New Hunger Games Clip: The Sutherland-Ross Version of Snow Political Overreach and Misunderstanding of Books’ Meaning?

We noted here that Director Gary ‘the Boss’ Ross was enamored of actor Donald Sutherland’s understanding of “where the nature of power comes from and he understood how pernicious that power was and how President Snow used that power.”

He gave me a glimpse into that side of the world that was more vivid than anything that I had seen. In fact Donald wrote me such a compelling backstory to his character that I ended up incorporating some of those ideas into a couple of scenes that I added for him which are still in the movie and I think are very good.

The studio clearly feels this atextual addition is also “very good” because in addition to the stills from the Snow-Crane scene they’ve been sharing with media, today they released another film clip that is that scene.

Three quick notes:

(1) It’s a departure from the story telling of Suzanne Collins in two significant ways: first, it is a scene not in the story as written, and, second and more important, it is a departure from the novel’s narrative voice. Yes, I understand that we’re not listening to Katniss tell the story as in the books but, even if the movie-voice spoke in 3rd person limited omniscient with the restriction being ‘only scenes with Katniss’ rather than in 1st person narrative, the film-view would thereby narrow our experience and heighten our identification with the heroine.

Cutting off from her perspective to watch and hear President Snow explain his decision making is the story entry-and-katharsis breaking equivalent of, say, a scene with the Dark Lord discussing his plans for taking over Hogwarts with Bellatrix or a break-from-Harry moment in which Dumbledore shares with Snape in Chamber of Secrets his concerns that Harry is a Horcrux. Not only does it make a big plot give-away, the departure from the focus of a single character’s narrative perspective also dissipates to the point of shattering our concentration on and our consequent becoming the lead player in our imagination.

(2) It also means a major departure from the books’ portrayal of and the audience’s understanding of President Snow. As Katniss makes the implicit allegory explicit in Mockingjay after hearing Finnick’s revelations, Snow is a poisonous serpent, the serpent or Satanic figure in what is, as Tolkien said all stories are, largely a re-telling in apocalyptic frame of the Fall of Man in the Garden.

“Poison. The perfect weapon for a snake.” [Mockingjay (Scholastic), p.172]

Sutherland’s portrayal of the President as a rational, Machiavellian power holder may make him more sympathetic to the audience but this is a misunderstanding of the character’s place in the true myth that is the greater power of the story. The film makers seem to think that it is the Orwellian portrait of our times that makes people love these books, i.e., they do not see as Swift suggested they could not, their image in the satirical mirror. “This is about the evils of GOP capitalism and American exceptionalism (Snow) not Hollywood’s self-importance and role as shadow casters in the Platonic cave (Plutarch).” Sheesh…

Is it silly to note that we certainly don’t love the books because of the poke-in-the-eye they give us as Capitol voyeurs (mindless teevee addicts) and purveyors of global injustice? We love them despite the poke-in-the-eye and only suffer this satirical drubbing because of what we learn and experience imaginatively and spiritually about life, love, and death alongside Katniss in love of Peeta. See ‘Eliade Thesis’ for more.

(3) Why include it, then? I’m guessing that Donald Sutherland, forgive me for saying out loud the obvious, because he is the only ‘name actor’ in the film (even if his film career is or has been in decline for years), didn’t come cheap. I suspect he required significantly more screen time than Snow’s role in the first book allowed and called for a proportionately greater share in the publicity for the film (hence the clip release today).

Sutherland credits Ross for writing the ‘hope versus fear lines’ that are the substance of today’s clip:

Kevin McCarthy ( My favorite line in the whole film is that you say, “Hope is the only thing stronger than fear.” It’s a wonderful line!

Donald Sutherland: “That’s not in the book! It’s Gary Ross. He’s a writer of such intelligence. He was able to get the very essence of the film, the book, everything, in a couple of words. He’s able to say, ‘Okay, we take 24 people. We could kill them all. Why not? I’ll tell you why not. We leave one alive, because hope is stronger than fear.” Hope is a spark, it gives people hope, a spark. You have to be careful that spark doesn’t become a flame, because that flame will burn you.”

Judging from this mutual admiration and crediting, though Director Ross (the Dickensian names would be ‘Boss’ or ‘Wroth,’ no?) makes no little noise about wanting to honor the books, he really wants to re-package them according to what he believes (along with Sutherland) is their “essence.” I’d suggest that means makeing a movie-message more palatable to his Hollywood peers than a dystopian morality play. He desires to go “3D” politically rather than cinematically, as he imagines the books are principally satire a la Orwell rather than alchemical drama echoing Dante and Shakespeare.

Whether it was a sop to a marquee player, then, or just secular sophism neglecting wisdom, the story told is less of a transformative experience and more of the next-in-line postmodern political fairy tale, this one heavy on the irony (violent story decrying violence in films as soul-and-spirit-deadening entertainment being presented in just that kind of movie to the huzzahs of the Capitol citizenry making the District 12 ‘farewell to those about to die’ three finger salute).

How about that Gummy Bear Room Service story? Again, can you say, “beyond satire”?

Please forgive me or just overlook that last. I covet your comments and corrections, instead, on the film clip and if the Sutherland-Ross addition-to/departure-from the Collins story and narrative perspective is a plus or minus in your view.


  1. Megan Joseph says

    Isn’t it amazing that no one picks up on the fact that we now have the Satan figure teaching us about HOPE instead of the Christ figure? That’s just great.

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