On DVD: Hunger (Criterion Collection)

Watching Hunger is a painful and illuminating experience. It cuts to the marrow of a tendentious, charged historical moment via flawless visual storytelling. The film starts out by documenting the effects of external brutality upon a group of jailed IRA soldiers. A long conversation between two key characters serves as a kind of entr'acte, wherein we are privy to the logic behind the inversion of that brutality. The second act allows that inversion to play out through Bobby Sands' conscious decision to subvert the external brutality with self-imposed starvation, a tactic that simultaneously takes him out from beneath the boots of his jailers, while condemning himself to an even harsher fate than that of his fellows. The film's structure is deliberate and purposeful. In telling the story of the Maze and Bobby Sands, the filmmakers have eschewed historical context and political angles in favor of focusing almost exclusively on life inside the prison. It's a narrow way of covering true events, but it also allows the craft of filmmaking to intuitively find the heart of the story without becoming stuck in the minutiae of historical re-creation.

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