Hunger (2008)

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Released 8-Apr-2009

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Drama None
Rating Rated MA
Year Of Production 2008
Running Time 91:55
RSDL / Flipper Dual Layered Cast & Crew
Start Up Ads Then Menu
Region Coding 2,4,5 Directed By Steve McQueen
Studio
Distributor
Icon Entertainment Starring Michael Fassbender
Stuart Graham
Case ?
RPI ? Music Leo Abrahams
David Holmes


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 5.1 (448Kb/s)
English Dolby Digital 2.0 (224Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 2.35:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 2.35:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English for the Hearing Impaired Smoking No
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

    British visual artist Steve McQueen scores a resounding success with his first feature film, the dark and disturbing Hunger.

On the face of it Hunger is the story of the 1981 hunger strike at Irelands Maze Prison which saw the death of a number of inmates and the martyrdom of their leader, Bobby Sands. A general knowledge of the strike might assist as background. However, in reality it is not necessary for this is as apolitical as a film about the Troubles could possibly be. Rather than dealing with the wrongs and rights, the film instead focuses on the stark personal reality of Maze Prison and the nature of physical and metaphorical hunger itself.

The film is really in three roughly equal parts. The first deals with the introduction of a new prisoner, Gerry, into the jail and the privations he is forced (or decides - your choice) to endure. A strong stomach is required for the brutal punishment meted out to the resistant prisoners and the myriad of bodily products that converge to justify the name "dirty protest".

The second is an amazing dialectic between Bobby Sands and a prison priest as both argue their respective viewpoints. For approximately 17 minutes of this scene the camera is held in a fixed position with no movement from the actors, as the men argue the political effect of the proposed strike.

The third is a study of the decline of Sands as the hunger strike presses on. As his weight falls and his body succumbs to wracking pains and festering sores Bobby slips in and out of consciousness.

Unlike In the Name of the Father this is a film about the personal sense of loss and doesn't seek to make the viewer burn with righteous indignation. The prison guards are often brutal and uncaring yet the closing credits make it readily apparent they they too suffered terribly at the hands of the IRA. In short, no one is innocent or to blame in this story.

McQueen artistically paints his film with long wordless sections and simple delicate imagery amongst the squalor. Playwright Enda Walsh collaborated with McQueen on the screenplay and it is to him no doubt that we owe the probing, thoughtful mid-section.( Audiences may have recently seen Walsh's strange and difficult play The New Electric Ballroom which was performed in Australia in 2009. It is a work of power and madness with the characters unable to control their words which erupt in long Beckett-like passages. ) The rest of the film is pretty much without dialogue and such dialogue that does exist is usually intentionally banal - such as the prison guard talking to his catatonic mother and the prison hospital doctor telling Sands parents' of the stages of decay of the human body due to hunger.

The performances are uniformly excellent. Michael Fassbender literally gives his body and soul to the part of Bobby Sands, playing defiant and self-confident in the first two thirds of the film and quickly wasting towards the end, with a body that resembles Christian Bale's gaunt turn in The Machinist. Some may remember Fassbender from the series Band of Brothers yet others for his role in 300. He is a consummate physical actor and his interplay with Liam Cunningham as the priest deserves to be studied by acting students everywhere. There is also fine performance from Liam McMahon as the new inmate Gerry and Stuart Graham as the prison guard, standing front and centre dishing out harsh punishment, yet bathing his bleeding knuckles in hot water as some form of self flagellation.

The only explicable social context for the film, apart from the Bobby/priest dialogue, is to be found in the recording of speeches by Margaret Thatcher who publicly refused to give in to the IRA.

Hunger is a hard watch with the level of brutality and deprivation on offer. However, it is more than a depiction of bodily torment. It is a story of finding humanity amongst the walls of a prison at its darkest days.

Without wishing to start another riot the spectre of forced unskippable piracy warning and trailers rears its head again. The trailers can actually be selected separately from the options menu so it is a surprise that they should be wedged at the beginning.

Don't wish to see plot synopses in the future? Change your configuration.

Transfer Quality

Video

    Hunger was shot on 35mm film with anamorphic lenses to create a 2.35:1 aspect ratio.

That ratio has been preserved for the DVD release. The film is 16x9 enhanced.

The colour palette for the film is seven shades of grim. Despite this is an excellent transfer with a huge degree of sharpness and good depth of shadow. The film features a good deal of darkened scenes and the transfer handles their inky blacks quite well.

There is a noticeable but acceptable level of film grain present

The flesh tones are quite accurate and fans of the colour brown will appreciate the chocolate coloured walls of the prison cell!

There are no compression issues to be found and the film is in an impeccable condition. Although this is a film that is unlikely to be used as demo material it is an excellent depiction of the source.

There are subtitles for the hearing impaired that give a good account of on-screen action.

Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

    The sound for Hunger is English Dolby Digital 5.1 running at 448Kb/s. There is also a 2.0 track running at 224Kb/s.

In a film where there is little to no noise for much of the running time it could be thought that the 5.1 track is something of a waste. Not so. There are subtle sounds throughout including an intermittent score than convey the sense of an immersive soundtrack.

The dialogue is clearly related however in the key scene I found the accents a little strong and occasionally relied on the subtitles to carry me through. Audio sync appears fine.

The sub-woofer gets occasional work in the opening "cup chorus" and in a throbbing bass tone that plays underneath the final third.

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

There are no extras on this DVD.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

  This Hunger DVD is Region 2,4 and 5. It does not appear to be available in Region 1 as yet.

Summary

    Hunger is a challenging and thought provoking film. It's narrative structure is far from straight-forward and may annoy those who want a more documentary like approach. It achieves the status of art through a careful blend of idea and composition.

The DVD is impeccably transferred and though it will never look pretty it is still an excellent representation of the film.

No extras - bah humbug!

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Trevor Darge (read my bio)
Saturday, April 18, 2009
Review Equipment
DVDPioneer BDP-LX70A Blu-ray Player, using HDMI output
DisplayPioneer PDP-5000EX. This display device has not been calibrated. This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 1080p.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Ultimate DVD Platinum.
AmplificationOnkyo TX-SR605
SpeakersJBL 5.1 Surround and Subwoofer

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