AN ODYSSEY, IN WHICH THE SMALLEST GESTURES BECOME EPIC AND WHEN THE BODY IS THE LAST RESOURCE FOR PROTEST.
Director Steve McQueen’s feature film debut is an unusually uncomfortable and tangible journey inside the Maze prison and the 1981 hunger strike that killed IRA activist Bobby Sands. There have been many similarly themed screen portrayals (such as In the Name of the Father (1993)), but rarely have we come as close to experiencing the utter misery of not only the tortured prisoners but also the guards; the filmmakers create several striking, symbolic images. The story is simple but builds emotionally, especially when Sands begins his hunger strike. That part of the film is horrifying, with a remarkable performance by Michael Fassbender.
2008-Britain-Ireland. 96 min. Color. Widescreen. Produced by Robin Gutch, Laura Hastings-Smith. Directed by Steve McQueen. Screenplay: Enda Walsh, Steve McQueen. Cinematography: Sean Bobbitt. Cast: Michael Fassbender (Bobby Sands), Liam Cunningham (Dominic Moran), Stuart Graham (Raymond Lohan), Brian Milligan, Liam McMahon.
Last word: “It’s the whole idea of people incarcerated in a cell 24 hours a day, for four and a half years, and what they did to protest – using their excrement, using their urine, not washing. Using their body as a weapon – if that’s all you have, what do you do with it? Maximizing your resistance as such. That was interesting for me to show, visually, because it had never actually been filmed. The only videotape which actually survived of it is 90 seconds of footage. 90 seconds. So reconstructing this as film was very fascinating to me, and of course the political aspect was huge. Also the personal – what was it like to be naked in the cell for four and a half years – at what point do you get used to the excrement on the wall? At what point do you get used to waking up with maggots all over your body? The filth and the stench. These are the questions I wanted to raise, the images I wanted to look at.” (McQueen, Notebook)