Following a recent trend in teen fiction the Hunger Games is a dark and dystopian view of the future. Based on the first of a trilogy of novels the film tells the story of Katniss Everdeen’s quest for survival in a state sponsored televised, gladiatorial fight to the death between 24 teenagers. The film draws on a number of other films but somehow manages to be greater than the sum of its parts.
A Battle Royale (2000)
A japanese film about a class of 9th grade children who are kidnapped by the government and forced to fight to the death. This is the closest parallel to the Hunger games with the same levels of brutal violence. Battle Royal was an 18 certificate but Hunger Games is only a 12a. The political and romantic elements of the Hunger Games make it somehow a more adult film with a lower age certificate.
Truman Show (1998)
The story of a man who has lived his whole life on television as part of a complex soap opera. He is on the air but unaware and every detail of his life is controlled by the Director Kristoff. Although the participants of the Hunger Games are fully aware they are on television and in fact that is one of the brilliant themes of the film that you never know whether the participants are being “honest” or just playing to the camera to win support from their sponsors who can send food or medicine to support their favourites. But the directorial role of the game designer who controls every aspect of the game is very similar to the Truman show and leads to a rising sense of injustice that this is not a fair fight.
The oppressive power of the government to use a brutal game to prop up the injustice of a very wealthy capital population with the poverty and food scarcity of the outlying districts is a very important theme in the movie. Although this is a parallel of our current global injustice where a wealthy west still oppresses a hungry rest of the planet the film makes this point powerfully by making those who are poorest white. The absolute control and surveillance of the government reminded me of 1984’s dark picture of the world – but equally could be paralleled in V for Vendetta, Children of Men etc.
Romeo and Julliet (1996)
Two supposed enemies finding love in impossible circumstances and it all going wrong with poison – (not to give too much away don’t worry). Shakespeare’s themes are toyed with on purpose but the extravagant costumes and style has a lot in common with bad luhrman’s amazing musical adaptation.
This is a significant film – you probably don’t want to see it with young children because of the violence but older teens and adults will find a compelling, beautifully show and powerful film. Tearfund have drawn on the themes of the film to produce some really helpful resources to explore global poverty well worth checking out.