The Director of Photography (DP) of The Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes broke down the film’s twist for Coriolanus Snow.
This article contains spoilers for The Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes.
For most of the film, Snow is a fairly relatable character who seems to have some good nature in him—as evidenced by his connection to Lucy Gray and her struggle in the arena. But that part of his character doesn’t match the sinister person he’ll go on to become, as seen in the original Hunger Games series.
The big change occurs after he’s been exiled from The Capital, living his days as an army grunt in District 12. Things get so bad that he almost runs away with Lucy Gray.
However, she starts to see through Snow’s questionable choices and motivations, leading to a cataclysmic fracture between the two—and a near mental breakdown for the future President of Panem.
That Big Snow Twist In Songbirds & Snakes Act 3
In an exclusive interview with The Direct's Russ Milheim, The Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes Director of Photography Jo Willems commented on the big twist for Coriolanus Snow at the end of the movie.
During the third act, Snow suffers what amounts to be a complete mental breakdown as paranoia takes over, and he looks to kill his former love, Lacy Gray.
Willem noted this sequence is "probably one of [his] favorite scenes in the movie:"
“I mean, it's probably one of my favorite scenes in the movie. Because Tom [Blyth] went for it. And, you know, these, these movies are so structured, and they're so written to be executed in a certain way. Without, there's not too much leeway, but he really kind of lived that moment."
According to the DP, director Francis Lawrence let the actor do his thing for multiple takes so that they could get it just right:
"And the camera operator, just like, he was there with him. And he put the camera like right underneath him and Francis [Lawrence], just let him do his thing. This went on for a while, [and did it a] few times. And it really shows."
"The perspective of the camera was looking sort of all the up in the trees," Willem explained while confirming that Snow had a "mental breakdown" in the devastating ending sequence, something that many fans had assumed:
"And also the way the perspective of the camera was looking sort of all the way up in the trees, and he's in this space where he--Yeah, it's pretty much a mental breakdown. It truly is one of my favorite scenes in the movie. Just also, visually, it all comes together. “
The Hunger Games cinematographer, who also worked on three of the original films in the franchise, then spoke about what else he enjoyed about the film's third act, including working in The Districts, something he described as being "nostalgic:"
“Also, in the third act, you do, you have the districts, and then you have this environment where the Covey, where they live, which is all in nature... To me, The Districts is always something nostalgic, even though it can be quite grimy and quite gritty and dark. And they work in the mines, but there is something nostalgic about them."
While the Districts are generally dirty and lived-in, the goal was for the local hangout, The Hob, to be a place of "warmth" and "fun" among that:
"Also, for example, all the things in Hob, all that warmth, where [Lucy's] performing... I wanted it to be sort of a fun place but definitely warm... Obviously, you also have the military, or the training ground for, or wherever Snow is living, has sort of just military field. We shot it all in Germany."
To contrast with The Capital's glamor and The District's griminess, the filmmakers aimed to make nature "as idyllic as possible" so that it seemed like a possibility for Snow's future—if that's how things played out:
"It has three parts. [The] nature, we wanted it to be as idyllic as possible, as inviting as possible, and something as a possibility. Like, do you want to live in nature? Do you want to be in this place? Or he wants to go back to the capitol and live the life of a politician or military man or whatever his future holds? Ultimately, that's where it does split up… He makes his choice, ultimately.”
Willems recalled a scene that didn't make it into the movie that saw Coriolanus properly introduced to the whole Covey before going to find Lucy Gray out in the fields:
"One of the scenes that was in the movie, actually, that was deleted was when Coriolanus goes and looks for Rachel [Zeglar's Lucy Gray] in the field. There was a scene before that. There was like the whole introduction to the Covey and all of those people. And that ended up getting [cut]. You know, I mean, movies are-- this movie is already it's [2 hours and 45 minutes long]... So you know, you have to kind of keep the pace up.”
Did the Movie Stick the Landing—And What's Next for Panem?
Some shared their opinions that the movie The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes did a better job with its final act than the original book.
Lots of fans felt the 180-twist for Snow came out of nowhere in the books, but the movie was able to better portray his gradual downfall. Audiences also seemed to connect more with Lucy Gray’s side of the equation as well.
At the end of the day, Songbirds and Snakes did a great job of giving audiences a glimpse into how President Snow started his journey to be one of the most infamous people in the entire series.
Now that this story has been told, what’s next for the world of Panem?
Well, if Suzanne Collins, the author of The Hunger Games, wants to tell another prequel, it would be fun to jump even further back into the past to see how Panem came to be in the first place—and what led it all to fracture into the Districts vs. The Capital.
Another approach would be to see what the world is like after Katniss’ original story came to a close. Are things better off, or is a new kind of trouble brewing?
The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes is now playing in theaters worldwide.