The Hunger Games
By Sr. Rose Pacatte, F.S.P.
Making U.S. Box Office history with the highest midnight
opening ever “The Hunger Games” swept into theaters last week. The film is
based on the 2008 best-selling novel by Suzanne Collins, the first book in a
trilogy of novels that the author says “explore the effects of war and violence
on those coming of age. “
This is a story for our times, a cautionary tale.
Katniss (Jennifer Lawrence) is 16 years-old and lives with
her 12 year-old sister Prim (Willow Shields) and withdrawn mother (Paula
Malcomson) in District 12 is the post-apocalyptic event USA.
Seventy-four years before the events in the book take place
a revolution against the then government occurred but failed. As punishment,
reparation, and a form of control by fear, the government holds “games” in the
Capitol every year. Each of the twelve districts must sacrifice a boy and girl
between the ages of 12 and 18 who will go the Capitol, pretend they are having
fun as they prepare to be on a reality television show, and then engage in a
survival exercise in a vast outdoor arena where they kill each other off. Only
one can survive.
Prim is chosen but Katniss immediately volunteers to take
her place. The boy chosen is Peeta (Josh Hutcherson). Katiss and Peeta have
known each other all their lives but they are not close. Katniss is shy be
cause once when she and her family were starving after her fathers death in the
coalmines, he gave her bread. He tossed the bread to her in the rain and now is
embarrassed that he did not hand it to her. Instead Katniss’ best friend is
Gale (Wes Bentley), a young man who has hunted with her in the forbidden forest
beyond the electrical fences.
“The Hunger Games” is a story filled with moral dilemmas
that the young people and those close to them must face in a controlled society
with an omnipresent government that dominates its citizens. How to survive
without killing anyone except as self-defense or defense of another, how to be
part of the fake and banal world of celebrity television without losing one’s
humanity, the many shades and obstacles to true love, family, and how to endure
life with an all-seeing totalitarian government whose absolute power has
corrupted the leaders and their hacks absolutely?
Katniss is the heroine from the beginning and Jennifer
Lawrence’s performance is compelling and graceful amid terror. The moment where
she mourns the young girl Rue in the arena moved me to tears. It is also a
moment that changes everything.
I was watching one of the morning network news shows last
week a day or so before the film’s release and one of the commentators
described the film as “kids killing one another for sport.” It’s too bad that whoever wrote the script
didn’t bother to read the book. There is no “sport” in the “The Hunger Games”
unless you count the ancient practice of letting gladiators battle for their
lives against wild animals a sport. One late night talk show host made a
similar crack; interesting that hardly anyone laughed. The mainstream media is
at the service of the government in “The Hunger Games”. They make banality an
art form though we discover that there is more to some of the people involved
than meets the eye.
Everyone just wants to survive but some are ready to
sacrifice everything that others might live.
Instead “The Hunger Games” is about young people of
character and humanity where love and empathy dictate their choices over a
totalitarian regime that rules by fear, hunger, poverty, control and the threat
of death for no reason except control.
Since the US has been engaged in wars by choice
over the last several decades, violence and conflict have been normalized.
Suzanne Collins’ examination of life under surveillance, the threat of violence
and its effects on young people, family and society, is chilling but also
serves as a wake up call.
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