The next morning, the tributes are flown to the arena. Haymitch takes the opportunity to give Katniss some last minute advice: “They’ll put all kinds of stuff right in front, right in the mouth of the Cornucopia. There’ll even be a bow there. Don’t go for it. Why not? It’s a bloodbath. They’re trying to pull you in. That’s not your game. You turn, run, find high ground, look for water. Water’s your new best friend. Don’t step off that pedestal early or they’ll blow you sky high.” Haymitch glares at the waiting plane – another clear indication that he despises The Hunger Games – before turning back to Katniss, smiling and wishing her farewell.
1. Explain how director Gary Ross creates suspense as the tributes prepare to enter the arena (01:02:11-01:05:47). Watch this sequence several times, noting how the use of camera, acting, mise en scene, editing, lighting and sound all contribute to the suspense and drama.
2. In this sequence, how are the people in The Capitol depicted? How does this make the audience feel about this society and its government?
After Katniss flees, Ross cuts back to Caesar Flickerman who announces that the cannon fire signifies the death of tributes. and Claudius Templesmith grins broadly for the camera. This moment of acting contributing to The Capitol’s callous disregard for human life. Ross cuts to Katniss who quietly counts the number of cannon shots. After catching and cooking some dinner, Katniss retreats to the safety of a large tree. Noticing something, she peers into a hole in the bark. Ross cuts to a shot from a small camera inside the tree as it whirs, adjusting focus. This is one of the clear similarities that The Hunger Games has to modern reality television programs. He pans away from this shot, revealing a studio filled with people flicking through live footage of the tributes. After noticing another tribute sitting by a small fire, Katniss hears a scream as she is murdered by an alliance of tributes, including Cato, Glimmer and Marvel. Although The Hunger Games is a film about violence, it is not a violent film and criticises the heartless actions of The Capitol and the career tributes. This scene demonstrates the way the film criticises this violence. Lingering on a close up of Katniss, the audience hears the sound of laughter as the alliance of tributes traipses through the woods. “Did you see the look on her face?” one of them laughs. Marvel drops to her knees. “Oh, please don’t kill me,” she says in a mocking tone. Ross cuts back to a close up of Katniss who looks on with a combination of horror and disgust. She is shocked when she realises that Peeta is part of the alliance.
After escaping from an orchestrated forest fire, Katniss encounters the alliance of careers. Here acting again contributes to the film’s criticism of violence as the career tributes yell and cheer as they pursue her through the forest. Cato starts to follow her up the tree. Ross cuts to a mid shot of the other tributes at the bottom of the tree urging him to kill her. Ross whip pans to a shot of Peeta as he watches on fearfully. After they resolve to wait for her to come down, Ross cuts to a shot of Haymitch sitting in a public square watching The Hunger Games on a large screen. His face is lined with concern and he shakes his head, a mournful violin rising in the background. While waiting in the tree, Katniss tries to treat her wound as well as she can, a close up emphasising her grimace as she presses down on the raw flesh. Again The Hunger Games condemns violence, emphasising that it has consequences.
A montage of shots showing Haymitch talking enthusiastically with citizens of the capital results in a special package helping Katniss to treat her wound. While Katniss is climbing towards the package, Ross further condemns the heartless career tributes by cutting to a shot of Clove. He tilts down to show her removing a knife and throwing it emotionlessly at a nearby lizard. She manages to escape the waiting tributes by dropping a next of deadly tracker jackers. As she flees, the hallucinating Katniss pauses for a moment before taking the bow from Marvel who was killed by the tracker jacker venom. Ross cuts to a shot of Marvel’s face, then to a close up of Katniss as she pauses in shock, realising that she was responsible for Marvel’s death.
After her hallucination, Katniss wakes to discover that Rue had treated her tracker jacker stings with leaves. “It’s okay,” Katniss says finding her behind a tree, “I’m not going to hurt you.” In the film, the viciousness of the career tributes is condemned while the compassion and humanity of Katniss and Peeta is praised. Ross cuts to a shot of them sharing some food.
Rue tells her that she was asleep for a “couple of days” and she “changed her leaves twice”. After their conversation, Ross cuts to a shot of Katniss and Rue sleeping at night. It’s clear that the film values their friendship and support over the ruthlessness of the career tributes. A soft, comforting musical motif written by James Newton Howard plays in the background.
THE DEATH OF RUE
Rue light fires to distract the alliance of career tributes while Katniss makes a daring raid on their base. Katniss fires an arrow into the pile of equipment, setting off the repositioned mines and destroying the cache of supplies. Ears ringing from the explosion, Katniss watches in horror as Cato snaps the neck of the boy left to defend the camp. Ross cuts back to a mid shot of a shocked Katniss who stumbles back into the forest. Coming across an unlit fire, dramatic music rises as Katniss hears the terrified cries of Rue. Finding her pinned underneath a net, she manages to free her. Marvel appears behind them suddenly. Katniss quickly fires off an arrow, killing him. Turning back to Rue, there is a moment of silence as director Gary Ross lingers on a close up of her face before cutting to a mid shot as she removes a spear from her abdomen. Rue collapses into Katniss’ arms. Ross cuts between several extreme close ups of the fatal wounds and Katniss’ distraught expression. “It’s okay,” she says, crying. “You’re okay. You’re okay.” Sorrowful music rises as Rue implores her to win. A point of view shot from the perspective of Rue pulls in and out of focus as Katniss sings to her, gradually fading to white. In this sequence, the audience is clearly encouraged to feel sympathy for Katniss and Rue as well as a deep sense of antipathy towards the brutality of the career tributes and the uncaring Capitol. Ross lingers on a close up of Rue’s motionless face as Katniss closes her eyes. He cuts to a close up of Katniss who cries uncontrollably. The sound fades out and the music rises as Katniss screams, throwing the spear away. A montage of shots shows Katniss picking flowers and laying them on Rue’s body. Throughout this sequence, the use of acting, music, shot size, focus and editing in this sequence all combine to create sympathy for these characters and their plight.
After laying Rue to rest, Katniss walks away and looks towards one of the camera, kissing two fingers and raising them in the air. Ross cuts to a shot of dozens of people watching a large screen in District 11, then to several shots of the people raising their hands in silence. Ross tracks one of the men in the crowd as he clashes violently with nearby Peacekeepers.