I like HUNGER (2008, Steve McQueen) very much. But some of my Thai friends and I don’t understand the dialogue in the middle of the film. Our English listening ability is not that good. Fortunately, May Adadol Ingawanij has transcribed the dialogue for us. I think this dialogue transcription may be useful for others, too.
Scene with Bobby Sands and priest. Priest comes in:
BS: You can sit down any time you like.
P: Priest etiquette. Shall I come over to you here.
BS: Best to hover over at the door.
P: You learnt that in your first week at the seminary, boy. Cig?
BS: Come on.
P: Bit of a break from smoking the bible, hey? Have you worked out which book is the best smoke?
BS: We only go for ‘lamentations.’
P: Nice room, very clean.
BS: Where is it you’re from again, Don?
P: Born you mean? PUNNING
BS: I remember a homily you did at mass one time.
P: Oh, were you listening to it.
BS: There are men who hold you in high esteem.
P: Oh, I can feel a dig coming on.
BS: You’re very quick, right. Nah, you’re respected you know that. I like those stories you tell about the countryside.
P: A childhood of poaching, robbing apples, stampeding cattles.
BS: An education for a priest?
P: Priest working in West Belfast it is.
BS: Stampeding comes in handy down the Falls Road [FRONTLINE BETWEEN CATHOLIC AND PROTESTANT COMMUNITIES] You miss it though?
P: Nice to get home to see my wee brother every month or so. But yes I miss the clean air, the space, all that.
BS: Feels closer to who you are?
P: Ay, it is. No question. Something like a fish out of water working in a big city like West 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.
BS: Business of the soul
P: Ah, you know what I mean.
BS: Learnt that in seminary too?
P: Ay, and you can use that free of charge. I suppose what I’m saying is, you get on. Kilray [WHERE HE’S FROM] can wait till I’m an old man.
BS: Too many STH to be saved in Belfast anyway.
BS: You’ll get your reward in heaven.
P: And I’ll be thankful, if there’s wine involved.
BS: So what’s your wee brother doing back home?
P: He’s a parish priest. He’s a sneaky wee bastard, you know the sort.
BS: He still goes poaching?
P: Poaching jobs, and he’s younger than me by 8 years. As a cleric I hold a place beside Kilray, working my ass off. House calls to the elderly, mobile confessions
BS: The glamorous stuff
P: Oh ay. Position comes up at Kilray and I’m passed over for some reason, no particular reason. So about five years later position again comes up back home at Kilray and my brother Michael waltzes right into it.
P: He’s been made a parish priest at 28.
BS: More spiritual maybe. Less lippy than you.
P: He worked the bishop, he’s a golfer. He’s a pushy little twerp that’s what he is.
BS: At least you’re not bitter.
P: Oh no I couldn’t be that, no.
BS: Parish priest at 28, fantastic.
P: Hmm, he’s got two cars. And the house he has is massive. He’s got a maid, and a cook, and I’m stuck with a two up two down [HOUSE TYPE] with a fat man who goes on and on about Gallic football. Can we stop talking about him
BS: Jesus you’re the one who’s talking.
P: How’s the smoke going?
P: Filty habit, disgusting.
BS: Lovely though
P: Ay, praise the lord.
BS: 28 my god.
P: Oh stop it. So what happened to your eye Bobby?
P: Did you have a dig at yourself? Your eye
BS: Difference of opinion
P: How’s the other fella?
BS: A lot worse, believe me.
P: So what did you call me here for?
BS: Is that the idle banter over with?
P: Priest etiquette, start with the small talk.
BS: I’m learning a lot about the priesthood though
P: Oh you’d make a good priest. Good talker, man of principle, leader of men.
BS: Political theorist
P: The church loves a reformed crook
BS: I always felt that thief next to Jesus got off lightly
P: Ah but he recognised his sins
BS: Did he though?
P: Ay, said as much
BS: When you’re hung from a cross you don’t say anything. Jesus offers him a place next to his daddy in a place called paradise. You’re always gonna put your hand up and have a piece of that
P: Ay, even when it’s nailed to a cross
BS: Jesus Christ that’s sacrilegious
P: No, no, he was a dirty thief. So what did you want to tell me? Where are you at? Been driven mad by that governer yet?
BS: You see this negotiating lark? It’s been a sideshow.
P: But you understand why you need to do it?
BS: Because we’re no longer good propaganda
P: According to who? The leadership?
BS: Time’s come. Decision had to be made.
P: You think that’s what the leadership think?
BS: Maybe, I don’t know.
P: You’re a bit paranoid Bobby.
BS: 10,000 people marched for the hunger strikers last october, right? International pressure on the Brits and all that.
P: Busy time
BS: Even the pope’s having a say, getting involved. The whole world trying to get Maggie Thatcher to back down, give us our demands. But all came to nothing. Hunger strike failed, we’re on the frontline. We created the protest, it’s our responsibility. Leadership have been very clear to me, Don. Four and a half years of the no wash protest as much as it’s has highlighted republicanism to some extent. It’s also distracted from the wider development of the organisation.
P: As your needs are specific needs.
BS: Of course they are. Some woman bringing up 3 children in West Belfast shouldn’t care about civilian type clothing or whatever they’re calling these clown outfits. Honest to god Don, we were promised our own clothes. It’s childish skullduggery.
P: So the leadership have had enough of you
BS: In an ideal world we’d be fight our battles independently. But we’re tied. Nothing’s changing here, nothing’s moved on. The leadership are stuck with us until there’s some realistic chance of moving toward political status. That’s the hard truth of it. You see to get me to negotiating with these lying reneging monkies when there’s nothing on the table, it’s just pure crap. I’m not going to be marched into this governor’s office and get caught up in some mindless pointless dialogue with that pompous bastard.
P: He’s a big fan of yours
BS: Thick as two short planks. Can you believe they made him governer though, it’s a bloody insult to humanity
P: Where do you get your energy from?
BS: I was a cross country runner when I was a boy
P: Could have guessed it, big engine on you. Cross country runner, explains a lot about you Bobby.
B: …that’s the whole country thing for me. They’d have to hold me back at the finishing line or I’ll keep on and on. Scrappers and mongrels from the city, frightened of cattles and all. Think you could get milk and burgers from those monsters, jesus christ. Next time round I’ll be born in a countryside guaranteed. Wild life, birds, paradise.
P: Ay, and you could learn to relax too.
B: Maybe, you never know, never tried it before. We’re starting a hunger strike on the first of march. That’s why you’re here, that’s what I’m telling you.
P: Ay, I heard that. Does your family know?
B: I got word out to them, ay. Got a visit in two weeks’ time, we’ll talk then.
P: How do you think they’ll take it?
B: What do you think Don?
P: You’re their wee boy….So what makes it different from the last time?
B: Last time the strikes were flawed. It became emotional. Seven men started at the same time. They all got weak, they couldn’t let the weakest one die. It left us susceptible to being conned by the Brits, and that’s exactly what we were, conned. This time out the men will start consecutively two weeks apart, somebody dies, they’ll be replaced. There’s no shortage of us, 75 men have put their names forward
P: For christ’s sake
B: The announcement’s being made today
P: So what makes this protest different is that you’re set to die, Bobby?
B: May well come to that
P: You start a hunger strike to protest for something you believe in. You don’t start already determined to die, or am I missing something here?
B: It’s in their hands, our message is clear, the same as our determination.
P: So it will take a couple of deaths do you think, maybe five or six, but there are 75 of you.
B: It won’t come to that
P: Alright 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’re going to be putting these boys through? I mean putting aside what’s going to happen to these poor men’s families. You’re going head to head with a British government that clearly despises republicanism, who are unshakable, who can easily live with the deaths of what they call terrorists. And the stakes are much higher this time.
B: I know that.
P: And if you’re not even willing to negotiate, you’re looking for them to capitulate, is that it?
P: So failure means many dead men, families torn apart, and the whole republican movement demoralised
B: Ay, worst case scenario might well mean all that. But short term. Out of the ashes..
P: come on
B: ..guaranteed there’ll be a new generation of men and women, even more resilient, more determined
P: Look who you’re talking to
B: There’s a war going on, I thought you might understand. You’re talking like a foreigner
P: You’re talking to me like I’m a foreigner. You think I don’t know Northern Ireland, I live here man.
B: Then support us.
P: I supported the first hunger strike on the basis that it was a protest, not some predesigned to die, balk at negotiation other than complete surrender from Thatcher. That’s ridiculous Bobby, it’s destructive.
B: What’s been happening here the past four years, the brutality, humiliation, all our basic human rights taken from us. All of this has to come to an end
P: Through talking
B: So what, we take their offer put their uniform on? Cos the last four years have been nothing. We could do that Don, or we could behave like the army that we proclaim to be and lay down our lives for our comrades.
P: Is there not even a small part of you that’s hoping for a breakthrough? That could find you negotiating again
B: That won’t happen.
P: Right, forget about that. I want to know if your intent is just to commit suicide here.
B: You want me to argue about the morality of what I’m about to do and whether it’s suicide or not? For one you’re calling it suicide, I’m calling it murder. That’s another wee difference between us two. We’re both catholic men, both republicans. But while you were poaching salmon in lovely Kilray we were being burnt out of our house in STH. Similar men in many ways, Don, but life and experience have focused our beliefs differently, you understand me?
P: I understand
B: I have my belief, and in all its simplicity that is the most powerful thing.
P: So what is your statement by dying? Just highlighting British intransigence, so fucking what. The whole world knows what the Brits are like.
P: It is good, and it’s nothing to do with you. The Brits have been fucking everything up for centuries.
B: I can feel your hatred Don.
P: You’re looking for martyrdom?
P: You sure? Cos I’ve heard you eulogising, Wolf Tone, MacSwinney, all them men. Can’t help thinking you’re writing your name large in them history books.
B: Cos you think that matters for me
P: Oh ay, I know it does.
B: Well you’re wrong.
P: You see you’re soldiers, it’s all about the freedom, but you 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 saying nothing. When your answer is to kill everything you’ve blinded yourself, and you’re scared to stop it. Afraid of living, afraid of talking, peace. So what would Ulster be if it wasn’t turning itself to shit? And this situation here, that the republican movement is in the hands of you men who have lost all sense of reality. You think your head’s all right? Locked up in here 24 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. 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 Twin Brook. That’s where we need you Bobby, and you know I’m right.
B: That I’m deluded. You want me to answer that?
P: They’re beating you Bobby. You’re playing into their hands.
B: The strategy’s in place.
P: Then stop it.
B: You don’t understand a thing.
P: You’re in no shape to make this call.
B: It’s done. It won’t be stopped.
P: Then fuck it, life must mean nothing to you.
B: God’s gonna punish me.
P: Well if not just for the suicide, then he’d have to punish you for the stupidity.
B: Ay, and you for your arrogance. Cos my life is a real life, not some theological exercise, some religious trip that’s got fuck all to do with living. Jesus christ had a backbone. The same as them disciples, every disciple since. You’re just jumping in and out of the rhetoric, and deadend semantics. You need the revolutionary, you need the cultural political soldiers to give life a pulse, to give life a direction
P: That’s just stupid talk, you’re deluded
B: Ay, so you say
P: Yeah and what’s your wee son gonna say?
P: Doesn’t that interest you?
B: Think you can attack me with sentiment? Typical priest
P: What does your heart say Bobby?
B: I thought you had me all figured out Don?
P: What’s it saying? Tell me
B: My life means everything to me. Freedom means everything. I know you don’t mean to mock me, Don, so I’ll let all that pass. This is one of these times when we’ve come to pause, it’s time to keep your belief 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, and 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, Don. It’s the right thing.
P: This is why you called me here. You needed a sounding board, not a hundred percent sure of yourself. Been doubting yourself maybe.
B: Ay, we’re only human
P: And I’ve made it clear for you there.
B: Man of guidance, Don, business of the soul…Have you been to STH in Donegal? I went there when I was 12. Wee crossed country race for the boys, and we’re all on the back of the minibus heading for Derry one morning. This is big time, this is like international aethletics for us cos we’re racing the big boys in the south. And we have this thing to do Belfast pride. Three of the boys were Prods [protestants] and the rest of us were catholics. Community event. I suppose people in the south think this is great stuff, this wee team from Belfast and all that patronising shit. Anyway, we went through the border, the boys singing pop tunes and all. I’m just in the back of the bus looking out of the window. We’re going through them mountains, you know where mount STH is? A beautiful sight Don. Donegal must be the most beautiful place in Ireland I reckon.
B: Anyway we arrive at STH, what a place. And it’s hopping with about 200 boys in there and they’re getting into their gear and limbering up. The whole event is run by Christian brothers, clipping young fellas round the ears and basically trying to maintain some order. Our team goes out for a wee jog, stretch out the legs, we’re surrounded by these fields of Barley where there’s a stream and woods running through it. Naturally us Belfast boys have to go check them out, woods and stream like the Amazon to us. And we come across these young fellas from Cork. And there’s banter about our accent. They could barely talk, we couldn’t understand a word they were saying. You get the idea they’re lording over us a bit. We’re running along and we come up with this idea to go down the stream and check it out for fish. So we’re down by the stream, there’s half a foot of water in there. Little silver fish but nothing substantial. So one of their boys calls us down. Lying in the water is a wee foal, four five days old, he’s all skin and bone, grey colour, and he’s got flecks of blood on his coat cos he’s cut himself sharply on them rocks. We were just standing over him and you can see his back leg snapped. He’s breathing, he’s alive, just about. So this big conversation gets started up between the boys who suddenly make themselves the leaders, deliberating what we should do. Someone said drop a rock on his head. But I’m looking in their faces and 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 the priest sees us, sees the foal, tells us not to move we’re done for. We’re really done for. A group of boys will always get the blame for hurting a foal. Group of Belfast boys will take a hammering for sure. So it’s clear to me in a instant, and I’m down on my knees, and I take the foal’s head in my hands and I put it under water. He’s thrashing around a bit at the start so I press down harder until he’s drowned. Priest arrives, Don. He’s dragging me by the hair 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 Don. I’m clear of the repercussions. But I will act, and I will not stand by and do nothing.
P: [PAUSES, GRABS CIGARETTES]
B: You can leave them there if you like. Don’t want me rolling up the Letter of St John do you?
P: Wouldn’t want that on my conscience, no. I don’t think I’m going to see you again, Bobby.
B: There’s no need Don.
Thanks to May Adadol for this transcription.