Posted by Lou. The time is 10.35pm here in London, UK.

I'm going to put my hand up right away and state that as somebody brought up to fully engage with my Irish heritage - Catholic Irish heritage at that - I'm a sucker for a good film about those fighting for Irish emancipation from Britain. So of course I have eagerly awaited finally getting a chance to see multi-award-winning Hunger, a film about the IRA volunteer Bobby Sands' prison term during which he went from the blanket/ no wash strike to calling a full-blown hunger strike that led to his death in 1981.

The film is simple - it is primarily without dialogue and almost entirely set within the walls of the prison, capturing the tension and aggression between the Irish prisoners and their guards. The actors throw themselves into it to an extent that can be painful to watch, particularly the depiction of guard brutality and the sight of Sands' increasingly emaciated form as his hunger strike stretches out (I had to pretend to myself that his appearance was 95% CGI). The vast majority of the film's dialogue all occurs in one brilliant scene plopped into the middle of the film where Sands and the prison's priest - an Irish Replublican also - argue over the merits of Sands' looming hunger strike.

The film's strength lies in the fact that it portrays little of the political context other than some perfectly selected and timed snippets of Thatcher coming out of a radio. This takes away the issue of arguing a rightness or wrongness of the hunger strike, or of the quest for Northern Ireland to reunite with the republic. It rather allows the story to be about one man's belief in his cause, and the extent to which he will persue it. It doesn't say he was right or wrong, but does allow some sense of dignity for his sacrifice/ suicide.

Not a film I would recommend to all, but certainly one worthy of the attention it has garnered.

A related film recommendation:
Watching the above prompted me to my millionth viewing of one of my absolute all-time fave films, The Wind That Shakes the Barley. I love this film and still maintain that Cillian Murphy's performance is one of the great unrecognised performances of this decade. Set in early-20th-Century rural Ireland it is a drama capturing the grassroots fight for freedom. It is absolutely beautiful - the colours and landscapes and clothes are gorgeous - and emotively dramatises the issue through extremely an extremely empathetic protagonist. Watch it!

2 thoughts on “Hunger”

  1. Hooray, you've finally given me the kick I need to see 'The Wind that Shakes the Barley'. With a plug like you've given it hope it lives up.
    Hope the weather in London is treating you well.



  2. Hunger is in the Film Fest at the moment - when I saw it in the programme, I went "oh yes, that looks like one of Lou's..." ;)

    I never made it all the way through The Wind That Shakes The Barley. I was having such a cry by about 45 mins in that I thought it best to leave it at that. I thought it was brilliantly made but was clearly having an over-empathetic day and knew that the content wasn't going to get any easier...