Greatest Film Scenes
and Moments

Hunger (2008)


Written by Tim Dirks

Title Screen
Movie Title/Year and Scene Descriptions

Hunger (2008, UK/Ire.)

In Steve McQueen's compelling biographical drama about a politically-defiant individual on a hunger strike in the Maze Prison in Northern Ireland in 1981:

  • the 24 minute (mostly long-shot) conversational scene at a prison table, between 27 year-old hunger strike IRA (Provisional Irish Republican Army) leader Bobby Sands (Michael Fassbender) and a priest, Father Dominic Moran (Liam Cunningham), who incessantly smoked cigarettes as they talked about the morality of suicide, and Sands' defense of his actions on political, emotional, and moral grounds: ("You want me to argue about the morality of what I'm about to do and whether it's really suicide or not? For one, you're calling it suicide. I call it murder. And that's just another wee difference between us two. We're both Catholic men, both Republicans. But while you were poaching salmon in lovely Kilrea, we were being burnt out of our house in Rathcoole...Similar in many ways, Dom, but life and experiences focused our beliefs differently. You understand me?"); and Sands' conclusion about his own sacrifice: ("Putting my life on the line is not just the only thing I can do, Dom. It's the right thing")
  • also, Sands' concluding realization - a metaphor of his own reasoned suicidal sacrifice - with a tale about a wounded, four or five-days old foal (with snapped back legs from the sharp rocks) next to a stream - whose suffering (and "real pain") and life he ended by drowning it, although he knew he would be punished: ("So it's clear to me in an instant. I get down on my knees and I take the foal's head in my hands and I put him underwater. He's thrashing around at the start, so I press down harder until he's drowned...But I knew I did the right thing by that wee foal, and I could take the punishment for all our boys. I had the respect of them other boys now, and I knew that. (pause) I'm clear of the reasons, Dom. And clear of all the repercussions. But I will act and I will not stand by and do nothin'")
  • ("Faced now with the failure of their discredited cause, the men of violence have chosen in recent months to play what may well be their last card. They have turned their violence against themselves through the prison hunger strike to death. They seek to work on the most basic of human emotions, pity, as a means of creating tension and stoking the fires of bitterness and hatred")
  • a doctor's description of the results of a hunger strike on the human body: ("And from week one there has been a gradual deterioration of the liver, kidney and pancreatic function. Also the bone density decreases substantially due to calcium and vitamin deficiencies. The muscles of the heart is also undernourished causing impaired function and eventually cardiac failure. The left ventricle can shrink to 70% of its normal size. He will have low blood sugar, low energy and muscular wasting. He will be experiencing gastro- intestinal ulcers with the thinning of the intestinal wall and sub-mucosal hemorraging. There will have been degenerative changes to the mucous membranes of the intestines, and indeed all the organs in the body")
  • the death scene of an emaciated and skeletal Sands after a 66 day hunger strike - as he had flashbacked visions of his youth as a runner (through trees) for his school in Belfast, with birds flying
  • the final postscript and results of the hunger strike: ("Bobby Sands died after 66 days on hunger strike. At that time he was elected to the British Parliament M.P. for Fermanagh and South Tyrone. After 7 months the strike was called off. A further 9 men had died. during the 'blanket' and a 'no-wash' protests. In the following days and months, the British Government effectively granted all the prisoners' demands but without any formal recognition of political status")

Conversational Scene in Prison

Bobby Sands' Chosen Suicidal Sacrifice


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