There’s a key visual metaphor in Hunger, when Bobby Sands creates a circular work of art on his cell wall out of the only medium available to him, his own excrement. Making art out of shit is the goal of this film, one that it achieves quite dramatically.

The film revels in its ambivalence, painting the final days of Sand’s hunger strike, his relationship with the guards (and their own views on the matter) in great strokes of grey. This is no dogmatic script or sycophantic polemic, but a subtle, convincing look at an egomaniacal and delusional leader of men who holds on to his moral convictions through the most heartwrenching travails, and the sometimes sadistic and other times compassionate prison guards that he sees as his enemy. The tour-de-force scene, where Sands has a conversation with a priest, is simply riveting, a single shot that seems to go on forever, performances ratcheted up to an electric degree.

The film is a study in meditation and ambivalence, a fine achievement by this first time director.

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