New 'Hunger Games' transforms German locations into Panem 2
Berlin's Olympiastadion got a CGI makeover for 'The Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds & Snakes'. Image: Lionsgate/LEONINE Studios
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New 'Hunger Games' transforms German locations into Panem

"The Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds & Snakes" features Germany's imposing Nazi, socialist, modernist or post-industrial architecture as filming locations.
Scott Roxborough | Nov 17 2023

Eight years after Katniss Everdeen fired her last arrow, "Hunger Games" fans are going back to Panem. "The Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds & Snakes," a prequel to the original four-film franchise, opens in theaters worldwide this week. 

Based on the 2020 novel of the same name by "Hunger Games" author Suzanne Collins, the film is set 64 years before the events of the first movie.

The plot follows the events that will lead a young Coriolanus Snow to become the tyrannical President of Panem (a role played by the satanical Donald Sutherland in the original films).

In the new film, Tom Blyth plays Snow as an ambitious 18-year-old from a once-proud family who is assigned to mentor Lucy Gray Baird (Rachel Zegler), the female tribute from impoverished District 12 in the 10th annual Hunger Games — the bloody battle royal that is the centerpiece of each of the films in the series.

When Lucy Gray defiantly sings during the reaping ceremony, where Hunger Games tributes are chosen, she becomes an instant star, and Snow sees an opportunity to turn the odds in their favor. But, as the movie's tagline says, only time will reveal who is a songbird, and who is a snake. 

Tom Blyth and Rachel Zegler star as Coriolanus Snow and Lucy Gray Baird in 'The Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds & Snakes'
Tom Blyth and Rachel Zegler star as Coriolanus Snow and Lucy Gray Baird in 'The Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds & Snakes'. Image: Lionsgate/LEONINE Studios

Which Berlin landmarks feature in 'Hunger Games'?

Most of "The Ballad of Songbirds & Snakes" was shot in Germany, with some of its capital's most impressive landmarks standing in for the fading grandeur of post-war Panem. 

Berlin's Karl-Marx-Allee is a monumental boulevard that was designed to showcase the prestige of communist East Germany, and from 1949 to 1961 was called Stalinallee, after Soviet leader Joseph Stalin.

Strausberger Platz, an impressive roundabout on the boulevard, can be recognized 30 seconds within in the trailer — with several CGI elements adding to its totalitarian allure.

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Berlin's Olympiastadion in Charlottenburg is now home to the Hertha BSC football team, but the stadium was first built by the Nazis for the 1936 Summer Olympics. 

The awesome, imposing building, with its neo-classical columns — a Nazi take on Greek architecture — has served as a backdrop for several films in the past, including the Marvel movie "Captain America: Civil War" and the Bollywood action epic "Don 2," starring Shah Rukh Khan.

It's easy to see why "The Hunger Games" producers found it a good fit for evoking a tyrannical nation struggling to be free. 

Rachel Zegler posted a picture of herself in costume outside the twin columns of the Olympiastadion's East Gate. 

The Veterinary Anatomy Theater, part of Berlin's Humboldt University, was constructed in 1790 as a veterinary medical training facility.

The building, designed by architect Carl Gotthard Langhans, is now a protected landmark. Since the restoration was completed in 2012, it is open to the public and often used for art exhibitions.

The Veterinary Anatomy Theater, part of Berlin's Humboldt University
The Veterinary Anatomy Theater, part of Berlin's Humboldt University. Image: Hannibal Hanschke/dpa/picture alliance

The central building, with its domed and staged lecture hall, is a masterpiece of Prussian early classicism and proved irresistible for "The Hunger Games" scouts.

Interestingly, the 2005 sci-fi film "Aeon Flux," starring Charlize Theron, used the exact same location for one of its scenes. 

Berlin's Veterinary Anatomy Theater serves as the Academy, the elite secondary school in the Capitol
Berlin's Veterinary Anatomy Theater serves as the Academy, the elite secondary school in the Capitol. Image: Courtesy of Lionsgate

A crematorium might seem an unlikely spot to shoot a Hollywood blockbuster, but this building, designed by the renowned German architect Fritz Eisel and opened in 1999, is both visually stunning and emotionally evocative.

The Crematorium Baumschulenweg's minimalist modernist style is meant to create a functional and dignified space for people to mourn and say farewell to their departed love ones. For a filmmaker, it can also evoke a near-future world, just a few steps removed from our own. 

The modernist architecture of the Crematorium Baumschulenweg is in the spotlight in this scene
The modernist architecture of the Crematorium Baumschulenweg is in the spotlight in this scene. Image: Courtesy of Lionsgate

'Hunger Games' locations elsewhere in Germany

"The Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds & Snakes" crisscrossed Germany to find shooting locations suitable for the luxurious Capitol and the wastelands of the outer districts.

The film shot some exteriors at the Landschaftspark in Duisburg, North Rhine-Westphalia in western Germany. The site of a former coal plant shut down in 1985, the area has been turned into a public park with its industrial machinery — including a 230-foot (70-meter) platform surveying the landscape — open to the public. 

The Landschaftspark Duisburg, on site of a shuttered coal plant, played Panem in the new 'Hunger Games' film.
The Landschaftspark Duisburg, on site of a shuttered coal plant, played Panem in the new "Hunger Games" film. Image: CHROMORANGE/picture alliance

In eastern Germany, the cast and crew shot some interior scenes at the V√∂lkerschlachtdenkmal, the Monument to the Battle of the Nations, in Leipzig. 

One of the largest war memorials in Europe, the monument was erected in 1913 to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the Battle of Leipzig in October 1813. A coalition of armies from Russia, Prussia, Austria and Sweden, led by Tsar Alexander I of Russia and the Austrian general Karl Philipp, Prince of Schwarzenberg, defeated Napoleon's troops.

There were German soldiers fighting on both sides and the battle, which marked the beginning of Napoleon's downfall, is often used as emblematic of the senselessness of war itself. 

The Monument to the Battle of the Nations is one of Leipzig's most prominent landmarks
The Monument to the Battle of the Nations is one of Leipzig's most prominent landmarks. Image: Peter Schickert/picture alliance

Germany is not the only country playing Panem in the new "Hunger Games" film. The film also shot several scenes in Poland, notably at the Centennial Hall in Wroclaw, a grand and suitably imposing concrete landmark whose central feature is a 75-foot-high (23-meter-high) dome topped with a lantern of glass and steel. 

Edited by: Elizabeth Grenier