Hunger (2008) (R)

This is a film that I’d rather not have to mention just because it feels crass to talk about it. Steve McQueen has brought to screen one of the most gritty, emotional pieces of film that I can recall. Comparisons have to go back to Schindler’s List and The Pianist if we are to give this movie its proper due. As apposed to Spielberg and Polanski’s movies, this one is not about the Holocaust which seems like the only source for rough movies until now. McQueen, also the writer, brings notice to Irish prisoners who were treated incredibly horribly and the quest for one man to end that cruelty. When the movies starts out you think that you are watching the main character, one of the prison guards. Then the movie changes point of view to two prisoners and then it finally rests of Michael Fassbender.  During the opening sequences, McQueen establishes the unflinching resolution to show everything on camera. When you want, even pray for the scene to change, it doesn’t. The camera doesn’t move an inch and you began to feel the eagerness in your stomach for the scene to end.  That’s the movie, in essence. Pulling back a curtain and showing everything that went on in a world of cruelty and torture. Long shots of people’s faces allow them to have the freedom to do whatever they wish with their character without hindrance. This is sometimes misleadingly simple. It’s only when you finish the movie and reflect on those shots that were thought to be excessive that you realize how necessary they were to the film.  Unlike Spielberg’s emotional works of Polanski’s film, “Hunger” sets itself apart by being unique in its horrors. There is no score for this movie, not much of one that is noticeable anyway. Although Leo Abrahams and David Holmes are credited with the original music for “Hunger” there are only a few scenes that utilize the score. McQueen and his crew allow the story to unfold very naturally which is why this film is so effective. And then, there’s Michael Fassbender. This man takes on one of the hardest, demanding roles that I think has ever been put to screen in recent years.  After the disgusting prison life is shown there’s a scene in which Fassbender explains to a priest what he’s planning on doing to improve the living conditions of the prisoners. This scene borders on half-an-hour and it’s mostly just one camera shot. Great acting knows no boundaries when it comes to Fassbender who is the linchpin for why McQueen is able to pull of such a hard movie.  Brilliantly written dialogue between the priest and Fassbender’s character lead us to gain understanding about him that we couldn’t have, and it’s subtle.  Then comes one of the most amazing monologues on screen to date. Fassbender just lets his character talk to the priest in order to rationalize what he’s planing on doing.  To look at fiction and film now and see what they have made with the term “hunger”, feels bizarre after having seen this film. Mainly I’m referring to Suzanne Collin’s “The Hunger Games” which I feel may and/or should have been titled differently, had she seen this movie.  In this film you see what ‘hunger’ really is and what is causes.  When Fassbender’s character goes on a hunger strike, it’s not like the hunger strikes in “Gandhi”, which now seem like a family friendly scenes. No, they are descriptive and impossible to fully understand. Fassbender looses so much weight for this movie, it’s mind-boggling. One scene has his character, Bobby Sands, bending over himself, feeling a rib that is jutting out of his abdomen at an unnatural angle. Part of me hopes that it was fake and not really him, I’m not sure how but that’s what I wanted.   I cannot recommend this film to a person looking to have a good time. What I can say is that “Hunger” is one of the most subtly powerful films I have seen in many, many years.

Score: 4 out of 4 stars 

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