Mar. 29th, 2012

reverancepavane: (Dejah)

Speaking of the dichotomy between those who have read the books and those who haven't, it is interesting to see the differences in opinion between those who have read the books and those who haven't (including myself), with regard to The Hunger Games.

Amongst the literati, there seems to be a focus on the fact that the social milieu was not explored in the film to any great degree, and I'm afraid I have to disagree with this. I actually think that writer/director Gary Ross did a marvellous job translating Suzanne Collin's book to the big screen.

First of all, you cannot take any reasonably-sized book and cut it down to make a two hour movie without leaving out substantial elements. Focusing on the actual Hunger Game itself allowed him to concentrate on the essential element, and the major concern of the protagonist (Katniss), which was "I'm now in the Hunger Game and am likely to die." The remainder is really peripheral for the sake of telling the story of her participation.

Secondly, the social milieu was constantly impinging on the consciousness of the movie-goer, from the ridiculous costuming (more style than substance) at the Capitol, to the extreme poverty of the outlying Districts. There were plenty of off-hand mentions, that intrigued people into wondering about this world and how this social custom had evolved. But there were no lamp-shades hung on them - no exposition. These were accepted facts known to everyone in the world, and didn't need explanation (remember we, the audience, are accompanying Katniss into the arena). So her acceptance, unhappy though it is, of the social order is taken as matter of fact. It is the stuff that is strange to her that attracts her, and the audience's, attention.

Now this is excellent story-crafting. It doesn't make any attempt to explain. Just accepts, but it raises questions and expectations. But it provides hints that there is a tipping point coming, and that Katniss might be critical to this event. The foreshadowing provided by Donald Sutherland as President Snow at the end of the movie was excellent (in conjunction with his performance throughout). Just the attentive and measuring analysis of her potential weak points in case she was ever to come to his personal attention again (as opposed to sinking into the guilty stupor of most survivors of the Game).

possible spoiler )

All the actors were magnificent. Jennifer Lawrence did an excellent job as Katniss, but that would only be expected from her role as Ree in Winter's Bone. Donald Sutherland was marvellously inscrutable. And Woody Harrelson was suitably a haunted mess for having survived the games, and for knowing what happens when you buck the System.

Anyway I'm looking forward to the next one. Especially as it seems the critics are ensuring that there will never be another Barsoom movie to prove that their knives are sharp.

It was also interesting noting the number of people claiming that there was no way such an institution could have evolved, and that they would die to prevent their child being taken. But that's not the point. Would you be willing to die to let some other child (someone you didn't know), live? At the cost of your own child probably dying as well? Would you risk that? Especially when the alternative is the 99.997% probability that your child would make it safely through the seven years of choosing? As opposed to a 90% chance of them dying in open rebellion? Of course, if your child is chosen, you have a reason to be outraged, but by then it's too late. Everyone else will be secretly glad/relieved that it wasn't their child chosen, and that guilt is a powerful demotivator. And the human ability to rationalise away unpalatable facts is very impressive.

[The Gestapo had a wonderful technique for turning people through guilt. They set up an apparatus where a close relative was given an electric shock. But you could take the electric shock instead by pressing a (spring-loaded) button. Unfortunately there is a limit to how much you can endure, so it is inevitable that you release the button eventually. Each time you do, the charge gets ratcheted up a small amount, so it becomes harder to endure. Eventually the close relative dies, and you cannot help believing that it is your fault. If only you were a little bit stronger. If only you could have been shocked to death instead. The guilt/failure was incredibly powerful – even though there was nothing you could have done and you might as well not have pressed the button yourself and just let your mother/father/wife/husband die (and then be shot yourself) – and very effective at breaking the target. Especially if another loved one was available and held hostage as well.]

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Ian Borchardt

October 2012

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