The following paper is going to consider, characterize and compare the most famous examples of the movies aimed to describe the complicated relationships between the English and the Irish through the course of history along with the significance of the events occurring then for the people of the time along with building contemporary behavioral models for both nations living in one country. Therefore, the next paragraphs are going to discuss the movie “Hunger” shot by Steve McQueen and compare it with Terry George’s “Some Mother’s Son” along with their messages to the viewers and descriptions of the English – Irish relationships.
The first movie to discuss is the Steve McQueen’s “Hunger” shot and premiered in 2008, as a historical drama film describing the events of Irish hunger strike of 1981. In short, it tells the story of Bobby Sands, the volunteer of Provisional Irish Republican Army (IRA), famous for being a leader of the second hunger strike of IRA along with being a significant participant of the no wash protest. With the help of the aforementioned actions, the Irish republican prisoners have been making an attempt to restore their political status along with their Party, as the British government had revoked it in 1976. In particular, the movie is aimed to dramatize the events occurring in the Maze Prison during the period before the aforementioned hunger strike along with the death of Sands.
It should be stated first that the “Hunger” does not offer an introduction towards the ideas and goals of IRA in a way appealing for the viewers to follow them. Despite the aforementioned character and his place in the history of Ireland, the movie can hardly be identified as the ones describing the pros and cons of the British in Northern Ireland. Instead, it shows the viewers inhumane conditions of the IRA members held as prisoners along with disrespectful attitude towards Bobby Sands just like to any other member of IRA. The movie does not have a detailed narrative discussing the history of Ireland along with its politics, containing only two significantly prolonged dialogues: the first in debate about the strike’s utility or futility between Sands and the priest, while the second is the doctor’s description of negative effects of starvation on the human organism addressed towards the parents of Sands (McQueen et al.).
In addition, there is not any clearly visible and easy-to-follow plot shown by the movie’s director; instead, he utilizes the sharpest and strongest traits of realism that can ever be shown in the movies. McQueen constructs the plot of “Hunger” with the help of three characteristics of it: first, the emotionally vulnerable prison guard considerably affected by his responsibilities and realities of the work he does, second lies within the description of two prisoners participating in the strikes held by the former IRA members. The third major characteristic of the plot is the hunger strike itself. The overall movie is full of struggle of both sides proving its righteousness and strength against each other. In other words, both sides are shown as never intending to give up their principles and methods of proving them.
The Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher directly identifies the prisoners held at Maze prison in Belfast as not the victims of political oppression, but as the criminals equals to thieves and murderers. As for the IRA, despite the fact that the ideology of the party is not directly proclaimed in the movie, it appears more than evident that its members consider it and themselves political in all aspects. The aforementioned dialogue of Sands between the priest only slightly introduces the principles of IRA in their serious debate about the potential effects of the strike and the probability of their social significance, as well.
Certainly, Sands proves the reasonability of his actions and their effects on proving his positions regarding IRA, while the priest is shown as a direct realist despite being a religious individual stating that not only his actions are foolish and unreasonable, but also very sinful in terms of religion. The priest continuously states and tries to explain Sands that such suicide from starvation is a great sin, but the last cares less about this as long as he believes in the social reaction of his actions in perspective. Additionally, such eagerness of Sands to die for his principles perfectly corresponds to the core principles of Irish Republicans inspired by the lines: "And always remember, the longer we live, the sooner we bloody well die." (Celtic-lyrics.com)
Eventually, Bobby Sands dies of starvation. The scene of death is shown in gradually growing bleakness of the screen, showing agony of Sands artistically pure at the same time. Nevertheless, it should be accepted that despite emotional appeal of this scene showing the memories and visions of Sands before his death could be even more affecting the viewers if introduced in a more brief manner. Still, the question of strike’s success remains unsolved and uncertain. Clearly, the decision of the Iron Lady to officially recognize the political status of IRA appears to be more than positive in this regard; however, it has taken 10 IRA members to die before this. Moreover, nowadays the territories discussed in the movie are in peace with the nation being divided, nevertheless. In this regard, it should be concluded that the “Hunger” shows that the actions of an individual believing in his goals and principles can result in their realization, but the price for it could also be the highest.
The same setting and the same situation with different people can sometimes result in something unpredictable and uncertain. The aforementioned events of hunger strike in Maze prison have been shown from completely different point of view in the movie by Terry George – “Some Mother’s Son”. As it comes from the name of the movie, it does not describe the last days of Bobby Sands in prison dying from starvation; instead, it shows the lives of two mothers, whose sons are the hunger strikers. Both come from very different social groups representing different values and beliefs. Kathleen Quigley is a teacher in school, following the pacifist values, who does not even suspect her son of being the IRA activist. On the contrary, Annie Higgins has a son involved in a British troops’ mortar attack (George et al.).
In spite of the fact that both mothers meet each other with the help of their sons and their actions and quickly become friends, their approach towards the actions of their sons is significantly different. While, Annie supports the son’s involvement in radical operations against the British soldiers and accepts his willingness to kill, Kathleen cannot embrace and understand that this can be acceptable, as she believes that each soldier and both side is “some mother’s son”. Thus, the last never wishes the death of the British to the same extent that she want her own son to be alive and healthy. Nevertheless, lives of the mothers represents only one third of the movie’s narration along with movie’s description of prison life along with the governmental attempts to maintain its status understanding the social empathy towards the IRA prisoners. Symbol of the country has been shown in the image of Farnsworth, taking a hard line in the aforementioned situation with his attempts to defend it with little grace and intellect. Although, his image appears rather artificial and lacking some humanity. Instead, the chief IRA negotiator is described as having the last in full.
All of the aforementioned situations and events, including the strategies of IRA and the political decisions of London combined with the hunger strike and its further social response reaching the global level, serve as the background towards uncertain and sensitive questions of whether any political belief is worth sacrificing the life of a child. In terms of reality, the millions of parents totally agree with this statement sending their sons to wars even today. Still, such mechanism of suicide is programmed in the minds of the masses under the title of heroic sacrifice to protect their homeland.
What is more important in this regard that each war or military conflict or any other equally suicidal event lies within an estimation of perspectives and possibilities of each person in his attempt to do the best he can to protect his home. The difference in hunger strike lies within its long-term effects, as with its negative consequences on body, it has equally dangerous effects on human mind. In other words, when the activists lose their mind because of starvation, it becomes the responsibility of their parents to either allow them to die or not.
Death of starvation is depicted naturally as long-lasting taking several weeks. Within this period, the morality appears to be forgotten in constant arguments with only priests being able to give a piece of advice; moreover, during this agony both sides are assured that their enemies will give up at the last moment, which never happens. Overall, the morale of the movie is simple, as it appears that hatred is enough to win the war; therefore, such hatred justifies any measure to fulfill the goal. The movie shows the minority understanding the enemies as some mother’s sons is the only one capable not to sacrifice their own children.
Eventually, for both mothers the solution out of this situation is more than obvious. Annie shares the beliefs of her son, also remembering about the sacrifice of her husband killed by the British. On the other hand, Kathleen knows that the mothers of the “enemies” also miss their sons and want them to come back home alive; therefore, she appears to be the only one understanding the conflict in the most profound manner and protecting her son from starvation. Still, even despite the fact that the movie appears to be one-sided, describing the actions in favor of the IRA, the dilemma of Kathleen successfully balances the narration with her understanding and empathy towards the enemy.
Celtic-lyrics.com,. "The Celtic Lyrics Collection - Lyrics - Isn't It Grand Boys". N.p., 2016. Web. 23 Jan. 2016.
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McQueen, Steve et al. "Hunger (2008)". IMDb. N.p., 2016. Web. 23 Jan. 2016.