Hunger: Passion of the Militant

John Lynch


This is a study of the 2008 film Hunger made by the British director Steve McQueen, a film that dramatises events in the Maze Prison in the period leading up to the 1981 Irish Republican hunger strike and death of Bobby Sands. It considers the filmic and artistic practice of McQueen in conjunction with certain concepts from the work of Deleuze and Guattari to develop a productive thinking about how the film addresses this traumatic event. Hunger employs a series of aesthetic techniques that push at the limits of the viewer’s senses and suggest new ways of thinking about the subject. McQueen’s concern to go beyond the clichés of the media coverage of the Irish conflict provides a unique insight into the production of a militant subjectivity generated by the opposition to the prison regime of the Maze in Belfast. Ultimately, however, it is argued that McQueen collapses into a form of religious iconicity that reinforces the Irish Republican mythology of suffering and redemption. Hunger, as a work of cinematic creation, offers a powerful sense of how resistance can be made manifest on screen yet, simultaneously, can become captured by the transcendental unity of identity thinking operating through the image of the romanticised face.


Hunger; Steve McQueen; Bobby Sands; hunger strikes; Deleuze & Guattari; militant becoming; Kafka

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