Wednesday, April 08, 2009
In HUNGER, the British video artist Steve McQueen has made an imposing feature-length movie that attempts to equal the discipline and fanaticism of his real-world subjects - IRA fighters who, incarcerated in Maze Prison in Northern Ireland, went on a hunger strike in 1981.... The movie's preoccupations are as much religious, even sacerdotal, as political.... For much of the movie, an intense silence reigns, interrupted by outbursts of furious brutality against the naked prisoners....
HUNGER moves inexorably to the last stage of this Passion play: Bobby Sands, starving himself for sixty-six days and slowly dying as he lies spread out naked on a bed. Earlier, in a powerfully written conversation, Father Dominic Moran, a tough Catholic priest, accuses Sands of not loving life, of having lost touch with the world or any rational political purpose. Father Moran is exactly right, but the movie takes the opposite view - that the men are sacred in their anguish.
In the end...I was awed but not moved by HUNGEr. Sands is a violent man who dies in the service of a dubious cause and on a cross of his own choosing. He's a Christ without humanity, and McQueen's aestheticization of his suffering and death becomes borderline creepy.
The New Yorker, March 30, 2009