see it but of course it wasn’t until now that I actually did. We started 12 Years a Slave but realized we weren’t in the mood for such an intense movie at the time so we never got back to it. And Shame, I kind of thought it had to do with incest so I skipped that all together. Having seen Hunger, I really need to see everything he does. This film was so beautiful and well directed. The opposite of an M. Night movie.
What I really enjoyed about Hunger was the silence. Two thirds of this film has little to zero dialogue and it’s more of a collection of scenes following different people around one prison than a straight narrative. We follow prison guards, prisoners, and police officers. You get a good sense of everyone involved and how they all think and feel about the treatment bestowed upon the prisoners. It’s done so well too that you don’t really think about no one really talking.
About a third into the film though there is a scene that is just straight up talking. Just two men at a table, having a conversation, that’s done, in large, with one shot. WHAT A GREAT IDEA!! I mean before this time we don’t really even know people’s names that well but all of a sudden we get to see a prisoner and a priest discuss what’s going on with them, how they feel about the mistreatment, and what they plan on doing to get out. It’s a scene that captivates you, too. It reminds me of the long shot in Atonement. You don’t really know it’s happening until about ten minutes into the scene. Then you realize how this is the most talking in the movie, then, have they even changed camera angles? It very well done and I wish more movies had a similar structure.
This movie is great. If you haven’t seen it, please do. As someone who knows nothing about politics, this movie is still one of the best I’ve seen in a while. I almost hope we watch more Steve McQueen again soon!