HUNGER (Steve McQueen, 2008)
MoMA Film, Museum of Modern Art
11 West 53rd St. between Fifth & Sixth Aves.
Saturday, May 28, 8:00
Monday, May 30, 4:30
Series runs through June 3
Tickets: $10, in person only, may be applied to museum admission within thirty days, same-day screenings free with museum admission, available at Film and Media Desk
In 2004, we saw Steve McQueen’s fascinating video installation of three short works at Wellesley’s Davis Museum. As entertaining and intriguing as that show was, it never could have prepared us for Hunger, the British-born Turner Prize winner’s brutal and harrowing feature-length debut. Winner of the Camera d’Or at Cannes, Hunger is set amid the Troubles in Northern Island, as IRA members are locked up in the Maze prison. Seeking special category status, the prisoners are on a Blanket and No Wash protest, refusing to wear official garb or clean up after themselves. They wipe their feces all over their cell walls and let their maggot-infested garbage pile up in corners. Meanwhile, the guards, who live in their own kind of daily fear, never miss a chance to beat the prisoners mercilessly. McQueen introduces the audience to the infamous prison through the eyes of one of the high-ranking guards, Raymond Lohan (Stuart Graham), and new prisoner Davey Gillen (Brian Milligan). He often lets the camera linger on a scene, with little or no dialogue, composing them as if individual works of art; one particularly gorgeous shot features Lohan having a cigarette outside the prison as snow falls. About halfway through, the film radically changes focus as Father Dominic Moran (Liam Cunningham) visits H Block leader Bobby Sands (Michael Fassbender), leading to sixteen minutes of uninterrupted dialogue, the camera never moving, as the two men discuss Sands’s planned hunger strike. Written with Enda Walsh, McQueen’s film is a visually stunning, emotionally powerful story that will leave audiences ragged.
Hunger is screening May 28 and 30 as part of MoMA’s “Revisiting The Quiet Man: Ireland on Film” series, curated by Gabriel Byrne and featuring such other works made in and/or about Ireland as Darby O’Gill and the Little People (Robert Stevenson, 1959), This Other Eden (Muriel Box, 1959), The Informer (John Ford, 1935), In the Name of the Father (Jim Sheridan, 1993), and Into the West (Mike Newell, 1993). The May 28 screening of Hunger will be followed by a conversation with Enda Walsh and Byrne.