HUNGER Steve McQueen 2008
The first part of Hunger presents Davey Gillen (Brian Milligan) entering Maze prison in Northern Ireland. As we watch Davey being thrust into the routine of incarceration, we learn about the nakedness that IRA prisoners opt for, their policy of not washing themselves combined with smearing their feces on the walls of their cells and pouring their urine over the floors.
This is the world Bobby Sands (Michael Fassbender) enters after the first half-hour of the film. The charisma that is Fassbender’s becomes the charisma of the historical Sands, a leader among men whom he will lead, first,to riot.
SPOILER ALERT: The second part of Hunger is a single take — something more than twenty minutes — a conversation between Bobby Sands and Father Moran (Liam Cunningham) who tries to talk him out of the planned hunger strike into which he next plans to lead the other prisoners, a strike in which he and eight others will die.
In the third part of Hunger we watch Sands sicken and die before his mother’s eyes and ours. As he dies his psyche performs what time immemorial has told us all psyches do — pass their lives before their own eyes. Sands prefers his boyhood during which he seems early to have embraced St. Paul’s exhortation to run a good race to the end.
As prison guard Raymond Lohan, Stuart Graham is outstanding. Fassbender is wondrous.
FISH TANK Andrea Arnold (writer & director) 2009
This is a coming-of-age tale of frankly unlikable fifteen-year-old Mia. At times she overhears, then spies on her mother and the mother’s boyfriend Conor having quite creative sex. In her growing sexual consciousness, Mia (Katie Jarvis) becomes fascinated by Conor while until now her passion has been dance. Why dance? An escape from her dismal, disordered world?
And why is there no back story? What is the matter with Mia’s slatternly mother? What IS her story? SPOILER ALERT: What is the matter with the unfaithful Conor. We eventually learn, along with Mia, that he has a wife and child. Would Arnold think I’m seeking clichés in wanting back stories?
This is an ugly narrative set in an ugly council estate in Essex. While Katie Jarvis is arresting as Mia, what would Fish Tank have been without Fassbender’s charismatic sexuality as Conor? This puts both the film’s females, mother and daughter, in the position of defining themselves by the man in their lives; in this instance, the same man. Is this really what Arnold wants? Or does it work against her theme? Or is sex her theme?
NEXT Friday POST January 13
See you at the movies,