As a former film student, and someone with a strong interest in narrative, I really shouldn’t have enjoyed director Tony Scott’s The Hunger. The plot is largely unintelligible, leaving out critical information and forcing the befuddled audience to interpret events as it sees fit. I vastly prefer subtlety to exposition, but The Hunger seems to favor subtlety at the cost of coherence, and this is a detriment to the film. Still, the performances are excellent and the production design is flawless. Also, it’s fun to watch this knowing that Scott’s next film would be Top Gun.
Miriam Blaylock is a vampire. Her lover, John, has begun to age at a greatly accelerated rate, a side effect that all of Miriam’s victims eventually suffer from. No amount of blood can save him. Desperate to restore his former youth and beauty, John tries to enlist the help of Sarah Roberts, a doctor who has devoted her life to studying progeria (a disease that causes rapid aging). Roberts initially rejects John’s plea for aid, and John continues to exist in his state of living decay, even when Miriam relegates him to a coffin in her attic. Shortly after this, Dr. Roberts shows up at Miriam’s house, asking if she can see John. John is beyond help at this point, but perhaps Roberts can do something for Miriam.
While this may seem fairly straightforward, it’s not presented in such a direct manner; get ready to make a lot of guesses. Flashbacks are frequent, and presented with little context. The reason for John’s aging is never revealed. Relationships are left undeveloped, boiling down to addictions to love and companionship rather than anything more profound. Frustrating also, is the fact that none of the questions are really answered.
The first thirty minutes, which center around John and Miriam, are definitely more effective and interesting. Maybe it’s because it’s fascinating to watch David Bowie grow old as the eternal youth that was promised to him slips away. Maybe it’s because the obstacle is physically present, tangible, while the latter two thirds of the film deal with more abstract issues. Even with this great first third, the plot isn’t the reason to watch this movie.
As previously stated, the production design is absolutely amazing. A beautiful eeriness pervades the mansion in which Miriam lives, and the enormous, dark rooms serve to accentuate the characters’ loneliness and isolation. The shadows are starkly cast, and the general atmosphere is reminiscent of a modern-day film noir. There were also times when I was reminded of Stanley Kubrick’s A Clockwork Orange.
Finally, it would be remiss of me not to mention the sex scene between Susan Sarandon and Catherine Deneuve, since this is mostly what the film is known for. Personally, I think it was unnecessary. Yes, vampires and sex have long been associated with each other, but the whole scene felt inorganic, more of a gimmick to get people into the theaters as opposed to an occurence happening naturally within the narrative.
Despite my complaints, I’ll admit I got pretty involved in The Hunger. It’s definitely not for everyone, and I’ll admit that once David Bowie was out of the picture, I briefly considered turning it off. Stick with it though, if you can. The plot won’t ever get clearer, but the art direction and the performances are worth it.
Miriam Blaylock: You’ll be back. When the hunger knows no reason! And then you’ll need to feed, and you’ll need me to show you how.
Recommended Viewing: Martin, Nosferatu (Herzog’s remake).
Saturday, May 14th