ByÂ Vidushi Singla:
There are very few movies that can claim a fan base that cuts across geographies and even fewer fantasy thrillers that can boast of a fan following among all age groups. The Hunger Games manages to do exactly that. Borrowing its premise from Suzanne Collins’ novel by the same name, its plot is based in a futuristic metropolis where two candidates (“tributes”) from twelve districts each, fight to death until the lone victor survives. It is a feast for fantasy lovers and a well deserved introduction to the genre for the rest. It leaves no threads hanging loose and at the same time leaves you longing for more. The performances are seamlessly spontaneous and at the same time attention has been paid to every little nuance. There are endless reasons as to why you should love The Hunger Games but in interest of brevity, I have restricted my love to 5 broad reasons.
1. Lessons for life
There is a reason why people who are avid readers and movie-goers are considered to be intellectuals. It is believed that they learn by reading and watching other people’s experiences. The Hunger Games abounds in such lessons. It brings to fore those truths of life that we would otherwise be unwilling to accept. When left to fend for themselves, the contestants kill each other in the most brutal manner, hunt down animals for their meat and almost unfeelingly shoot arrows at anything that seems to threaten their existence. One learns the brazen truth that when the purpose of existence boils down to the basic Darwinian principle of “survival of the fittest”, man behaves no better than a savage.
The first time Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence) and Peeta Mellark (Josh Hutcherson) are to display their skills; their mentor tells them to reinforce their strengths and to “make sure they remember you”. Here, there is a reiteration of the idea that “you succeed not by the elimination of your weaknesses but by leveraging your strengths”. It also echoes the constant struggle of human life to earn glory that transcends the short lived nature of mortal life.
Ultimately, with the success of the protagonists, therein emerges victorious the theme that has been underlying all through the movie–“hope is the only thing stronger than fear.”
2. A subtle subversion of the establishment
The Hunger Games very subtly exposes the way in which the superstructure or the people in power construct the ideology of the people they govern. The rulers of the wealthy Capitol of Panem hold the hunger games annually as a punishment for a past rebellion by the twelve poorer districts. Now, what is problematic is that they call this rebellion a “treason” and their annual fest a “reminder of their generosity” since they provide for the lone winner to “bathe in riches”.
There is also a strange custom of congratulating the ones who are selected to die while it is emphatically proclaimed, “Happy Hunger Games”. There is a celebration of suppression since the game is celebrated as the pageant of honour, courage and sacrifice. Even the song “Horn of Plenty” reiterates this sentiment in “the BRAVE shall heed the call/ and we shall never falter”. It reminds us of the way in which even in the present day context honour and valour is associated with sacrificing one’s life for the nation even though it is a questionable idea as has been interrogated by Owen in Dulce Et Decorum Est.
3. Attention to details
The credit for this one mainly goes to Gary Ross for perfecting the details. From the subtle sounds of Lawrence’s footsteps crumpling the leaves, chirping of the birds to every emotion that Lawrence portrays. She proves her prowess right in the beginning when she chooses to replace her sister as the tribute for the 74th hunger games. Her emotions are a mix of bewilderment, fear, strength and confidence. Her eyes are moist but the tears refuse to leave her eyes while the beautiful scores play in the background. The movie has melodious background tracks, my favourite being “Farewell” by Evgueni Galperine and Mariana Tootsie.
4. A satire on the reality shows
The hunger games are an extended metaphor for the reality behind the reality shows these days. It represents the superficial myth of glamour that the reality shows create and the ten seconds of fame that is followed and backed up by strenuous struggle. A lot is strategized by the ‘manufacturers’ of reality to keep the audiences glued and to ensure their success irrespective of the misery they cause to the contestants.
5. The conception of Hunger Games
The sci-fi fantasy thrillers like The Hunger Games, Harry Potter and Avatar work as much for their execution as for the awe they create by sheer conception of the idea. The beautiful primitive settings, the outlandish costumes, the magnanimity of scale and the intricately woven screenplay inspire reverential respect for the genius of creation.
Watch the movie for it’s a must. It will leave you hungry for more and promises to satiate your hunger with its sequels. And yes, any write-up on The Hunger Games can’t be complete without the signature line-“may the odds be ever in your favour”.