Does the cannibalism happen in Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes?

Young Snow and Tigris in Ballad of Songbirds and SnakesLionsgate

The Hunger Games prequel book, The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes, ventures into gruesome territory, but is the movie the same – meaning does it show the cannibalism?

Welcome, welcome! The time has come for the 10th Annual Hunger Games – or should we say, for the new Hunger Games prequel movie, The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes.

This prequel novel, which originally came out in 2020, features the origin story of President Snow and how the Games came to be fully formed.

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This includes the depiction of the “Dark Days,” aka the Civil War that happened between the Districts and the Capitol before the games began. These Dark Days get truly dark, with some Capitol citizens even resorting to cannibalism to stay alive. But is this depicted in the movie?

Do we see cannibalism in the Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes movie?

Kind of. Cannibalism is alluded to, but we don’t actually see human flesh get physically eaten.

See, in the book, author Suzanne Collins wrote, “It had been the last year of the war, when the siege had reduced the Capitol to cannibalism and despair. Even the lima beans were running low, and it had been months since anything resembling meat had made its way to their table.”

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We later read a scene where a teenage Snow, who is now mentoring for the Games, bumps into Persephone Price, who is the daughter of cannibal Nero Price. Snow saw Nero hack off a dead maid’s leg to eat during the dark days, and because of this, he cannot shake his judgement of Persephone.

We get a similar scene in the beginning of the movie, although Persephone isn’t a character in the film. A young Snow and Tigris run through the war-torn Capitol, looking for food. They then see a man – presumably Nero – approach a dead body, and hack a limb off with a cleaver. Snow asks Tigris what he’s doing, and Tigris simply infers to what we’ve already figured out.

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You can actually see glimpses of this scene in the movies trailer, which can be watched below:

Dexerto had a chance to speak with the director and producer of The Ballad of Songbirds & Snakes, Francis Lawrence and Nina Jacobson respectively. In said interview, we discussed the violence of the movie as a whole, including the cannibalism:

Francis Lawrence: I think there’s two sides to it. Part of what’s great about these books is Suzanne [Collins] has written these really thematic books for teenagers, and then she doesn’t pull any punches. But the truth is you want these scenes to have some intensity, but you also have to make sure they’re not so intense that you don’t get an R-rating, and you alienate the teenage audience. So I always sort of focus on the emotional impact of violence, as opposed to blood and gore or whatever. And you know there’s always a little bit of a balance, and almost all the movies I’ve done, the Hunger Games ones have gotten R-ratings first and then we have to work with the Ratings Board to sort of pull back a bit.

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Nina Jacobson: In order for these books to really service their themes and the movies, and have the impact, you can’t soften the story that’s being told. It would be wrong, completely wrong to kind of paper over and you know gloss up what is in fact a brutal practice of the Hunger Games. And at the same time, we don’t want to be exploitative, we don’t want to be guilty of the sins of the Capitol ourselves. And we do want to appeal to a really wide audience. And you know, we were, there was no way we weren’t going to get a PG-13, and we were gonna do what we had to do to get there.

The prequel follows this synopsis: “Years before he becomes the tyrannical president of Panem, 18-year-old Coriolanus Snow remains the last hope for his fading lineage. With the 10th annual Hunger Games fast approaching, the young Snow becomes alarmed when he’s assigned to mentor Lucy Gray Baird from District 12. Uniting their instincts for showmanship and political savvy, they race against time to ultimately reveal who’s a songbird and who’s a snake.”

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The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes is now in cinemas. Check out our other Hunger Games coverage below:

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