Film: “The Hunger Games: Catching Fire”, by Pranada Devi

I don’t generally recommend violent dystopian-future stories, but the Hunger Games movies are worth watching. They speak to universal themes of bravery and compassion.

The latest movie in the series, Catching Fire, opens with Katniss Everdeen and Peeta Mellark, having just won the 74th annual “Hunger Games”, a battle to the death into which they were conscripted against 22 other young people. They are trying to adjust to life back in their district and deal with the awkward aftermath of a televised relationship during the Games that was real for Peeta and less real for Katniss – who already has a complex friendship with Gale Hawthorne.

Katniss soon learns that the nature of her victory in the Hunger Games – defying the games master by threatening a double suicide with Peeta – presents a threat to the totalitarian government of Panem. People in the districts begin to hope for change and stand up to their oppressors. For President Snow, this is unacceptable. He warns Katniss that the public must believe there was no revolutionary motivation behind her act – that it was nothing more than an expression of love. If not, he will destroy her district. So now, Katniss must resume and intensify her act of feelings for Peeta so that not only the public, but President Snow, is convinced that they are genuine.

As Katniss and Peeta tour the districts, they witness anger and the beginnings of rebellion, dealt with more and more harshly. Back in their home district, they intervene, facing down an armed soldier, when Gale is flogged. This makes them and all Hunger Games victors all the more dangerous to the Capitol, whereupon President Snow decides that the next annual Hunger Games will be held among existing victors from each district. As the only living female victor from District 12, Katniss will have to return to the arena and fight for her life again.

Catching Fire does not gloss over the psychological damage of the violence of the Hunger Games or of the acts of oppression by the government. Both Katniss and Peeta wake up screaming from nightmares in the aftermath of their victory. Their mentor, Haymitch Abernathy, has spent as much time drunk as he can since his own victory years before. While the affluent residents of the Capitol are entertained by the Hunger Games, everyone else seems to be shaken by them. And this time around, when popular victors are called back into the arena, even the Capitol seems to shake.

The original Hunger Games novels were written for young adults and play up the contrasts between the affluent Capitol and the starving districts. We see this in the film, where Capitol residents induce vomiting simply in order to go on eating, while people in the districts struggle to get enough food to survive. It’s clear that there’s a serious injustice, an instability in the system that cannot continue and is due to be shaken up. Catching Fire shows the foundations beginning to tremble.

pranadawithhostasmallerPranada Devi is a communications professional living in Toronto, Canada. She is the Managing Editor of Parvati Magazine, and serves as an advisor on marketing communications for Parvati’s various projects. Recently, she edited Parvati’s new book “Confessions of a Former Yoga Junkie”, which has gone on to sell out its first two printing runs.