The Panem we see in The Hunger Games: The Ballad of the Songbirds and the Snakes It’s a far cry from the nation Katniss and Peeta called home in the original. The Hunger Games films. Gone were the flashy suits and high-tech glitz of the Capitol, replaced by post-war rubble and a retro-futuristic aesthetic.
The change makes sense, since The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes It takes place 64 years before Katniss Everdeen sets foot in the sand. When it comes to Panem, we’re in a whole new world, and exploring that world became one of the most exciting parts of the filmmaking process for director Francis Lawrence and producer Nina Jacobson.
‘The Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes’ Review: This Return to Panem Was Worth the Wait
Building an older Capitol was an inspiring creative endeavor.
The cast of “The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes.”
Credit: Courtesy of Lionsgate
“What I was really excited about was reinventing the world a little bit,” Lawrence told Mashable in a video interview. The director has not been short of time in this world over the years. In addition to The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakesalso directed On fire and both Mockingjay Films.
Lawrence continued, “This is not the Panem we are used to; this is Panem that has just emerged from a war and is in an era of reconstruction.”
That feeling of reconstruction is present in everything The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes, especially in its Capitol sequences. Most of the skyline shots show cranes working to rebuild the city after the war, hinting at the bustling metropolis to come.
“This is a more rudimentary version of Panem,” Lawrence added. “The Games are more rudimentary, the technology is more rudimentary.” Here, the Games always take place in the same dilapidated setting, and the broadcast room looks more like a mid-century television studio than a futuristic command platform.
Still, the limitations of an older Panem provided Lawrence with some tantalizing world-building opportunities. “It was really exciting for me to take what looked like old Panem, reduce it to rubble, and then start to develop a little bit of hints of the Panem we’re used to,” he said. Some of these clues include the beginning of the sponsorship program, in which rickety droids fly into the arena to drop off supplies for the tributes. Meanwhile, the extravagant fashions of characters like Dr. Volumnia Gaul (Viola Davis) and Lucy Gray Baird (Rachel Zegler) hint at the colorful designs to come in the future.
Highlighting the effects of war helped build the character of Coriolanus Snow.
Fionnula Flanagan, Tom Blyth and Hunter Schafer in “The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes.”
Credit: Murray Close
the timeline of The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes It also allowed for a deeper exploration of the Dark Days, the war between the Capitol and the Districts that resulted in the creation of the Hunger Games. The devastation of war is especially evident in the film’s opening scene, a flashback to the Dark Days. In the scene, a young Coriolanus and Tigris Snow flee the destruction of war, fending off a rabid dog and watching a man cut off the leg of a corpse to eat. It is the most ruined Capitol we have ever seen, even beyond the Mockingjay Films.
For Jacobson, who has produced every The Hunger Games film, the striking difference between the Capitol in this scene and the Capitol in the other films constitutes one of the most fascinating elements of The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes. “We’ve always heard about the war, the Dark Days; they’re referenced in other movies,” Jacobson told Mashable in a video interview. “But culturally we are prone to amnesia, and the war is largely in the past tense in the original films. It was important to us to show that the Capitol is still literally and figuratively scarred by war in that same opening sequence. We wanted to show what the cost and effect of that was not only on the place, but also on the people growing up in the war, and to what extent it shapes character and worldview.”
That focus on character was necessary when shaping the film’s protagonist, Coriolanus Snow (Tom Blyth). We’re aware of his future as the tyrannical president of Panem, but when the movie begins, he’s just a student trying to help his family get by after the damage caused by the war. Because of this motivation, we get the sense that there is potential for good in him, but is it enough to change his path?
“We don’t want to excuse Coriolanus Snow for his transgressions. He does terrible things and we know who he becomes,” Jacobson said. “But part of what I’ve loved about (Suzanne Collins’) book and working on this adaptation is how we held on to this belief that somehow he could succeed.”
The destruction caused by the Dark Days lessens some of the polarization between the District and the Capitol. Here, we see that not all citizens of the Capitol enjoy the Games or the hatred of the Districts: Tigris (Hunter Schafer) warns Coriolanus against the hatred, while Dean Casca Highbottom (Peter Dinklage) clearly regrets creating the Games first of all. So not just the moment after the Dark Days The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes offers the film a rich new period to examine, it also emphasizes the film’s central examinations of good, evil, and the gray area in between.
“There’s no easy way to categorize Snow or Lucy Gray,” Jacobson said. “No one is all songbird or all snake.”