Pssst, want to check out Hunger in our new look?
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This is a movie like Citizen Kane or I Am Cuba where the director deliberately and ambitiously experiments with filmmaking choices. (e.g. very little dialogue, then an uninterrupted 20 minute cut of dialogue; main character not introduced until middle of movie, etc). Steve McQueen is one to look out for.
Unflinching and unsentimental. McQueen is very good at examining the dehumanizing qualities of the prison apparatus, for both the prisoners and the warders/law enforcement officers. The contrast between the brutality of the first half of the film and the almost sanctified treatment of Sands during his hunger strike is fascinating; while the early resistance of the prisoners results in reactionary violence, the internalization of violence by the hunger-strikers upon their own bodies complicates and disturbs the cycle. Care is taken to provide every comfort for Sands as he literally wastes away. But why? The film is ultimately extremely ambiguous; a necessity, perhaps, considering the troubling subject.
I don't think that McQueen was attempting to present a "compelling story," at least not in the narrative sense. It seems to me to be a reflection on the prison institution, ideological fervour, and their effect on the body. More horrifying than "beautiful," and, although spare, conceptually complex.
The best movie debut by a director of the last 10 years. I would have expected McQueen to have a Haneke-like continuation of his career but instead he went hollywood and still made two other great movies. Fassbender is stellar.
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In 6 official lists
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This movie ranks #50 in 100 Best British films
This movie ranks #76 in The 21st Century's Most Acclaimed Films
This movie ranks #101 in Cahiers du cinéma - Yearly top 10s
This movie ranks #558 in The Criterion Collection
This movie ranks #631 in Sight and Sound 2012 - Combined List
This movie ranks #771 in They Shoot Pictures, Don't They?