Hunger Games prequel tells of death to come Reviews & Culture – Socialist Worker

The Hunger Games series of films hold up a mirror to our violent and unequal society

For the unfamiliar, the story behind the Hunger Games series is a “game” where children are forced to fight each other to the death. The latest installment, A Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes, is an insight into how the games adapted and escalated to become a spectacle.

At the outset you see the oppressors, who live in the Capitol, and the oppressed, who live in the Districts. Both are united in opposition to the Hunger Games. They see the Games for their cruelty but are largely uninterested in watching.

What we learn in the film is how game-makers’ enticed viewers with ever more violence. How they turned killing into entertainment.

The central character, student Coriolanus Snow (Tom Blyth), suggests that audiences should have the chance to get to know the Tributes—as contestants are known—before the games begin. This, they hope, will mean audiences have “someone to root for and against”.

Watching the Hunger Games’ brutality develop from the perspective of the Capitol is surreal. In this society, the Tributes from the Districts are considered subhuman. And the film tries to win viewers to feeling the same way.

During the screening I went to the filmgoers were laughing when the presenter made light of the deaths of children. At times, it felt like I was sitting in the audience of the Hunger Games itself.

On the other hand, we see children from the Districts desperately trying to assert their humanity. Their acts of kindness, anger and grief are all desperate reminders of this. This battle over representation makes the film an emotionally tough watch—­especially because it echoes what we witness in the coverage of Palestine.

Many people connect with The Hunger Games franchise because it feels like an extreme version of the system that we live in today. It speaks to how working class people experience some form of violence every day, whether first-hand or via screens. It also shows how the ruling class try to desensitise us so we will accept violence as part of our lives.

Another interesting part of the film is how class works in this society. Snow, is from a privileged background, but we still see him struggling and living in poverty. At the beginning of the film, he believes he can move up in the world as long as he works hard. He believes in meritocracy. However, as the story progresses, Snow learns that the system is not based on merit but instead on inherited wealth and power.

The rich succeed and are able to bend the rules to suit themselves. Sejanus (Josh Andrés Rivera) was once a District citizen. His father worked to build a fortune so his family could escape oppression. Now, despite his wealth, Sejanus remains an outcast.

The development of these characters gives us a more rounded view of how class, wealth and oppression can enter the lives of even of the ruling class. A Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes explores a different perspective on the Hunger Games, one that once again reflects on how our own violent system continues.

A Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes is in cinemas now

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