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.
Usually I respect other people's tastes and opinions but anyone who does not see the impeccable, intense and artistic structure of this film must be blind.
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In 6 official lists
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This movie ranks #50 in Time Out's The 100 Best British Films
This movie ranks #100 in TSPDT's 21st Century's Most Acclaimed Films
This movie ranks #131 in Cahiers du Cinéma's Annual Top 10 Lists
This movie ranks #560 in The Criterion Collection
This movie ranks #631 in Sight & Sound's The Greatest Films of All Time
This movie ranks #785 in TSPDT's 1,000 Greatest Films