Emerson College’s only independent, student-run newspaper since 1947

The Berkeley Beacon

Emerson College’s only independent, student-run newspaper since 1947

The Berkeley Beacon

Emerson College’s only independent, student-run newspaper since 1947

The Berkeley Beacon

Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes: the Hunger Games genesis

Clara Faulkne

Spoiler Warning

Step back into the dystopian embrace of Panem as Suzanne Collins crafts a prequel that not only rivals its successors but intricately unravels the enigmatic origins of the Hunger Games. Concerning prequels, it’s a common challenge to live up to the level of their later counterparts. However, in the case of “Hunger Games: The Ballad Of Songbirds & Snakes,” I found myself captivated, perched on the edge of my seat, and eagerly anticipating the unfolding narrative of the series.

This prequel delves into the early years of Coriolanus Snow (Tom Blynth), the eventual tyrannical president of Panem when he stands as the last hope for his dwindling lineage. As the 10th annual Hunger Games looms, the 18-year-old Snow is taken aback when tasked with mentoring tribute Lucy Gray Baird (Rachel Zegler) from District 12. The film delves into the complex relationship between mentor and tribute, shedding light on the roots of power and survival in Panem’s history.

In a compelling narrative that weaves together Zegler and Blytnh’s shared instincts for showmanship and political acumen, they race against time, striving to unveil the true nature of those around them—distinguishing between the songbirds and the snakes in a high-stakes game. 

The film adeptly introduces and addresses a myriad of intriguing questions: Who created the Hunger Games? How did Coriolanus Snow, who evolves into the villainous, descend into such malevolence? The richness of its plot, spanning the entirety of a single Hunger Games and its aftermath, prompts contemplation, leaving viewers yearning for more.

In the final act of “The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes,” Coriolanus Snow’s trajectory toward becoming the infamous President Snow solidifies. The novel delves into the aftermath of the 10th Hunger Games and Coriolanus’s choices that shape his future. 

As the story unfolds, the audience witnesses the evolution of his character, the impact of his experiences in the arena, and the seeds of the Capitol’s oppressive regime taking root. The ending provides a thought-provoking perspective on the origins of the Hunger Games and the moral complexities that define the dystopian society of Panem, setting the stage for the events of the subsequent Hunger Games trilogy.

Throughout the film, Blynth doesn’t shy away from depicting Snow as a self-centered murderer. He skillfully captures the intensity of Snow’s selfishness, etching stern emotions onto his face that, at moments, appear soft to the touch. Blynth’s adept portrayal and his chemistry with Zegler immerse the audience in the film. It creates an experience that transports us to the heart of the capital, making us feel like active game participants. 

Baird proves to be an irresistible presence for the audience, weaving a spell with her unwavering courage, captivating vocals, and the effortless charm with which she captures hearts amid the challenges of the Hunger Games. There were moments when I found myself shedding tears alongside her, feeling a surge of resentment, and harboring an earnest desire to rescue her from the unforgiving world she was thrust into.

Before the 10th annual Hunger Games, the proceedings differed significantly from the portrayal in the series. District tributes were unceremoniously thrust into an arena, deprived and ailing, compelled to eliminate each other. The absence of interviews, sponsors, or mentors made the games unpopular among Capitol citizens. Baird’s Hunger Games marked a pivotal shift in this narrative, and she played a notable role in bringing about these changes.

Zegler’s ability to command attention and resonate with Baird extends beyond mere admiration—a genuine affection that blossoms as her character unfolds on screen. Baird entered the world a few years preceding the District rebellion, born to unnamed Covey parents. 

Despite having two elder siblings, tragedy struck when her family, advocating for the Covey cause, faced dire consequences in District 12her parents were outspoken and subsequently killed by Peacekeepers. The circumstances surrounding the demise of Baird’s older siblings remain unclear. As the narrative progresses into “Ballad” and “Songbirds and Snakes,” she emerges as the sole surviving member of her immediate family. Among the Covey, Baird is one of only six still alive when she is reaped for the Hunger Games.

In the film, Baird starts as a novice in the games, an unconventional tribute choice, defying expectations. However, she evolves into the favored contender, becoming the winner everyone hopes will emerge. In addition to the characters themselves, the cinematography of “Hunger Games: The Ballad Of Songbirds & Snakes” is a visual feast that skillfully complements the intricate narrative. 

The film doesn’t merely showcase scenes but crafts a visual language that adds depth to the storytelling. The contrasting depictions of the opulent Capitol and the desolate districts are rendered with meticulous attention to detail, immersing the audience in the stark disparities that define the world of Panem. The careful balance between tension-building sequences and quieter, character-driven moments contributes to a viewing experience that is engaging and emotionally resonant.

The film’s excellence is evident in its skillful concealment of Snow’s true identity until the conclusion, guiding viewers through a profound narrative that surprisingly reimagines the book.

Being a devoted reader who closely followed the novel, I eagerly anticipated the translation of standout moments from the book into star-studded scenes on the cinematic canvas. This moment unfolds when Snow discovers the revelation of Baird’s disappearance, imprinting an enduring mark not just on the narrative but on Snow himself. The book vividly portrays his yearning for her, capturing the essence of possessing something, risking it, and ultimately losing it. It leaves the audience feeling sorry for Snow but also resenting him.

Blynth skillfully conveys Snow’s anguish and despair, aligning with the evocative descriptions found in the book. The film adeptly brings to life the emotional nuances, effectively translating the intensity of Snow’s emotions as penned in the original narrative. The disappearance of Lucy Gray Baird resonates with a lasting impact, creating a haunting sense of remembrance. 

As the narrative unfolds, the film captures not only the physical absence but also the lingering presence of Baird in Snow’s consciousness, ensuring that she becomes an unforgettable part of his story forever. 

In the ever-expanding tapestry of dystopian intrigue, author Suzanne Collins continues to captivate audiences with her unique blend of suspense, emotion, and social commentary. With each turn of the page or frame of the screen, the Hunger Games saga promises a thrilling escape and a thought-provoking exploration of human nature and society. 

As fans eagerly await the next chapter in this captivating journey, one thing remains certain—the Hunger Games will continue to be an unmissable spectacle, drawing us into its gripping narrative, where the odds are never indeed in our favor.

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About the Contributor
Clara Faulkner, Managing Editor and Living Arts Editor
Clara Faulkner wears multiple hats at the Beacon, serving as both the Business Director and the Living Arts Editor. Prior to assuming these roles, she demonstrated her expertise as an assistant editor, specializing in living arts—a domain she is deeply passionate about, fueled by her love for pop culture and entertainment. Additionally, Clara served as a writer for the Boston Globe, is a part of NBCUniversal Entertainment Group, and contributed to the music team at Intersect Magazine. In addition to her editorial responsibilities, Clara actively participates in various campus organizations, including SPJ, Associate Entertainment Producer at WEBN-TV, programming director at WECB. fm, and AEPHI. Outside of her writing pursuits, Clara immerses herself in culinary exploration, cinematic enjoyment, and language acquisition, consistently seeking fresh experiences and knowledge.

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