Monday, February 11, 2013

Why I love Movies: The Hunger Games and First Person Adaptations

I like to read. A lot. So, naturally, I've seen a lot of books get turned into movies. Its easy to take some third person Dan Brown book and create a movie out of it.  Hell, The Da Vinci code is essentially a script.  All the characters thoughts are expressed in dialog.

Turning a first person narrative into a movie is something else entirely.  Most of the time, the directors choose to opt for expressing the main characters thoughts through narration.  In the case of the Shawshank Redemption, this strategy works perfectly.  In fact, Morgan Freeman's narration is one of the most memorable aspects of the movie.  The narration adds a beautiful eloquence to a gritty and often dark tale. Another solid use of a narrator is American Beauty. Kevin Spacey's voiceovers are used sparingly and mark key transitions in the movie.

Unfortunately, adding a narrator screws up the timing and the pacing of a movie.  Narration is often included in montages, and, if used in excess, the non narrated scenes end up feeling rushed and ill fitting. Take the movie Wanted, what was the purpose of the main character narrating? Nothing was added that could've shown otherwise.

Or, you could do what Barbara Streissand did with The Prince of Tides. She took a book about the life of a Southern family with a romantic subplot, a book that excelled because of its beautiful narration, and turned the romantic subplot into the main plot.  If there ever was a film for voice over a lot of voice over narration, it was this. Instead Streissand wanted to be the star and almost entirely disregarded it.

The Hunger Games isn't a book with a tremendous amount of dialog.  Instead you immersed in the thoughts of Katniss.  The thoughts are descriptive and emotional, a sensory experience.  This, in my opinion, is hard to shoot.  The director chooses to immerse the audience in the experiences of Katniss.  She is disoriented, at times dizzy, frightened, confused, and we as an audience are made to feel the same way.  Jennifer Lawrence is an actress who can say very much with just a twitch of her lip.  She typically plays characters with a hard exterior, which fits the character of Katniss perfectly. 

There was a right way to make this movie, and a wrong way.  The director, thankfully, chose to not be heavyhanded in his storytelling.  He let the audience experience the story and let the movie, for the most part, speak for itself.  Cheers.

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