Hunger (2008) - full transcript

Hunger follows life in the Maze Prison, Northern Ireland with an interpretation of the highly emotive events surrounding the 1981 IRA Hunger Strike, led by Bobby Sands. With an epic eye for detail, the film provides a timely exploration of what happens when body and mind are pushed to the uttermost limit.

Temperature-wise, fairly cold.
Six, seven degrees, which is...

What is it in Fahrenheit?
I don't know. Forty something?

anyone has a nice formula then
they can write in and tell me, after this.

How to transform Fahrenheit
into centigrade...

...dirty protest and the blanket
protest has been going on for years,

all in support of the same demand:
Political status.

That is to say, different treatment
for people who commit crimes,

hideous crimes, for what they claim
to be a political motive.

And that is what
the government will not grant.

About an hour later there's a painful cry
coming from the granny's room.

So the Da walks up and opens the door,

and there's the wee fella
having a go at the granny.

And he turns round and goes, "It's not
so fucking funny when it's your Ma!"

There is no such thing
as political murder,

political bombing or political violence.

There is only criminal murder,
criminal bombing and criminal violence.

We will not compromise on this.

There will be no political status.

I will not wear the uniform of a criminal.

I demand to wear me own clothes.


Say what your surname is again.

- Gillen.
- Gillen?


Fancy Quinn.

Falls Road. Fancy Quinn.
Do you know him?

- No.
- No?

- How long did you get?
- Twelve years.


Six years. Six.

- Six?
- Aye.

You lucky bastard.

All right?

- How are you? OK?
- Yeah.

How's Ma? union. It's by
the political advisor to Merlyn Rees,

when he was at the Home Office,
Roger Darlington.

He rejects the official line
on phone taps,

that there's only been
a modest overall increase,

and says Parliament has no way
of knowing how much tapping goes on,

because the Prime Minister
and other senior ministers

Don't even have to get warrants
to get a tap put into effect.


Get ready.


...she sends
her very, very best to you.

Are you all right, Bobby?

I'm grand, Ma.

Are they giving you treatment for that?

It's being looked after.

And the young fella?

He's a handful, I'll tell you that.

- Are you eating all right?
- I'm grand, Ma.

- Are they feeding you all right?
- Don't yous be worrying about me.

Five minutes.

Five minutes.

- You eating all right?
- Aye.

- Tastes like shit though doesn't it?
- You get used to it.

You're looking well.

So are you, son.

So are you.

The eyes of the Lord
are on the righteous.

And his ears are attentive to their cries.

The face of the Lord is against
those who do evil.

The righteous cry out,
and the Lord hears them.

He delivers them from all their troubles.

The Lord is close
to the broken-hearted

and saves those
who are crushed in spirit.

The righteous man has many troubles.

But the Lord delivers him from them all.

He protects all his bones,

and not one of them will be broken.

Evil will slay the wicked.

The foes of the righteous
will be condemned.

The Lord redeems his servants.

No one will be condemned
who finds refuge in him.

Let us pray.

Fucking shoes matches the wall.

Fucking dirty bastards!

- Fucking bastards!
- Fucking dirty bastards!

I... I... IRA!

I... I... IRA!

Fucking bullshit!

Everything in order?

Yes, sir. In order, sir.

Very good.

Gerry! Gerry!


Get the fuck off me!

Shit. Shit!

Gerry! Gerry!

Get off me, you fucking...

Tea with two sugars, please.

Hi, Mum.

What are you doing sitting in here?


Out! Out! Everybody!

You can sit down anytime you like.

Priest etiquette.
Never sit before you're asked.

Sit down, then.

I don't want to come over too eager.

What, best to hover at the door?

You learn that in your first week
in the seminary, Bobby.

- Cig?
- Come on.

Bit of a break
from smoking the Bible, eh?

Oh, aye.

Anyone work out which book
is the best smoke?

We only smoke the Lamentations.

A right miserable cigarette.

Nice room.

Very clean.

- Where is it you're from again, Dom?
- Born, you mean?

- Bally-go-backwards.
- Oh, the city dog.


A wee place south of Ballymoney.

I remember a homily you did
at Mass one time.

Oh, will you listen to it?

- The men hold you in very high esteem.
- I can feel a dig coming on.

- You're very quick.
- Right.

Nah, you're respected, you know that.

But I like those stories you tell
about the countryside.

A childhood of poaching,
robbing apples, stampeding cattle.

- A fine education for a priest.
- A priest working West Belfast, it is.

Stampeding comes in handy
down the Falls Road.

- hate me.
- You miss it, though?

- What?
- Countryside.

Ah, sure I get home to see my wee
brother every month or so, but...

Aye, I miss the usual.
Clean air. Space. All that.

- Feels closer to who you are.
- Aye, well, it is. No question.

Like a fish out of water,
working in a big city like Belfast,

but it's a job, isn't it?

You stop looking
at your surroundings quick enough

when you figure your business is
the business of the soul and all.

- Business of the soul?
- Ah, you know what I mean.

- Learn that in the seminary, too?
- Aye. You can use that free of charge.

Go on.

Well, I suppose what I'm saying is...
you get on.

Kilrea can wait till I'm an old man.

Too many scoundrels to be saved
in Belfast, anyway.

- Busy work. Aye.
- God will reward you in Heaven.

And I'll be thankful,
once there's wine involved.

So what does your wee brother do
back home?

He's a parish priest.

He's a sneaky wee bastard.
You know the sort, Bobby.

- Still goes poaching?
- Poaching jobs.

And he's younger than me
by eight years all right.

Go on.

Well, as a cleric I work
in a parish beside Kilrea.

A wee hole of a place.
I'm working me arse off.

House calls to the elderly,
mobile confessions.

- The glamour stuff.
- Oh, aye.

- So... a position comes up at Kilrea.
- Right.

And I'm passed over for some reason
or other. No reason probably.

- Too much cake off the old ladies?
- Probably.


So about five years later, the position
again comes up back home in Kilrea.

And my brother Michael
waltzes right into it.


He's made parish priest at 28.

More spiritual probably.
Less lippy than you.

He worked the Bishop. He's a golfer.

He's a pushy little twerp is what he is.

- At least you're not bitter.
- No, I couldn't be that.

Parish priest at 28? Fantastic.

Hmm. He has two cars.

And the house he has is massive.

He has a maid, a cook.

I'm stuck in a two-up-two-down,

with a fat Kerry man who drones
on and on about Gaelic football.

- Can we stop talking about this?
- Jesus, you're the one who's talking.

- How's your smoke going?
- Grand.

Hmm. Filthy habit. Disgusting.

Oh, aye, awful. Lovely, though.

Aye. Praise the Lord.

- 28... My God!
- Oh, stop it.

So what happened to your eye, Bobby?


- Get a dig? Your eye?
- Difference of opinion.

- Hmm. How's the other fella?
- A lot worse, believe me.

So. What did you call me here for?

- Why, is that the idle banter over?
- Priest etiquette. Small talk first.

I'm learning a lot about the priesthood.

- You'd make a fine priest.
- Oh, aye.

Good talker. Man of principle.
Leader of men.

- Political terrorist.
- The church loves a reformed crook.


I always felt that thief next to Jesus
got off lightly.

Ah, but he recognised his sins.

- Did he, though?
- Aye. Said as much.

When you're hung from a cross,
you'll say anything.

Jesus offers him a seat next to daddy
in a place called paradise.

You're always gonna put your hand up
for piece of that.

Even when it's nailed to your cross.

Jesus Christ. That's sacrilegious.

No, no, no, he was a dirty thief.

So. What do you want to tell me?

Where are you at?

Been driven mad by that governor yet?

See this negotiating lark?

It's been a sideshow.
I'll tell you that for nothing.

But you understand
why you need to do it?

Because we're no longer
good propaganda.

According to who? The leadership?

The time has come.

A decision had to be made.

You think that's
what the leadership think?

- Maybe. I don't know.
- Bit paranoid there, Bobby.

Ten thousand people marched for
the seven hunger strikers last October.

- International pressure on the Brits.
- Busy time.

Even the Pope's having a say.
Getting involved.

The whole world, trying to get Thatcher
to give us our demands.

- But it all came to nothing.
- Right.

Hunger strike failed.
We're on the front line.

We created the protest.
It's our responsibility.

Leadership have been
very clear to me, Dom.

Four and a half years
of the no-wash protest,

as much as it's highlighted

it's also distracted from the development
of the organisation.

Because your needs are specific.

Of course they are.

Some woman bringing up
three children in West Belfast

shouldn't care about civilian clothing
or whatever they call these clown outfits.

Honest to God. We were promised our
own clothes. It's childish skulduggery.

So the leadership have had
enough of you?

In the ideal world,

we'd be fighting our battles
independently, but we're tied.

Nothing's changed in here.
The leadership are stuck with us

until there's some realistic chance
of political status, that's the hard truth.

See, to get me to negotiate
with these lying, reneging monkeys

when there's never nothing
on the table, it's pure crap.

I'm not gonna be marched
into this Governor's office

and get caught up in some pointless
dialogue with that pompous bastard.

- Well, he's a big fan of yours.
- Thick as two short planks.

Can you believe they made him
Governor? Bloody insult to humanity!

Mother of Jesus, where do you get
your energy from?

I was a cross-country runner as a boy.

I could have guessed it.
Big engine on you.

Cross-country running.
Explains a lot about you, Bobby.

Why, I loved it, so I did.
That's the whole country thing for me.

Jesus, they to hold me back at
the finishing line or I'd keep on running.

Little scraps.
We were mongrels from out of the city.

Frightened of cattle and all.
It was a funny time.

- Frightened of cattle?
- Aye, terrified of them.

Think you could get milk and burgers
from them monsters? Jesus Christ!

The next time round I'll be born
in the countryside. Guaranteed.

Wildlife. Birds.

I love all that. Paradise.

Aye, and you could learn to relax, too.

Aye. Maybe. You never know.

Never tried it before.

I'm starting a hunger strike
on the first of March.

That's why you're here.
That's what I'm telling you.

Aye. I heard that.

- Does your family know?
- I got word out to them, aye.

- Have you spoken with them?
- Got a visit in two weeks. Talk then.

- How do you think they'll take it?
- What do you think, Dom?

And your wee boy?

So, what makes it different
from the last time?

The last hunger strike was flawed.
It became emotional.

Seven men started at the same time.

They got weak and couldn't let
the weakest die,

which left us susceptible to be conned
by the Brits, and that's what we were.


This time out, the men will start
consecutively, two weeks apart.

Somebody dies, they'll be replaced.

There's no shortage of us.
Seventy-five men have signed up.

Oh, for Christ's sake...

The announcement's being made today.

So what makes this protest different
is that you're set to die, Bobby?

It may well come to that.

You start a hunger strike to protest
for what you believe in.

You don't start already determined
to die, or am I missing something here?

It's in their hands. Our message is clear.
They're seeing our determination.

So it'll take a couple of deaths,
do you think? Maybe five or six?

But sure, there's seventy-five of you.

Aye well, it won't come to that.

All right, maybe the Brits will buckle
after twenty or so.

But why should you care,
cos you're already dead, right?

Have you thought about
what you'll put these boys through?

Putting aside what's going to happen
to these poor men's families.

You're up against a British government
who clearly despises Republicanism,

who are unshakable.

Who can easily live with the deaths
of what they call terrorists.

The stakes are much higher this time.

I know that.

And if you're not willing to negotiate,
you want them to capitulate?

- Right.
- So failure means many dead men.

Families torn apart.

And the whole
Republican Movement demoralised.

Worse case scenario, it might well mean
all that. But short term, out of the ashes.

Guaranteed there'll be a new generation,
even more resilient, determined...

- Look who you're talking to.
- There's a war going on.

I thought you might understand.
You're talking like a foreigner.

You're talking to me like one.
You think I don't know Northern Ireland?

- I live here, man.
- Then support us.

I supported the first hunger strike
on the basis it was a protest.

Not some predesign to die
and balk at negotiation,

other than surrender from Thatcher.
That's ridiculous, Bobby, it's destructive.

What's happening here for the last
four years? The brutality, humiliation.

Our basic human rights taken away.
All of this has to stop.

Through talking.

So what?
We take their offer, put their uniform on?

Cos the last four years
have meant nothing?

We could do that, Dom, or we could
behave like the army we proclaim to be

and lay down our lives
for our comrades.

Is there not even a small part of you
hoping for a breakthrough?

That could find you negotiating again?

- That won't happen.
- Right, forget about that.

I want to know whether your intent
is just purely to commit suicide here.

You want me to argue about
the morality of what I'm about to do

and whether it's really suicide or not?

For one, you're calling it suicide.
I call it murder.

And that's just another
wee difference between us.

We're both Catholic men. Republicans.

But while you were poaching salmon
in lovely Kilrea,

we were being burnt out
of our house in Rathcoole.

Similar in many ways, but experiences
focussed our beliefs differently.

- Understand me?
- I understand.

I have my belief. And in all its simplicity
that is a most powerful thing.

So, what's your statement by dying?

Just highlighting British intransigence,
so fucking what?

Everyone knows what the Brits are like.

- Good.
- It is good and nothing to do with you.

The Brits have been fucking up
everything for centuries.

I can feel your hatred, Dom.

- Are you looking for martyrdom?
- No.

- Are you sure?
- Aye.

Cos I've heard you eulogising
Wolfe Tone, Connolly, MacSwiney...

I can't help think you're writing
your name for all them history books.

- Cos you think that matters to me?
- I know it does.

Well, you're wrong.

You say you're soldiers,
it's all about the freedom.

But you've got no appreciation
of a life, Bobby.

You no longer know
what a life is, you men.

Four years living in these conditions,
no one expects you to be normal.

There's nothing normal about you.

Right now, the Republican Movement
has talked itself into a corner.

You IRA are standing right behind it
looking into that corner.

All that history, all them dead men
and women. You're still seeing nothing.

When your answer's to kill everything,
you've blinded yourselves

and you're scared to stop it.

Afraid of living.
Afraid of talk and peace.

Sure, what would Ulster be
if it wasn't tearing itself to shit?

And this situation here.

That the future of the Republican
Movement is in the hands of you men

who've lost all... all sense of reality.

You think your head's on right?

Locked up in here twenty-four hours
a day in piss and shit,

and you are making decisions
that could see so many men die.

Build a statue to Bobby Sands!

You're joking me. Freedom Fighter?

They're the men and women working
out there in the community.

And that was you,
once upon a time, am I right?

All that work you did in Twinbrook.

That's where we need you, Bobby.
And you know I'm right.

That I'm deluded...
you want me to answer that?

They're beating you.
You're playing into their hands.

- The strategy's in place.
- Then stop it. Just say stop.

- You don't understand a thing.
- You're in no shape to make this call.

It's done. It won't be stopped.

Then fuck it, life must mean
nothing to you.

God's going to punish me?

Well, if not just for the suicide, then
he'd have to punish you for stupidity.

Aye. And you for your arrogance.

Cos my life is a real life,
not some theological exercise,

some religious trick that's
got fuck all to do with living.

Jesus Christ had a backbone, but see
them disciples, every disciple since,

you're just jumping in and out
of the rhetoric and dead-end semantics.

You need the revolutionary, the political
soldier, to give life a pulse, direction...

- That's stupid talk. You're deluded.
- Aye, so you say.

- And what's your wee son going to say?
- Fuck off.

Doesn't that interest you?

You're going to attack me
with sentiment? Typical priest.

- What's your heart saying?
- I thought you'd me all figured out.

What's it saying? Tell me.

My life means everything to me.
Freedom means everything.

I know you don't mean to mock me,
Dom, so I'll just let all that pass.

This is one of these times
when we've come to a pause.

It's a time to keep your beliefs pure.

I believe that a united Ireland
is right and just.

Maybe it's impossible
for a man like you to understand,

but having a respect for my life,
a desire for freedom,

an unyielding love for that belief,

means I can see past
any doubts I may have.

Putting my life on the line is not just
the only thing I can do, Dom.

It's the right thing.

And this is why you've called me here?

Needed a sounding board? Not
a hundred per cent sure of yourself?

Been doubting yourself maybe?

Aye. Well, I'm only human.

And I've made it clear for you, then?

Man of guidance, Dom,
"business of the soul".

You've been to Gweedore in Donegal?


I went there when I was twelve.

Big cross-country race for the boys,

and we're all in the back of a minibus
headed towards Derry one morning.

I mean, this is big time.

This is like international athletics
for us,

cos we're racing against boys
in the South

and we have this thing
to do Belfast proud.

Two of the boys are Prods
and the rest of us are Catholics.

It's a cross-community event.

I suppose the good people
in the South think this is great stuff,

let's get this wee team over from Belfast
and all that patronising shite.

Anyway, we're through the border...

...the boys are all singing
pop tunes and all,

but I'm just in the back of the bus
looking out the window.

We're going through them mountains,

you know, where Mount Errigal is
and everything?

It's a beautiful sight, Dom.

Donegal has to be the most beautiful
place in Ireland, I reckon.



...we arrive at Gweedore.

What a place. And it's hopping
with about two hundred boys

and they're getting into their gear
and limbering up.

The whole event is run
by Christian brothers

and they're clipping young fellas
around the ears,

basically trying to retain some order.

Our team goes off for a wee jog
to stretch out the legs.

We're surrounded by fields of barley...

...and they dip down into a wee valley
where there's a stream and woods.

The woods and stream
are out of bounds,

so naturally us Belfast boys
have to go check them out.

Woods and a stream, Dom.
Sure, that's like the Amazon to us.

And we come across
these young fellas from Cork.

There's some banter about our accents
but they could barely talk,

we couldn't understand
a word they were saying.

You get the idea that they're
lording it over us a bit, you know?

Looking down on us.
I'm sensing it anyway.

We're running along
and we come up with this idea

to go down to the stream
and check it out for fish.

So we're down
by the river, Dom... stream... was half a foot of water in there.

Little silver fish
but nothing substantial.

Until one of their boys
call us further down.

Lying in the water is a wee foal,

four or five days old,
he's all skin and bone,

a grey colour, and he's got
flecks of blood on his coat

cos he's cut himself up really badly
on the sharp rocks.

We're just standing over him,
and you can see his back leg snapped.

And he's breathing, he's alive,
but just about.

So this big conversation gets started up

between the boys who suddenly
reckon themselves the leaders.

They're deliberating what we should do.
Someone says drop a rock on his head.

But I'm looking in their faces. I can see
they're either scared stiff or clueless.

It's all bravado.

And this foal on the ground, in real pain.

All this chitchat going on,
going nowhere.

Next thing, one of the priests sees us,
sees the foal,

tells us not to move and we're done for,
really done for.

A group of boys will always get
the blame for hurting a foal.

A group of Belfast boys
will get a hammering for sure.

So it's clear to me in an instant,
and I'm on my knees

and I take the foal's head in my hands
and I put him under water.

He's thrashing around a bit to start,

so I press down harder
until he's drowned.

Priest arrives, Dom.

And he's grabbing me by the hair,

dragging me through the woods,
promising me a proper hiding.

But I knew I did the right thing
by that wee foal.

And I could take the punishment
for all our boys.

I had the respect of them
other boys now and I knew that.

I'm clear of the reasons, Dom.

I'm clear of all the repercussions.

I will act and I will not stand by
and do nothing.

You can leave them there if you like.

Don't want me rolling up
the Letters of Saint John, do you?

Couldn't have that
on my conscience, no.

I don't think
I'm going to see you again, Bobby.

There's no need, Dom.

'And faced now with
the failure of their discredited cause,

'the men of violence have chosen,
in recent months,

'to play what may well be their last card.

'They have turned their violence
against themselves

'through the prison hunger strike
to death.

'They seek to work on the most basic
of human emotions, pity,

'as a means of creating tension

'and stoking the fires
of bitterness and hatred. '

There's been a deterioration
of liver, kidney and pancreatic function.

Also the bone density
decreases substantially

due to calcium and vitamin deficiencies.

The muscle of the heart
is also undernourished,

causing impaired function
and eventually cardiac failure.

The left ventricle could shrink
to seventy percent of its normal size.

He will have low blood sugar,
low energy and muscular wasting.

He'll be experiencing
gastrointestinal ulcers

with the thinning of the intestinal wall
and sub-mucosal haemorrhaging.

There will have been degenerative
changes to the mucous membrane

of the intestines
and indeed all the organs in the body.

- Name?
- Rosaleen Sands.

- Name?
- John Sands.

People always ask us,
people always ask us

- Who we are...
- Bobby! Bobby!

And where we come from,
where we come from

And we tell them,
and we tell them

We're from Belfast,
we're from Belfast

Mighty, mighty Belfast,
mighty, mighty Belfast

And if they can't hear us,
if they can't hear us

We shout a little louder,
we shout a little louder...