The first time I saw Steve McQueen’s first feature, Hunger, I was immediately taken with how the film only cut when it was absolutely necessary. So I thought it’d be fun to break Hunger down and examine every shot/editing cut in the film. Admittedly, this was a risky idea. I’ve never done anything like this before – would my comments grow horribly redundant? Would I literally have something to say about every shot? Ultimately, I found that the only time I was being redundant was when I described a series of shots that lasted for less than a second, so I decided to occasionally leave descriptions for those shots blank.
The result is an immersive exercise for those interested in cinematography, editing, and, of course, Hunger itself. I hope you like what I discovered within the carefully constructed world of Hunger.
Shot 1 – 4 secondsWe hear the sounds of clanking growing louder and louder over the film’s opening credits, and the moment this first shot appears, the sound increases drastically, throwing us right into the film.
Shot 2 – 7 seconds
The first person we see in the film is an anonymous woman we won’t see again. (Interestingly, the Criterion Collection booklet for Hunger says this person is Liam Cunningham, who plays Father Dominic Moran. An odd error on Criterion’s part.) One of the best things about Hunger is the way characters come and go without warning. The story is the star.
Shot 3 – 9 seconds
Back on the pans slamming against the table. A mirror shot of Shot 1. Except this shot is held for twice as long, with the sound steadily increasing. When the shot ends, the title card is accompanied by deafening silence.
Shot 4 – 15 seconds
A man prepares to soak his bruised hands in water. This is a reoccurring shot (both in framing and narrative) that McQueen will come back to often.
Shot 5 – 20 seconds
Our first look at the man, who blankly stares at himself in the mirror for several seconds.
Shot 6 – 8 seconds
Back to the same coverage in Shot 4. Another theme of Hunger is McQueen’s lack of traditional coverage. He typically only has one or two set-ups for every scene.
Shot 7 – 5 seconds
I love the high angles of these shots. We’re obviously dealing with a precise, exacting man.
Shot 8 – 8 seconds
The complete lack of emotion in his face is so absorbing.
Shot 9 – 5 seconds
Insert shot of the man buttoning his shirt. We again notice his bruised knuckles. Due to the absence of dialogue, we’re forced to infer.
Shot 10 – 3 seconds
Notice how this is the same angle used in the sink shots (4 & 6), and Shot 7 – above, to the right. McQueen is already establishing a visual and narrative symmetry of his film.
Shot 11 – 16 seconds
The film’s first centered composition, which will be another visual theme of the movie.
Shot 12 – 10 seconds
An amusing shot of crumbs hitting the napkin in the man’s lap. Again, his knuckles. This shot is also the first time we hear dialogue in the film, though it is coming from a television (or radio) very faint in the background.
Shot 13 – 24 seconds
A seemingly simple shot of a man leaving for work. Yet his face looks mildly suspect.
Shot 14 – 4 seconds
He looks to his right, but what is he looking for?
Shot 15 – 2 seconds
Back to the establishing shot of Shot 13.
Shot 16 – 4 seconds
He looks to his left. There’s nothing there, but he’s clearly suspicious. Also, whether or not you consciously realize as a viewer that Shots 14 and 16 are the same exact length, you subconsciously pick up on the film’s evenness. That’s great filmmaking, and it is something McQueen does repeatedly in Hunger.
Shot 17 – 3 seconds
Back to the establishing shot.
Shot 18 – 9 seconds
Here’s where things get interesting. This poor bastard has to check under his car every morning to see if his automobile is rigged with an explosive. What a way to live.
Shot 19 – 5 seconds
The wife watches her husband, unnoticed. Can’t imagine she likes that he has to do this every morning.
Shot 20 – 6 seconds
Our first shot of the man’s wife. What a face. She’s been through it.
Shot 21 – 3 seconds
Starting the car. Because these insert shots are held for longer than we’re used to in most movies, the tension mounts quickly.
Shot 22 – 4 seconds
Was she waiting to see if it would blow? Does she do this every morning?
Shot 23 – 6 seconds
Pulling away. He doesn’t stop to lock the gate, but he honks twice as a way of saying goodbye. Perhaps he knew she was watching him. Interesting way for Hunger to establish the daily routine these two have.
Shot 24 – 17 seconds
Love how he’s buried in the right side of the frame. This is also the first time clear dialogue is heard, though it is still coming from the radio, not a character on screen.
Shot 25 – 22 seconds
New location. Cold. Hollow. Also the first time the camera moves considerably, as we track the man down a hallway.
Shot 26 – 16 seconds
The man walks through a locker room, past several other guards, many of who are chatting idly. No one greets or acknowledges the man at all, which really says something about who this guy must be.
Shot 27 – 3 seconds
British flag keychain. We know whose side he’s on.
Shot 28 – 7 seconds
Gun out, rings off. This fella is the real deal.
Shot 29 – 1 second
Quick shot of the man walking away from his locker. The shortest shot of the movie so far.
Shot 30 – 14 seconds
Our man tells an amusing anecdote that everyone enjoys. Maybe he’s not that bad after all.
Shot 31 – 23 seconds
Back in a mirror, but this time he’s distressed as all hell, breathing heavily.
Shot 32 – 5 seconds
Identical composition to Shot 4. It’s all about symmetry. But look at those knuckles now. Goddamn. We’ve clearly missed some action, so now the tension will steadily increase until we find out how bad that action really is.
Shot 33 – 46 seconds
Longest shot in the movie so far. Love how the sweat is coming through his shirt. Also, here is the second major camera move in the film, as it slowly pushes in on our distressed subject.
Shot 34 – 19 seconds
Close-up of those knuckles. Mounting tension, we know we’re going to see what causes those bruises soon.
Shot 35 – 8 seconds
Love this out of focus close-up, a McQueen trademark (like Michael Fassbender on the train in the beginning of Shame.)
Shot 36 – 2 seconds
Back to the master shot of Shot 33.
Shot 37 – 4 seconds
A rat stares at the man before walking away. Who’s worse off?
Shot 38 – 10 seconds
Love that he’s completely unfazed by the rat’s appearance.
Shot 39 – 11 seconds
Dark, low angle tracking shot. Our first time in the prison ward. Everything about this shot is menacing.
Shot 40 – 7 seconds
Reverse shot of the man walking down the hallway. His back is drenched in sweat too.
Shot 41 – 52 seconds
This is interesting. He was all Funny Joke Guy at the beginning of the day, now he eats alone. Guess he loses his sense of humor after he beats the shit out of prisoners. Also love that the longest shot of the film so far has this man folding a piece of aluminum foil over and over. He’s so lost.
Shot 42 – 9 seconds
Our first wide shot of the bathroom. A location we’ll soon revisit in terror.
Shot 43 – 7 seconds
For the next few shots, Margaret Thatcher is heard giving a speech over the soundtrack. The clearest words in the film so far.
Shot 44 – 8 seconds
What great, cold composition. A shot foreshadowing ones we’ll see at the end of the film.
Shot 45 – 6 seconds
Without warning, we switch to a new character. Who is he? What’s his story? Will he soon meet the guard we’ve been following thus far?
Shot 46 – 3 seconds
A somewhat empathic guard looks at our new subject, presumably a fresh prisoner.
Shot 47 – 5 seconds
Doors open to unload the man, who is shackled to one of the guards.
Shot 48 – 4 seconds
Closer shot of the man getting out of the van.
Shot 49 – 3 seconds
This is the second time we’ve entered Maze Prison, but now seeing how the other side of the law enters the jail.
Shot 50 – 11 seconds
Close-up of the prisoner, who may or may not be looking directly into the camera. The lighting makes it difficult to tell. McQueen does this often in all of his films.
Shot 51 – 7 seconds
This is the first time in the film where we hear clear dialogue from an actor on screen.
Shot 52 – 15 seconds
A guard writes in his manifest, labeling this prisoner as “Non-Conforming Prisoner.” Notice how long McQueen holds the shot. He wants us to soak it in.
Shot 53 – 3 seconds
Reverse shot of the guard who was just writing.
Shot 54 – 1 minute 23 seconds
Back to the master shot of Shot 51, as the prisoner spends well over a minute silently undressing, even after refusing to do so.
Shot 55 – 20 seconds
The guard is completely blank as the prisoner fully disrobes. These guards are cold, hardened men.
Shot 56 – 6 seconds
We’ve moved far out of the previous room, but the prisoner is still in the shot. This is something McQueen does often in Hunger – keeping his main subject in frame as much as possible.
Shot 57 – 2 seconds
A close-up of the prisoner as he’s escorted to another guard.
Shot 58 – 2 seconds
The shots are becoming more rapid. Is trouble is soon to follow?
Shot 59 – 3 seconds
The prisoner is noticeably frightened. What is in store for him?
Shot 60 – 6 seconds
Similar to how we’ve only seen the after effects of the guard’s abuse, this shot of the prisoner’s gashed head is McQueen holding off on displaying violence. By doing this, we become more curious of just how bad the prisoner treatment is. Again, the delayed “payoff” gives Hunger an overall sense of impeding dread.
Shot 61 – 15 seconds
How humiliating it must be to be escorted through a prison, stark naked, with a massive wound on your head.
Shot 62 – 30 seconds
The first time our two main characters have been on screen together. McQueen makes sure we notice this, given how long the shot is held.
Shot 63 – 10 seconds
Love how the inside of the cells are lit so coldly during the daytime.
Shot 64 – 55 seconds
A long pan shot of the cell, which appears to be covered entirely in smeared shit. We’re in for it now.
Shot 65 – 9 seconds
Back on the prisoner, who has just locked eyes with his cellmate (who became visible at the tail end of Shot 64).
Shot 66 – 16 seconds
The first traditional two-shot of the film so far. Though, this being Steve McQueen, there’s nothing really traditional about it. I mean, hell, they’re practically in silhouette.
Shot 67 – 8 seconds
The roommate has just spoken for the first time. We learn the length of his prison sentence, but he doesn’t tell us how long he’s been in so far. But what does the length of his beard signify? Notice what McQueen is telling us without having a character tell us.
Shot 68 – 9 seconds
The new prisoner, clearly still distraught, tries to make his way through the conversation.
Shot 69 – 8 seconds
Back on the roommate.
Shot 70 – 6 seconds
Quickly realizing that viewers with American ears will have to adjust to the thick Irish accents in the film.
Shot 71 – 3 seconds
Cinematography and editing wise, this is one of the very few traditionally covered sequences in the film.
Shot 72 – 12 seconds
The roommate has revealed that his sentence is 12 years. The new prisoner, 6. Six years in a literal shit hole.
Shot 73 – 2 seconds
The weathered roommate is seemingly unimpressed by the new prisoner’s lighter sentence.
Shot 74 – 3 seconds
Traditional conversation coverage for the next few shots.
Shot 75 – 4 seconds
Shot 76 – 4 seconds
Shot 77 – 2 seconds
Shot 78 – 3 seconds
Back to the two-shot coverage of Shot 66.
Shot 79 – 16 seconds
Outside of the mens’ room, in which the new prisoner is given a name, Davey Gillen. His roommate, Gerry Campbell. This shot ends with a fade to black – the first fade of the film – which traditionally suggests a long amount of time will pass before the next shot.
Shot 80 – 29 seconds
Great shot that starts at Davey’s feet and slowly pans up to his face.
Shot 81 – 1 minute 13 seconds
The fly shot, in which Davey ever so gently plays with a fly that has found its way to his cell. The fly looks real, not created with computer graphics. Would love to know how long it took to capture this.
Shot 82 – 12 seconds
Close-up on Davey’s face as he stares outside. This shot also ends with the frame fading to black.
Shot 83 – 7 seconds
This is so telling: one guy eats while the other spreads his shit all over the walls. This is their collective life.
Shot 84 – 4 seconds
Here we actually see Gerry doing the spreading.
Shot 85 – 3 seconds
Back to Davey’s coverage as he stands up.
Shot 86 – 3 seconds
And then the money shot of a huge pile of uneaten food. These guys are eating just enough to produce a decent amount of shit that they can later spread on their walls. That’s dedication.
Shot 87 – 4 seconds
I remember wondering what the hell was going on here when I first saw the film.
Shot 88 – 4 seconds
Close-up of this little project.
Shot 89 – 4 seconds
Someone is heard yelling outside.
Shot 90 – 4 seconds
And then we see it: a giant bowl of piss. The little wall is to help push the piss out of the cell, into the hallway. (Notice that every shot in this sequence has been 4 seconds long. Symmetry.)
Shot 91 – 15 seconds
Great shot in which the camera tracks down the hallway, showing that other prisoners are doing the exact same thing with their piss.
Shot 92 – 10 seconds
This is the first time we realize how unified all the prisoners are. It’s also a key shot we’ll come back to later in the film.
Shot 93 – 5 seconds
Here’s a shot of a guy shitting into his own hand and then smearing it on the wall. I love Hunger because it unflinchingly, unapologetically shows us what life was like in Maze Prison.
Shot 94 – 4 seconds
Love Davey’s indifference as to what Gerry is doing.
Shot 95 – 6 seconds
Insert shot of Davey folding a tiny note over.
Shot 96 – 2 seconds
The attention to detail in this film is incredible. It really shows how hard it would be to smuggle a simple note out of the prison.
Shot 97 – 4 seconds
Shot 98 – 5 seconds
Nice two shot that finally shows us what both men are doing at the same time. This is a motif McQueen utilizes throughout the film: starting close then slowly moving farther away with subsequent shots. Most movies do the opposite.
Shot 99 – 6 seconds
Another insert shot of Davey concealing the note.
Shot 100 – 20 seconds
Davey hiding the note in his mouth.
Shot 101 – 26 seconds
Save the hallway piss shots, this is the first time we’ve left the cell in quite some time.
Shot 102 – 8 seconds
Davey and his roommate changing clothes. Can you imagine how bad they smell?
Shot 103 – 6 seconds
Close-up of the roommate tearing a hole in his new pants. Hunger never explains anything. We’re forced to spectate and assume, until actions are explained later through other action.
Shot 104 – 2 seconds
Shot 105 – 1 second
Shot 108 – 5 seconds
Shot 109 – 5 seconds
Shot 110 – 5 seconds
Shot 111 – 11 seconds
And, again, none of this is explicitly stated. You have to pay attention and infer. It’s active viewing, which I love.
Shot 112 – 5 seconds
Shot 113 – 4 seconds
Shot 114 – 3 seconds
Shot 115 – 3 seconds
Shot 116 – 3 seconds
Shot 117 – 8 seconds
Great shot of the looming guard. Love that we can’t see his face. Also love that this shot morphs into a close-up of Davey and his girlfriend kissing.
Shot 118 – 3 seconds
Shot 119 – 2 seconds
Shot 120 – 4 seconds
Shot 121 – 2 seconds
Shot 122 – 2 seconds
Shot 123 – 4 seconds
Shot 124 – 7 seconds
Back to the baby (whose clothing is being used to smuggle contraband) we saw in Shot 111. So now that shot pays off too.
Shot 125 – 13 seconds
Shot 126 – 5 seconds
Shot 127 – 11 seconds
Unwrapping his package. Notice how warmly lit the room is now. Such mischievously gorgeous lighting.
Shot 128 – 12 seconds
The package is revealed to be a rather large radio (I mean, large in that it had to fit up the guy’s ass).
Shot 129 – 6 seconds
Shot 130 – 25 seconds
Shot 131 – 7 seconds
Back to Davey’s coverage. Remember, a decipherable word hasn’t been spoken in the past several minutes. Hunger is all about exposition-free attention to detail.
Shot 132 – 34 seconds
Shot 133 – 8 seconds
Shot 134 – 22 seconds
Shot 135 – 11 seconds
This poor guy. He has s small, crumpled up picture for inspiration, and he’s forced to jerk off next to another guy, surrounded by walls of shit and maggots.
Shot 140 – 18 seconds
Shot 141 – 5 seconds
Shot 142 – 4 seconds
Shot 143 – 5 seconds
Shot 144 – 4 seconds
Shot 145 – 3 seconds
Shot 146 – 3 seconds
Shot 147 – 8 seconds
Shot 148 – 8 seconds
Shot 149 – 11 seconds
Shot 150 – 5 seconds
Shot 151 – 2 seconds
Shot 152 – 3 seconds
Shot 155 – 1 second
The carnage begins. This is where the bruised knuckles and head gashes are finally explained, and Steve McQueen has no interest in shielding any of it from us.
Shot 159 – 4 seconds
This is interesting. When we saw the prisoner thrown from his cell in Shot 155, we assumed it was either Davey or Gerry. But it wasn’t, they’re still just listening to what is happening.
Shot 160 – 2 seconds
And I love that we don’t even know who this random prisoner getting beat on is. Yet. It's another anonymous character throws into his film without warning.
Shot 161 – 5 seconds
Shot 162 – 2 seconds
Jump cut of the same footage. The first jump cut in the film so far, an editing technique that, in Hunger, is mostly reserved for this one character, Bobby Sands (Michael Fassbender).
Shot 163 – 2 seconds
Shot 164 – 2 seconds
This is one of two scenes in Hunger that contain several cuts in rapid succession. I’ll let the shots speaks for themselves.
Shot 176 – 2 seconds
Shot 179 – 2 seconds
I didn’t know who Michael Fassbender was when I first saw Hunger, but now, I’d recognize those eyes anywhere.
Shot 180 – 1 second
Shot 181 – 1 second
Shot 182 – less than a second
Shot 183 – 1 second
Shot 188 – 3 seconds
Shot 191 – 4 seconds
Shot 192 – 1 second
Shot 194 – 1 second
Shot 195 – less than a second
Shot 198 – 1 second
Shot 201 – 1 second
Shot 202 – 1 second
Shot 207 – 3 seconds
Shot 208 – 4 seconds
Shot 210 – less than a second
Shot 211 – 4 seconds
Shot 212 – less than a second
Shot 213 – 1 second
Shot 215 – 1 second
Shot 216 – 1 second
Shot 217 – 1 second
Shot 218 – 2 seconds
Shot 219 – 3 seconds
Shot 220 – 1 second
Shot 221 – 1 second
Shot 222 – 3 seconds
Shot 223 – 5 seconds
Shot 224 –8 seconds
And we’re back at the sink. Full circle. Also, this is the first time music has been heard in the film.
Shot 225 – 8 seconds
Narrative and visual symmetry. We’ve seen this exact shot before (Shot 31), several minutes earlier in the film.
Shot 226 – 3 seconds
Shot 227 – 14 seconds
One of the best shots in the film. Underneath glide shot of guards carrying a beaten-to-shit Bobby Sands back to his room.
Shot 228 – 13 seconds
Shot 229 – 32 seconds
Shot 230 – 55 seconds
This shot perfectly encapsulates the visual aesthetic of Steve McQueen. It’s a detailed, transfixing display of art created by a political prisoner… that just happens to be made of shit. THIS is the Steve McQueen shot of Steve McQueen shots.
Shot 231 – 12 seconds
Shot 232 – 13 seconds
Shot 233 – 9 seconds
Shot 234 – 13 seconds
Master shot of the table. See, we started close, on Bobby first, then jumped to his parents, then jumped to a master shot. Again, most movies do it the other way around.
Shot 235 – 9 seconds
Shot 236 – 7 seconds
Shot 238 – 5 seconds
Shot 239 – 10 seconds
I love that this is the only time there are no guards around. These guys could give fuck all about contributing to their faith. They’re here to conspire.
Shot 240 – 10 seconds
Shot 241 – 5 seconds
If you pay close attention to this sequence, Bobby can be seen in nearly every shot. It’s McQueen never letting the main character of the moment out of our sight for too long.
Shot 242 – 6 seconds
Shot 244 – 3 seconds
Shot 247 – 2 seconds
Shot 248 – 3 seconds
Shot 251 – 6 seconds
And now, without warning, we’ve completely switched main characters. The guard, Davey, and Gerry are all treated as secondary from here on out. I love the lack of character dedication in this film.
Shot 256 – 9 seconds
Hunger’s visual style completely goes against the conventions of filmmaking. As a rule, you’re taught to start a scene with a master shot (as far away as possible, so the viewer can take in the entire room), then push in closer with a medium shot, then a close-up. Hunger tends to start in close-up and work its way out, which gives the film a unique intimacy.
Shot 258 – 5 seconds
And I love how the film conveys otherwise mundane things – connecting with a fly, sitting in a room, rolling a smoke – with such importance. We really get of sense of these prisoners’ lives.
Shot 261 – 15 seconds
I love the way Fassbender raises his eyebrows slightly when he finally gets the smoke lit. It’s as if he can’t believe he actually did it.
Shot 262 – 17 seconds
Shot 265 – 10 seconds
Here’s an interesting shot. To show the passage of time of the note burning, Shot 265 cross dissolves into a new shot. McQueen is always smart to not overuse different editing techniques.
Shot 266 – 5 seconds
Shot 267 – 12 seconds
Shot 268 – 19 seconds
What’s fascinating about this shot is that Fassbender bends down out of frame for 5 seconds to pick something up off the ground. Letting your main subject dip out of frame for that long is something you’ll rarely find in a mainstream American film.
Shot 269 – 8 seconds
Shot 271 – 13 seconds
This ranks among my favorite shots in the film. The deep right composition (something McQueen does often in this movie, see Shots 24 & 31) the cold lighting, the convincing make-up, and, of course, Fassbender’s despondent face. Look at everything he’s telling us.
Shot 272 – 8 seconds
Now, look at what this new shot is telling us, without dialogue. Bobby’s left eye is in considerably better shape, so quite a few days have passed in the flash of one cut. There are new fixtures on the wall (a wall now devoid of shit), and so on. That’s active filmmaking; filmmaking you have to pay attention to. It’s also great how Fassbender is now on the left side of the frame, as opposed to the right side in the previous shot. This keeps our brain active and thereby, invested.
Shot 273 – 5 seconds
Shot 274 – 6 seconds
Shot 275 – 4 seconds
See, since Bobby has been introduced, McQueen has been very good about keeping the character in the physical frame of the film.
Shot 276 – 7 seconds
I love how appalled Bobby looks here. As if he’s actually planning on accepting anything from the guards.
Shot 278 – 9 seconds
Priceless expression. And the way Fassbender literally exhales contempt from his lungs… the man is acting, with his fucking breathing pattern.
Shot 279 – 6 seconds
Shot 280 – 4 seconds
A brief glimpse in the now clean room of our two former subjects. Their apathy toward the clothes, mixed with Bobby’s impatience in the previous shot, are hints that a storm is soon to fall. Also interesting that the only sound heard in this shot is Bobby’s foot anxiously tapping up and down from Shot 279.
Shot 281 – 5 seconds
Shot 282 – 4 seconds
Shot 283 – 5 seconds
Shot 284 – 1 second
The following sequence is the most rapidly edited sequence in the film. There are jump cuts within shots, jumps to new characters – it’s absolute bedlam. I’m not going to comment on every shot, but know that the speed in which this scene is cut helps add to the energy of the moment. Also remember that this is the second and only other time Hunger contains a scene cut this way. Most mainstream films are edited this way for their duration.
Shot 286 – 4 seconds
Shot 287 – 3 seconds
And notice how these are the same exact set-ups as the shots that came before. Meaning, this shot mirrors the framing of Shot 282.
Shot 289 – 2 seconds
This shot lets us know, through sound only, that many of the prisoners are going ape shit at the same time. McQueen doesn’t show every prisoner that is rioting, he instead lets us hear them.
Shot 290 – 1 second
Same framing as Shot 280 (and 286). Hunger is such a great lesson in the economy of camera coverage.
Shot 292 – less than a second
Shot 294 – 1 second
Even if the shots are short, it’s easy to tell what’s happening because we only see each cell from one angle.
Shot 297 – 1 second
Shot 301 – less than a second
Shot 304 – less than a second
The film is cutting quickly, but we’re only cutting between four different rooms, so it isn’t difficult to keep track of what’s happening. Again, this helps keep our focus.
Shot 307 – less than a second
Shot 312 – 1 second
Shot 313 – 2 seconds
Shot 316 – 1 second
The film cuts to black on this shot. Now that the prisoners have flipped out, how proportionate will the guard response be?
Shot 317 – 8 seconds
And now we get a new character. A guard – an assumed rookie, given his youthful appearance – in full-on riot gear. Hell is coming. Also, is he looking into the camera? Hard to tell with the stark lighting. I love that.
Shot 319 – 5 seconds
Again, notice how McQueen keeps this new character in frame, no matter what the coverage of the shot entails.
Shot 321 – 10 seconds
In this shot, the camera significantly moves for the first time in a while, completing a 360 to reveal how many riot guards there are.
Shot 323 – 5 seconds
There he is again, always in frame. By doing this, McQueen is forcing us to assume this guard’s point of view, for better or worse.
Shot 324 – 6 seconds
Shot 325 – 15 seconds
Shot 326 – 20 seconds
Whenever a guard takes the prisoners’ name cards out of their slots, nothing good is to follow. And notice how long the shots are now. Makes the tension unbearable.
Shot 327 – 16 seconds
Shot 328 – 3 seconds
Shot 330 – 3 seconds
Shot 331 – 18 seconds
Once this guard walks out of frame, this shot lingers on the cells for 8 seconds. The tension is fucking excruciating.
Shot 333 – 2 seconds
Shot 334 – 2 seconds
Shot 336 – 4 seconds
When the film cuts to this shot, it does so on the sound of the guards banging their sticks. A perfect transition, technically. And narratively, the deafening sound is haunting.
Shot 337 – 3 seconds
Shot 338 – 6 seconds
Shot 339 – 3 seconds
Shot 340 – 4 seconds
Shot 342 – 8 seconds
Shot 343 – 2 minutes 1 second
The longest shot so far in the film is one of the most brutal shots I have ever seen. However, this shot is the moment I was forever linked to the work of Steve McQueen. When I saw this shot for the first time, I sat completely dumbfounded as to how it was being filmed. The blocking of the actors, the movement of the camera, the sound design, the bruising of the bodies. Most any director (including McQueen, in the prisoner riot sequence) would cut frantically during a sequence like this. Instead, he holds the shot for more than 2 minutes, showing us the full beatings of a few prisoners, Davey included. This technique throws us right into the brutality of the scene. A scene that is still one of the most gut wrenching things I have ever watched, but I so admire the way McQueen depicts it.
Shot 344 – 12 seconds
This shot begins on a closed door, but after a few seconds, two guards drop a beaten Bobby onto the floor. Again, what does this tell us narratively? We did not see Bobby get beat up in the previous shot, but he’s clearly just gotten the shit kicked out of him. So, again, McQueen is showing the passage of time using only visuals and editing. It’s really quite ingenious.
Shot 345 – 3 seconds
Shot 346 – 8 seconds
Shot 347 – 10 seconds
Here’s an incredible shot that includes one of the view visual tricks in the film. Our rookie on the right is in regular motion, while the guards on the left move in slow motion. It’s a thrilling shot that I haven’t seen done too many times. McQueen is such an organic filmmaker, he rarely includes visual flourishes like this in his movies, but I’m glad he did here.
Shot 348 – 24 seconds
Shot 349 – 9 seconds
Now we’re back with our guard (and outside of the Maze) for the first time in nearly 40 minutes. How intriguing.
Shot 350 – 19 seconds
Great shot. Starts out as one of the film’s few scenic shots, but transitions into a low angle shot of the driver’s side of the guard’s car.
Shot 351 – 5 seconds
Hard to picture this man buying flowers. But this is the genius of the film. It really doesn’t present outright villains. Even the “bad people” are shown as people with souls, loved ones, and families.
Shot 352 – 17 seconds
See, he’s got a mother and everything. Hunger certainly doesn’t go out of its way to redeem this character, but it does help you understand that if there are prisoners, there must be guards. Now, to the degree in which the guards enforce their power is another story.
Shot 353 – 9 seconds
Shot 354 – 5 seconds
Few things are sadder than a grown man trying to talk to his mother who is unable to speak. Or does she simply choose not to?
Shot 355 – 8 seconds
Shot 358 – 2 seconds
Shot 359 – 1 second
Shot 360 – 1 second
Shot 361 – 1 second
Shot 362 – 1 second
Shot 363 – 3 seconds
Shot 364 – 2 seconds
Shot 365 – 11 seconds
Shot 366 – 5 seconds
Shot 367 – 18 seconds
Shot 368 – 17 minutes 11 seconds
What’s coming is this. The Shot. The shot to end all shots. The boss of it all. The shot that made Hunger, Hunger. That made Steve McQueen, Steve McQueen. That made Michael Fassbender, Michael Fassbender. Essays have been written about it. Videos have dissected it. All I can do is once again lend my undying appreciation to this shot. And to McQueen for having the balls to hold it for as long as he did. And to Michael Fassbender and Liam Cunningham of executing it so flawlessly.
A few bits of trivia people may not know:
- Cinematographer Sean Bobbitt had to create special magazines of film to capture the shot. Most film mags can only capture 10 minutes of film at a time.
- They shot the scene four times, on the third take, the boom operator collapsed.
- McQueen ultimately used the fourth take.
And one thing I just noticed for the first time. If you speed the shot up, the light on the walls actually does keep changing. It’s hard to tell this when watching the movie in real time, but by ever so slowly shifting the lighting, it subconsciously forces the viewer to stay engaged. This is top tier filmmaking, folks.
Shot 369 – 13 seconds
BAM. We cut in for a super close insert shot of Bobby grabbing another smoke. That cut. That cut feels like a punch to the gut. But, at the same time, like a long exhale of pure release. THAT is editing.
Shot 370 – 4 minutes 53 seconds
For the remainder of the scene (6 and a half more minutes), McQueen uses seemingly conventional set-ups to cover the scene. But, again, there’s nothing really conventional about it. There was the 17 minute master shot, and then there is this one angle of Fassbender, and the one angle of Cunningham. Typically, even for a conversation between two people, you would get medium shots of each subject, over the shoulders, close-ups, and on and on. But McQueen limits it to one shot for each actor. In short, all of this is simply unheard of.
Shot 371 – 34 seconds
Shot 372 – 23 seconds
Shot 373 – 32 seconds
Shot 374 – 13 seconds
And a final insert shot to finish things up. I can’t imagine the amount of celebrating that when down on the Hunger set when this day was wrapped.
Shot 375 – 2 minutes 53 seconds
Another cross dissolve: the ashtray slowly fades into the very long shot of a guard mopping up all the piss in the hallway. Of course McQueen is going to hold this shot until the guard has finished. Of course he is.
Shot 376 – 44 seconds
As Thatcher talks again on the soundtrack, we’re privy to the most gorgeous dolly shot of urine ever captured on film.
Shot 377 – 21 seconds
McQueen loves his out of focus shots. It’s such an evocative way to throw us into the mind of the character. And when the sole feather falls into frame, this is McQueen’s suggestion that Hunger will now become an abstract work of art, which lends itself to McQueen’s background as an abstract artist.
Shot 378 – 16 seconds
Bobby’s poor parents. Also love the framed picture of the child on the desk. Again, it’s McQueen’s subtle attempt to not fully demonize those in charge of the prison.
Shot 379 – 6 seconds
It’s so smart to have Fassbender hidden behind the doctor here. As someone tells Bobby’s parents of Bobby’s deteriorating physical condition, we crane our necks to see the actual state of Bobby’s health.
Shot 380 – 11 seconds
This sequence is so difficult to watch in real time, let alone stopping after every shot. The make-up is astounding, and Fassbender’s performance… forget about it.
Shot 381 – 6 seconds
Shot 382 – 8 seconds
Shot 383 – 9 seconds
Again, pay attention to the economy of what the shot is telling us, and how long McQueen chooses to hold it. In other sequences like this in Hunger, each shot was held for the same exact amount of time. But here, McQueen varies the shot lengths, perhaps to keep us on edge.
Shot 384 – 34 seconds
Shot 385 – 7 seconds
Back in the prison hallway, but now with a slightly more angelic presence. It’s amazing what lighting can do.
Shot 386 – 7 seconds
Shot 387 – 7 seconds
Shot 388 – 9 seconds
Shot 389 – 6 seconds
But damn if McQueen doesn’t know how to capture the beauty within the pain. Every shot in this film, even the brutal ones, are marvelously composed.
Shot 391 – 7 seconds
This next montage is nearly unbearable to sit through. I just want him to eat so badly, all while understanding why he can’t.
Shot 393 – 5 seconds
Shot 395 – 13 seconds
He’s so damn weak he can’t even stand up from the toilet. And the acting from this doctor… I can’t say enough good things about it.
Shot 396 – 3 seconds
Shot 397 – 1 minute
Here’s the long, abstract shot in which the camera floats around the room and footage of birds (which I’m not including on this shot list) dissolve over the frame for a few seconds, before fading away. It’s one of the most haunting shots in the film, as if God is toying with Bobby.
Shot 398 – 6 seconds
Eventually, the film does fully dissolve over to this shot, the only shot of birds in this sequence captured during the day.
Shot 399 – 21 seconds
Shot 400 – 5 seconds
Shot 401 – 5 seconds
Shot 402 – 5 seconds
Shot 404 – 22 seconds
Shot 405 – 9 seconds
I can’t believe I never noticed the compassion in this doctor’s eyes until writing this post. It’s remarkable work.
Shot 406 – 3 seconds
Look how the lighting coming through the window just barely flares up the bottom right of the frame. (You can see this in the food shots as well.)
Shot 407 – 7 seconds
Shot 409 – 7 seconds
Shot 410 – 7 seconds
More passage of time with one cut. He’s still staring at the damn ceiling, but now it’s night. (And yep, that’s four shots of equal length in a row. All of this is on purpose.)
Shot 411 – 43 seconds
Now the camera moves along the ceiling, down a crack in the wall, to reveal the 12-year-old Bobby staring back at him.
Shot 412 – 9 seconds
What would you say if you could talk to your 12-year-old self? If you were 12, what would you say to your 27-year-old self?
Shot 413 – 3 seconds
Shot 414 – 18 seconds
The sound design of this shot, in which a voice is drowned out to nothing more than ominous sounds of bass, is so telling.
Shot 415 – 17 seconds
Shot 416 – 7 seconds
Shot 417 – 5 seconds
Shot 418 – 13 seconds
Shot 419 – 9 seconds
Shot 420 – 4 seconds
Shot 421 – 4 seconds
Shot 422 – 4 seconds
Shot 423 – 1 second
Shot 425 – 6 seconds
Shot 426 – 18 seconds
I love how the original doctor has the routine down, lifting his arms to be frisked, opening his mouth to be searched.
Shot 427 – 19 seconds
Shot 428 – 4 seconds
Shot 432 – 8 seconds
Shot 434 – 8 seconds
Shot 436 – 7 seconds
Shot 438 – 47 seconds
Shot 439 – 24 seconds
Shot 440 – 9 seconds
Shot 441 – 34 seconds
This kills me. The parents are actually coming to stay in the prison so they can be with their son in his final hours.
Shot 443 – 16 seconds
These shots are so long, but the sequence never feels drawn out. Every frame is of utter importance.
Shot 445 – 16 seconds
I love the distortion of this POV shot. Also, again notice the passage of time. In Shot 442, Bobby’s mom was wide awake, and now she’s asleep. Who knows how much time as passed since she kissed him on the forehead?
Shot 446 – 28 seconds
Shot 447 – 17 seconds
Shot 448 – 10 seconds
Shot 449 – 49 seconds
And then we slowly dissolve into the youthful Bobby. Music starts again, for the second and last time in the film. Someone calls Bobby’s name, he turns, but doesn’t acknowledge anyone else. Nor do we see them. It is only Bobby. Exactly.
Shot 451 – 4 seconds
Shot 454 – 4 seconds
Shot 457 – 14 seconds
Shot 458 – 6 seconds
Shot 459 – 8 seconds
Shot 460 – 4 seconds
Shot 462 – 8 seconds
Shot 463 – 7 seconds
Shot 464 – 1 second
Shot 467 – 7 seconds
Shot 468 – 58 seconds
The final shot, in which we see Bobby’s lifeless body be transported into the back of a car. His last spoken words in the film, uttered 22 minutes ago, were, “There’s no need, Dom.” There’s no need.