The 2012 film The Hunger Games, based off of a Suzanne Collins novel and directed by Gary Ross, tells the story of a post-apocalyptic world in which young adults must savagely fight for their lives while being televised as an athletic event around the world. Throughout this film, Ross incorporates a variety of visual effects to direct viewers’ understanding of the plotline and to engage emotional reactions. One example of such an emotional scene is that of Rue’s death in which viewers are guided to become attached and sympathetic for not only the young child, as she is portrayed to be so pitiful and hopeless, but also for Katniss who is left to endure the heart-rending consequences. By dissecting the visuals of this scene, one may come to understand the purpose behind Ross’s decisions in portraying this tale.
For organizational purposes, we shall divide this scene into four main parts for discussion: Katniss finding Rue and releasing her from the trap, the arrow shots of Marvel and Rue, Katniss comforting Rue before and during Rue’s death, and lastly Katniss post Rue’s death.
Part 1: Katniss finding Rue and releasing her from the trap
This scene opens with intensity as we are given a pan shot of Katniss fiercely running through the forest. This beginning shot gives viewers a sense of setting while also creating a dynamic in pace, compared to the rest of the scene. This fast, jerking pace, in contrast to the latter parts of the scene, heightens the intensity of the emotional rollercoaster that viewers are about to board. Once Katniss finds Rue, the use of a net, as opposed to an opaque prop, for this trap allows us to see the facial expression of Rue as she yells for Katniss and lifts her arms helplessly. This shot is also given to us from a high angle, belittling trapped Rue even more.
As Katniss falls down to cut the net, the point of view is lowered so that we are placed more intimately into the action. Once Rue is released from the trap and the two embrace in a hug, portrayed to us as a close-up shot, viewers are given a sense of relief and safety based upon this body language. It is significant that Katniss is on her knees for this scene because once Rue stands up, the two are engaged in the same eye level, eliminating the obvious difference in age between the two and making the camera shot and hug overall more powerful. In opposition to the rest of the scene, where Rue is seen as a young, pitiful girl, this shot of them hugging at eye level makes Rue more courageous as a survivor of the trap. However, this sense of hope is completely shot down in the upcoming scene, further jerking viewers emotions as they are given such a brief confidence in Rue leading up to her immediate death.
Part 2: The arrow shots of Marvel and Rue
In the little time that has already passed in this scene, viewers have already experienced exposure to an intense action scene resulting in joy as Rue is saved from a dangerous trap and comforted by Katniss with a powerful and hopeful hug. This short-lived hope is quickly changed as Rue steps back from the hug and looks up desperately frightened off the frame to an unknown terror behind Katniss. As the camera switches to a cautioned expression on Katniss’s face, we are placed directly in the middle of Rue, Katniss and soon to be seen Marvel. We find out what scares Rue at the same time as Katniss, when she turns and Marvel is revealed. Being placed in the action and having the same surprise and point of view as Katniss certainly adds a shocking factor for the audience. Katniss bends down to dodge the arrow Marvel has shot in their direction, before grabbing an arrow and successfully shooting Marvel to his death.
Once again, our emotions are jerked as we develop this sense of hope that the two have once again overcome a danger. However, Katniss turns around with a look of tension and pauses for a second while we eagerly wait to see what has caused this facial expression. We continue to wait as the camera shows another close-up of Rue’s pitiful face. Finally, we are shown what has happened as the angle changes to a shot of Rue and the arrow penetrating her torso. After developing a sense of hope for Rue twice now, first for being released from the trap, and second after Marvel is shot, it is here that this rollercoaster of hope for the little girl is completely terminated. With such a desperate shot of Rue removing her arrow, we are given a lower point of view as Katniss is placed under Rue, reminding us that Rue was shot because Katniss bent down to dodge her death. This installs not only a feeling of pity for Rue, but also for Katniss who we know feels guilt for accidentally allowing Rue to be shot in attempt to save her own life.
Part 3: Katniss comforting Rue and Rue’s death
To allow viewers to take in what has just happened, the pace of the scene greatly slows down. Rue falls backward to mimic the feelings of Katniss and the audience as we all take a deep breath after being overwhelmed with such a shocking image and the knowledge that Rue is soon to no longer exist as a living character in this story and relationship. Here, close-up shots of each individual quickly change back and forth to strengthen the emotions we are receiving form the characters’ situation. Because we are focused closely on one emotion after another, instead of the emotions filling less than half the frame with a wider angle shot of both Katniss and Rue, our reactions as viewers are much stronger. Body language also continues to play a major role in this scene, and the characters’ relationship, as Katniss embraces Rue and delicately touches her wound and face. Rue looks so desperately up toward Katniss and a single tear is shed from her eye. This shot is so close to Rue that almost the rest of the frame is filled with the darkness of Katniss’s black jacket, directing your attention to nothing but Rue’s expression and a soft touch of Katniss’s hand. The way in which Rue looks up with her big eyes and eyelashes illustrates her youth and helplessness, installing more pity in those watching the scene.
After Katniss and Rue exchange a few words, we see Katniss look over to a dead Marvel, foreshadowing the future of Rue. With this shot and the entirety of the scene, the setting is a dark, gloomy green color. Green is symbolic of life, and the fact that the green is so dark and shaded in this scene shows somewhat of an anti-life mood. This color compliments the tone of death and sad emotions viewers experience. It is almost as if we should be happy for Katniss for surviving, but we can’t because Rue is dead, just like all the living plants and green surrounding them should be vibrant and lively, but it is obscured by this darkness.
As Katniss sings, the shots transition to Rue’s point of view as she looks up at the sky. To depict Rue’s fight to stay alive, this shot runs in and out of focus before eventually fading out into entire whiteness. In these images, a small portion of Katniss’s face is included in the frame to remind viewers of their relationship and the fact that Katniss will continue to live after Rue dies. Watching the screen fade out of focus into the white is painful to watch as our eyes stress to create focus, paralleling the pain Rue and Katniss are experiencing, and our sympathies for them. This first person point of view for death is meaningful as it goes beyond a typical third person point of view and visually places us in Rue’s agony.
Part 4: Katniss Post Rue’s Death
As soon as Rue dies and Katniss gently closes Rue’s eyes, we are immediately given a wide angle shot to remind us that Katniss is once again alone in the unfamiliar forest fighting for her life.
To conclude this scene, we are given more close-up, intimate shots of Katniss as she grieves over what has just happened. Her hair is frazzled and out of place, contributing to the overall stress she is experiencing. Seeing Katniss so pitiful and shaky in this lonely setting reaches out to viewers causing feelings of sympathy. These shots of Katniss continue for over 40 seconds, allowing viewers to think and truly take in what is happening. Dragging out this scene is surely painful to watch.
Ross was successful in his attempt to evoke emotions in viewers with his use of close-up shots, a dark, ironic setting, and his ability to place viewers in the action using camera angles and a first person perspective for the death shot. Using these aspects and other visual imagery, he built up the hopes of viewers, changed this hope into desperation, brought back hope and then concluded the scene with a pitiful lonely character, evilly manipulating with the emotions of viewers to show an engaging story.
“Rue’s Death.” MovieClips. MovieClips. Web. 28, February 2013.