Friday, June 18, 2010

"Hunger" (2008) - Movie Classic

You do not need to take a stand, side with the IRA or hate it or be neutral. You do not need to be sympathetic or hateful towards the cause. You do not have to know much of Bobby Sands played with a brutality and dangerous grit by Michael Fassbender. You do not have to like what he does, the perils he puts through and others in the name of the belief he bores. You do not have to look for meaning, poetry or sight for redemption in Steve McQueen’s “Hunger”. You just have to watch it because a movie like this comes once in a long time and it damn well deserves the attention regardless of what you think of anything.

It follows the final days of Bobby Sands in his 1981 hunger strike in Maze prison. Before deciding to go for the hunger strike, he and his fellow prisoners were on “no wash” strike. A new prisoner enters as room mate to Bobby Sands whose walls are pasted with feces and the man himself is covered in hair. In the long narrow corridors carrying these prison rooms becomes an arena for flooding urine from their cells, getting beaten by the prison officers and get smashed over the brick walls in the process. These are few of the violence. The real violence comes in the form self consuming putting them into the worst test of their body and mind.

Dialogues are sparse except a spellbinding 17 minute single shot scene between Bobby Sands and his priest (Liam Cunningham) which is the only time we hear his philosophies, explanation, determination, stubborn and the little left comedy in his destructing body. The length is there to not perturb the moment. The serenity of that scene has to be intact through the clouds of cigarette smokes. As though McQueen and the actors were containing a cracking glass of water, they hold it closely and tightly. It is not to show they can do it but to maintain the stillness and the aggressiveness in the conversation. It is the pivotal scene to put its viewers through the course of this man’s extreme belief for the rest of the film.

There needs a mind shuddering incident for people to act together. Emotional upheaval from mass of people comes forth of witnessing utter brutality. Sands chooses to do it to himself and feels so right about his decision to keep his course till his brain has shrunken enough to hallucinate and pass out of pain. The film is carefully constructed wherein the only talk between the prisoners and the officers are the slamming of those police sticks on their naked body. It is a one way talk from the officers by the way.

It is an obvious question to search for the reason to go in the details of this torture the protagonist put himself through. The reason is clear for the individual but not for the audience. We are not here to judge his decision or the sanity of it but to see there is something beyond the tale. There is a migration of those terrible violence and self destruction coming outside of the screen. It reaches out inside us to not alone disgust on this raw nature of pain but to realize that there is a pain which cannot be comprehended. The characters are not alone pitiful which they do not expect but there is something in the air along with their protest on contaminating it with their feces.

“Hunger” is not a pleasant film if you have not figured it by now. It has immense violence, very affecting in nature but it is also a film defining the extremities of human vigour in carrying out something. It is given like an impossible mountain climbing and the hardship to attain the peak. In most of these stunts for achievement, the trick is to come back alive while Bobby Sands knows where this road is going and that is indeed his peak. He has the set mind of a suicide bomber and the difference is that he is taking himself alone. Though he persuades his fellow prisoners to do the hunger strike along with him spanning it in gaps to counter for the death in the process. 9 more members died after him.

The scenes are extended from your normal attention span the Hollywood has dumbed down to. In the corridor after the urination protest, a guard cleans the floor. He splashes the detergent/disinfectant liquid throughout the corridor. Then he goes and begins cleaning it pushing it with the scrubbing floor brush. We see him do the entire floor and that particular part appeals to you on unexplainable levels. Is it a metaphor? Is it symbolism? It is nothing but a man cleaning the excreted human waste, yet there is more humanism and inhumanity in it. You will know what I mean when you see it.

“Hunger” is beyond the visual emotional drama and is Fassbender’s dangerous dedication to his character. In the final scenes of the known demise of his character, his body is nothing but degraded bones, his skins are nothing but sores and his mind is nothing but unfathomable determination. I cannot admire the hunger strike nor degrade it to the stupidity. It birthed igniting other people to enlist in the cause which again resulted in more violence. But this is not about the right and wrong of a belief. It is about a man caught up in it and ready to go all in slowly, surely, sacredly and stupidly in his own way. This is more than a visual dark poetry. This is the extremity of a human body and the limitlessness of the mind over it.

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