THE HUNGER GAMES
To say that the Hunger Games lives up to its hype is understating the case just a tad.
It’s one of the best book to film transitions I’ve ever seen, and it fleshes out a lot of the contrast between the Haves of the capitol and the Have Nots of District 12, while not really sacrificing any of the spirit or the feel of the books.
One of the most brilliant pieces of work in the film is the way director Gary Ross portrays District 12, especially in the flashbacks. I could swear in two or three shots, he’s re staged photos from dirty 30’s. I’m sure I’ve seen at least two of the photos he based the shots on, especially the one of the miners in the cage just before they go down to the coal face. The actors mange to get that bleak, hopeless look in their eyes and stance and capture perfectly the depression and hopelessness of their circumstances.
In addition, both he and Suzanne get it right – my grandfather was a coal miner in England during the dirty 30s, and if he wasn’t being beaten because of the union battles, he was earning a pair of black lungs for almost no money. My mother told me stories about eating bacon grease sandwiches when the rest of the food ran out and about Grandaddy poaching to put food on the table. He used a gun instead of bows and arrows, but the poverty was the same, as was the need. Even the dresses, hair and clothing of District 12 in the crowd scenes, and the older men’s clothing are eerily reminiscent of everyday clothing of the 1930s.
The capital brings to mind both the grandeur and dominance of Imperial Rome, and of the Nazi Reich in Germany during the 30s. The decadence of Berlin during those years is hinted at by the clothing and outré hairstyles and colouring of the populace, and the clothing styles in the crowd shots strongly suggest the clothing of the fashionable during the 30s and 40s.
Beyond that, the story remains largely faithful to the book and highlights the grinding down of the will and the spirits of those in the districts, and contrast it to the party atmosphere of the city during Games week. The violence through the film is moderated by the camera becoming a viewpoint instead of an observer, with tricky focus and shaking, but I still found myself staring at the seat in front of me or my hands during some of the fight scenes.
Moving? Definitely. I was choked up all through the reaping scene, and even though I knew Katniss had to survive and win the games, still perched on the edge of my seat for that segment of the film. Rue’s death was less emotional than I expected. As cute and vulnerable and as plucky as she was, it still didn’t engage me as it should have, and I’m not sure why. Perhaps because it was inevitable Rue die simply because of her resemblance to Prim and the necessity for her death to foreshadow Prim’s in the later books. I was far more moved by Cato’s death at the end of the games, when he offers himself to Katniss’s bow and realizes what a waste his life has been, and how little pride matters.
The images and the scenes in this film are going to haunt me, simply because, in reminding us of the outrages and horrors of the Reich, they also suggest that we may have already surpassed the Nazis in cruelty and soullessness – if a film portraying children killing children can garner this much enthusiastic praise with almost no voices raised in protest, what does that say about us as a culture?