In The Hunger Games (film), a propaganda film version of the “Treaty of Treason” described in the book is shown before the reaping that sends Katniss and Peeta into the 74th Hunger Games. It uses a variety of rhetorical techniques to convey its point, which is to remind the districts of the Capitol’s version of Panem’s history, as well as explain the Capitol-District relationship to the viewer.
The clip begins by evoking an emotion of discomfort and uneasiness, utilizing human skulls embedded in mud in the rain, and men in hazmat suits reminiscent of Chernobyl, standing behind flames and ruin. The uneasy mood quickly shifts to sympathy, as the narrator (President Snow) says “widows, orphans, a motherless child.” He places blame on the districts for starting the uprising that causes these gloomy circumstances. “13 districts rebelled against the country that fed them, loved them, protected them” is an example of asyndeton. This rhetorical device creates the illusion that Snow’s list is longer than it really is (making it seem like the Capitol did more for the districts than it really did) as well as making each list item more impactful, giving the actions a unique emphasis. As the video progresses further into the uprising period of Panem, the scenes become shorter and shorter, which makes the viewer more and more frantic and uneasy. Finally, after showing the mushroom cloud of an atomic bomb, it is quickly replaced with a peaceful, billowing wheat field. The contrast between atomic bomb and quiet field (followed by a toddler running into its parent’s arms) makes the peace that follows the rebellion seem that much better and hard-fought in comparison to the death and destruction we were shown only a second ago.
Taking a step back out of Panem and looking at how the real audience interacts with this propaganda, it’s easy to see that the filmmakers intentionally made it poorly. The narration is cheesy, the transitions are reminiscent of educational history videos shown on rolling TVs in an elementary school classroom near you, and it looks like it was directed by a History Channel docuseries filmmaker. If we are supposed to identify with citizens of the districts, Gary Ross’s directing combined with Tom Stern’s cinematography succeeds in displaying how out of touch the Capitol is with the districts. Capitol citizens would eat up false drama and theatrical scenes, but the people of the districts couldn’t care less about the cheap tricks. It doesn’t look like too much money or effort was put into the video, which is reminiscent of how much money and effort the Capitol spends on the districts.
Looking at this video clip from perspectives both inside and outside the world of Panem allows two completely different analyses, both of which say something different about dystopias and how characters and readers/viewers interact with them. Using real-world film techniques to show the Capitol-District relationship is an example of how filmmakers shove as much information from the book into a 2-hour movie time slot.