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Life and death of an IRA-prisoner: Hunger

img  Claudia Lindner

But the movie is not so much an accurate historical document than a precise, quiet study of the events which took place in this prison. At first, there is the violent, repressive and destructive daily routine of a high security prison, trying to break prisoners by exercising extreme measures and exposing them inhuman treatment, while the prisoners for their part use extreme forms of resistance. Next we see the dispute about the hunger strike – the sense and nonsense of it – as a dialogue between Sands (Michael Fassbender) and the prison minister. This part of the movie contains exclusively of words, arguments, reasons, but there is no physical action as there was before.

The last part of the movie is the one where the last phases of starvation of the prisoners are shown. There is no physical action nor verbal dispute anymore, instead the pictures are reduced to the quiet impressions of a dying human being. The realism of these scenes, emphasized by an extremely attenuated leading actor, is shocking. But nevertheless, they seem to have something peaceful, in spite of the violent, politically caused and finally state-sanctioned death of the prisoners.


The movie leaves no questions unanswered concerning these events. Relentlessly and voyeuristically, but at the same time sensitive and observant, it tells the story of prison conditions, hunger strike and death. Director Steve McQueen, receiving the „Camara d'Or“- Award at the 2008 Cannes Festival for this film, gives the viewer the chance to participate at the happening when he not only contrasts the the opposing pictures of noise and quietness, the meditative impressions of dying with the violence, the extreme counter-violence, the filth, the smell of feces. He almost harmonically manages to connect and relate them with each other so that


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