‘The Hunger Games’: Translating a Post-Apocolyptic World from Page to Screen (Part Two)

This is a little late but here comes part two – costumes that have been moderately changed. These ones are still noticeably similar to their descriptions but not fully accurate. A lot of the time costumes need to be altered for the actors comfort (like Katniss’s hunting jacket), or to fit more comfortably in the setting. Film is a completely different medium to books and a little wiggle room is always needed.

Katniss and Peeta's Parade Suits

The first important costume in the book is arguably Katniss and Peeta’s opening ceremony suits. ‘I’m in a simple black unitard that covers me from ankle to neck. Shiny leather boots lace up to my knees. But it’s the fluttering cape made of streams of orange, yellow and red and the matching headpiece that define this costume.’ (p. 81) The suits are later set on fire and instantly set up the ‘Girl on Fire’ nickname that becomes so important to the rest of the book series.

And that’s an instance where things don’t always translate [from book to film]. Boys don’t look good in what girls wear. So [we were] trying to have a similar look, but cut them differently so that Katniss has this beautiful figure and Peeta looks manly. It’s very hard in a chariot costume. So we tried to make it even a little bit more special than the book.

Katniss and Peeta Parade Suit2

The costumes are not wildly different from their description but are much “tougher” than unitards. They have the same basic shape but look like leather which is definitely more threatening/dangerous than lycra. The main change comes from the cape and headdress description. This is missing completely from the film costumes. The flames were computer generated to look as real and magical as possible, if a floaty cape and headdress had been included as well it would all have looked a ittle too fancy dress and child like. Yes, the characters are “children” but they’re also essentially being sent into battle. The description works in the book because it establishes a mood and the specifics can be set by the reader’s imagination – this is something that cannot be afforded with the film.

Katniss and Peeta's Training Suits

Then there are the practice costumes. In the book this is another instance where Katniss and Peeta ‘wearing exactly the same outfit’ (p. 107) is used to separate them from the other tributes. None of the other tributes are dressed the same – this continues the link that was set up by Cinna and Portia at the opening ceremony. In the book Katniss describes her training uniform: ‘Tight black trousers, a long-sleeved burgundy tunic and leather shoes.’ (p. 106) The training uniforms worn by all the tributes are not too dissimilar from this, colour wise at least – black “workout” trousers and tops with burgundy flashes. These costumes work much better for shooting – short sleeves mean greater flexibility for actors, short length tops have the same benefit. The decision to have all the tributes dressed the same I think is used to illustrate their helplessness in this situation and maybe to compensate for the differences in their arena gear (more on that later).

Katniss's Interview Dress2

Then there’s THE dress. The true ‘Girl on Fire’ dress. (A dress I’ve been requested to make for a friend!) ‘My dress is entirely covered in reflective precious gems, red and yellow and white with bits of blue that accent the tips of the flame design… The dress hangs in such a way that I don’t have to lift the skirt when I walk.’ (p. 146)

In the book, it’s described as being covered in flame-like jewels,” she says. ”Well, to me, that’s very dangerous, because it could be like a Dancing With the Stars dress, or it could be extremely heavy so she won’t be able to twirl. Certainly, the bottom of the dress is covered in Swarovski crystals. It’s got all this stuff, but when you first see her, I just wanted this image of what I call ‘the Gypsy moment,’ when Natalie Wood comes out in the blue dress in Gypsy. She’s only been in these boys’ clothes before that, and you go, ‘Oh my God, she’s actually gorgeous.’ And that was the moment I wanted [for Katniss].

Katniss's Interview Dress

The dress was Makovsky’s biggest problem to recreate from the descriptions given by Collins and I think she did an amazing job. They knew from the start that the flames on the dress were going to be created via computer generation so the twirling flames are already sorted. Then there’s the dress when Katniss first sits down. The feeling of flames is given through the sheen on the red fabric – fabric that looks like a mixture of red and orange depending on the light. Then there are the panels of sheer fabric at the back, the jewels stuck to her skin and the ruffle effect at the hem of the skirt. There is a feeling of a flame before the CG is shown. The shine and “feel” of the dress is there without it being so big that she seems ridiculous to the audience; particularly when compared to those living in the Capitol.

Then we come to a perfect example of a costume description being slightly altered to allow for visual communication.

Katniss's Arena Gear

In the book, [the Tributes] all wear exactly the same thing in exactly the same color [in the arena], says Makovsky. For film, that wasn’t gonna work well. You couldn’t tell who is who. Gary was very specific. He wanted each district to have their own color jacket and then they would all have the same color trousers. It was my problem to find a look that looked good on boys and girls, and from kids that are age 12 to age 18. That was a big problem. What looks good on all of these people and how do we create that? All the jackets were specifically dyed — that took forever just to find colors that would read in the woods.

The Careers in the Arena

Above you can see the Career tributes with their different coloured jackets. District 1 have dark khaki with yellow elements worn with a green t-shirt and District 2 have deep burgundy with red t-shirts. As Cato is the final challenge to winning The Hunger Games that red will highlight the contrast. Their final battle scene takes place at nighttime and Cato needs to stand out and be intimidating for Katniss and Peeta.

We hear the description of Katniss’ arena outfit – ‘simple tawny trousers, light green blouse, sturdy brown belt, and thin, hooded black jacket that falls to my thighs… The boots, worn over skintight socks…soft leather’ (p. 175 – 176) In the film this description isn’t too far removed from what Katniss and Peeta wear.

Katniss and Peeta Arena Gear

You can see from the photo that Katniss and Peeta are wearing dark khaki trousers rather than tawny, black t-shirts rather than a light green blouse/shirt and the black jacket isn’t quite thigh length because that would’ve been a little difficult for filming by restricting movement a little. So although the arena costumes have been slightly changed from their description, it is all perfectly understandable for a visual medium.

So part two is finally done and I will make a move on part three. Maybe it’ll come out before Catching Fire. That gives me six months so should be good.

S x

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