Over the last several months, it’s sadly come to my attention that there’s a vital part of The Mockingjay story that keeps getting looked over, or forgotten from the fan perspective. The music, or most importantly, The Hanging Tree.
I’m no music expert, But I’m a music fan– I listen to all sorts of genres, but one genre I listen to in particular has a thread that weaves its way throughout The Hunger Games series, traditional American folk music, or Americana. Music that originated in Scotland, England, and Ireland, but immigrated along with the influx of immigrants from the British isles in the 18th century, and earlier to North America. The Hanging Tree however is an original song, penned by Suzanne Collins, but in the style of the folk music that amazingly was preserved for more than 200 years in the Appalachian mountains, purely by the isolated nature of the location, and its people.
The Appalachian mountains is where District 12 is located though, so that means that if and when we hear The Hanging Tree sung on-screen in Mockingjay Part 1, or 2, it may sound like this, rather than the multitudes of fan-made versions that from my experience are decent, but rarely take traditional folk rhythms, and lyrical cadences into account.
The Hanging Tree is a haunting song, a dirge, like “O Death”, which was brought back to the worlds attention when it was used in the Cohen Brother’s film O Brother Where Art Thou in 2000. That was 15 years ago though, and nothing like the Oscar winning O Brother Where Art Thou soundtrack has come about since. And, get this– T Bone Burnett the producer of The Hunger Games soundtrack, produced O Brother. The Hunger Games soundtrack was good, I’ll give it that– I like to pretend however that it was better, and that certain pop singers had not recorded certain songs that were written and performed by a certain other Oscar winning singer/ song writer originally. The Hanging Tree, like the song I’ve feigned to above, will probably get the same treatment– erm, how do I say this nicely–? Jennifer Lawrence is not the best singer, in fact in the film The House at the End of the Street where she played a teenager with musical proclivities– they dubbed her voice out during the portions of the film where she was required to sing. So, I think for The Hanging Tree, we’re going to get someone else’ pipes being heard by that placid lake. That is unless Jen has become an amazing singer since House at the End of the Street was filmed.
Until then, if you’re at all interested in hearing and seeing more American traditional folk music performed on film, I recommend the 2000 film Songcatcher, O Brother Where Art There of course, Cold Mountain, and Inside Llewyin Davis.
Them There Eyes