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film

Steve McQueen’s Shame

Steve McQueen, Shame, 2011, stills from a color film in 35 mm, 101 minutes. Brandon (Michael Fassbender).

THE MARTYROLOGY of Steve McQueen’s Hunger (2008) and his new film, Shame, is founded on the male body, stripped and in extremis. The British artist’s acclaimed first feature chronicles the final days of Irish Republican Bobby Sands (played by Michael Fassbender), who starved himself to death in Belfast’s Maze Prison in 1981 in protest against the British treatment of IRA inmates as criminal, not political, prisoners. Expelled from their shit-smeared cells to be clubbed and flayed by their jailers, their hair bloodily hacked from head and face, the naked IRA men have only their pitiful flesh to protect them against the onslaught. In its final reels, Hunger details the very dematerialization of that flesh, as Sands’s bruised and emaciated body succumbs to his willed deprivation: limbs and organs giving out, bones protruding, skin bursting with stigmata-like sores. McQueen leaves no

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