The Hunger Games – everything Brazil was trying so hard to be

In The Hunger Games I see not only an exciting plotline, but a genuine statement about humanity. Suzanne Collins’ basic idea may not have been new, but her books have yielded a film that connects to its audience and explains its point, unlike a certain film I think it necessary to mention.

To be honest, I don’t think Brazil is even worth an entire review. It’s a strong candidate for the worst movie I have ever seen. It had an idea, taking the authoritarianism of 1984 and putting it in a counterfactually mechanical dystopia resembling a bizarre duality of modern Las Vegas and 1920s Berlin. It could never make up its mind what kind of film it was trying to be, juxtaposing a couple of cheap gags with supposedly grim and gritty scenes, followed by fantastical dream sequences. The gags were dull, the grit unnecessarily discomforting, the most memorable dream sequence only slightly shorter than the extended edition of Return of the King, and completely failing to get across whatever message it was trying to convey. Yet somewhere in there was a message, and I think it was most forcefully and revoltingly brought out in the use of colour. Against the general grey background, the rich of society were draped in lurid colours that would have had Picasso spinning like a blender in his grave. This stuck with me, I remembered it, and I knew what it meant. It was a prediction of an apocalyptically heightened future fashion culture. However, I’m unlikely to pay much attention to a piece of visual so sickening I spend half my time trying to blank it out.

This is where The Hunger Games comes in. That same hedonistic, extreme fashion culture is there, present and unmissable, yet it isn’t so in my face as to make me shudder. It isn’t even all bad, some of it is almost aesthetically pleasing. But the message is still there, in a subtle way, that sticks in the mind without superglueing itself to the discomfort centre of the brain. Authoritarianism is also explored in a less lurid way, though not without its drama. The main character, Katniss, has to go through sufferings and dilemmas that move and shock, all on account of a thoroughly authoritarian system. But each tragedy is presented in the tragic style, rather than the revoltingly gritty style that focuses on the unpleasant details rather than the bigger picture (cross reference James McAvoy vomiting into a filthy toilet in the recent post-apocalyptic modernisation of Macbeth). I defy the viewer’s heart to remain intact.

There are things wrong with The Hunger Games, there’s no denying, and you could argue its moral is an old one: it’s not a progressive piece of political thought. But it’s not just another dystopian movie either, and it isn’t just for kids. And as for the practicalities, the actors are brilliant, the visuals strong, the plotline elegant. Spick and span, and awesome.

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2 thoughts on “The Hunger Games – everything Brazil was trying so hard to be

  1. What an interesting comparison! I didn’t connect with Brazil in the way I thought I would. I think it was necessary to live through the ’80s and see the rise in authoritarianism people saw in everyday life to truly appreciate it’s satire (which I could not, only being 23).
    It’s an important difference that whilst Brazil is supposed to be satirical, The Hunger Games are precautionary action adventure. I have been impressed by both of The Hunger Games films so far, despite their glaringly obvious influence from other sources such as Battle Royale and Sofia Copolla’s Marie Antoinette. As a cultural statement, I can’t praise The Hunger Games for any innovative concepts, only it’s ability to bring other people’s ideas in to the mainstream.
    Whereas Brazil is undeniably unique, borrowing from real life and, perhaps, A Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. So, even though it is not as enjoyable, I appreciate that it took more innovation to create than The Hunger Games.

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    1. Thanks for commenting. I’m only 18 myself, so I’m sure I missed something in Brazil. I guess it was just a shock after how much I loved 1984 – which I honestly believe is one of the best books I’ve ever read – when Brazil was so in your face. I know The Hunger Games and 1984 aren’t exactly subtle, but relatively I thought their approaches were more effective by being less OTT. It’s the same with Macbeth. Of course what happens to Macbeth psychologically and the crimes he commits are catastrophic, but it doesn’t need to be symbolically represented onstage by grime and lurid colour. Everyone in the McAvoy version had filthy torn clothes, the witches wore gas masks and the porter had strips of fluorescent orange tape round his knees and drank dark red wine out of a gallon plastic milk bottle. I think plays and films can be powerful and have a lasting impact on you without making you quite so uncomfortable.

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