Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Time to Re-Read Harry Potter

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows” flies by. Its running time is over two hours, but you won’t notice. One minute the old gang was gathering in the empty Dursley house drinking Polyjuice Potion, and the next the movie’s over and the tide has turned the story even darker than it started.

The Deathly Hallows” needs long shots in silence, quiet moments where you can tick off the seconds during which no character speaks. Many movies need that, but many filmmakers and studios and producers don’t allow for it. “The Deadly Hallows” achieves these moments, and, hard as it may be to believe, these moments show us that it is not only for pure profit that the producers of the Harry Potter series have chosen to split the last book into two movies. This story needs two parts to do justice to the resolution of the 7-book, 8-movie series. The characters deserve this.

I’m not going to write an in-depth review, especially since the film only opened (quite stupendously) five days ago. No spoilers here. Well, I hope not. The film opens with sad relocations and silent separations. Once again, characters we like go and die on us, and everyone, including the audience, must go on without them. Bill and Fleur’s wedding at the Weasley home goes ahead as scheduled despite the sadness. Life and people -- even witches and wizards-- go on.

The growing evil strikes again, and our three heroes are separated from everyone and everything they’ve known. Harry, Hermione and Ron find themselves on their own, without their network of supportive adults and fellow students, and continue on the quest bequeathed to them by Dumbledore – to find and destroy Voldemort’s Horcruxes.

There are moments when the Harry Potter book/film series puts me in mind of the Buffy the Vampire Slayer television series: Although both Harry Potter and Buffy Summers are meant (by fate if nothing else) to be lone warriors, they win friends and influence people, remarkably loyal people. And smart! These are people we want to watch year after year, developing relationships that are deep and complex. We’ve watched these children grow up into a hard cold world, and hope they’re smart enough, strong enough, and good enough to survive.

This Harry Potter film isn’t full of laughs, although it has a few – what film that includes Rupert Grint could not. If Daniel Radcliffe has grown into a pretty young man, Grint has grown into a brawny hunk, Ron’s bad wardrobe notwithstanding. Emma Watson’s Hermione is still a delightful and strong leader, and her feelings for Ron are well played here.

We don’t see much of the adults in this film, but that’s a large part of the point. Harry, Hermione, and Ron must grow up in so many ways, and fend for themselves. They must become the adults.

A favorite of mine, Helen McCrory, is here as Lucius Malfoy’s wife, in seconds going from frightened to vicious. Jason Isaacs is wonderful as ever but more so as a trembling Lucius Malfoy. Tom Felton as the dreaded Draco is even better than usual here – yearning, afraid, and somehow far closer to decent than we or he could have thought. Helena Bonham Carter is just right as the mad Bellatrix. I’ve enjoyed her work more as she left behind normal women and moved to slightly mad to totally insane ones. I wonder what her young Queen Mum will be like in the upcoming “The King’s Speech.”

The film’s palette and light are in shades and shadows of darkest nature. The cinematographer Eduardo Serra gives us the wide open spaces of this small island, more terrifyingly lonely space than our heroes have experienced before.

Cheers to director David Yates, who kept the film moving briskly while taking the time to develop the growing personalities and relationships of Harry, Hermione, and Ron.

And cheers to Steve Kloves for a tight script accomplishing the impossible task of bringing the feeling and flavor of the story so far to the screen, and ending with a cliffhanger just when we needed it.

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1,” the seventh of eight films, is vastly superior in my mind to #6 (“Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince”), and makes me impatient for summer when Part 2 will open. But then the series will be done, so never mind. I’ll wait quite patiently.

~ Molly Matera, turning off the computer, but not the light. I have an urge to read the whole series again.

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