It is said that we all remember the significant moments in our lives. To include a book and film series among them seems shallow somehow, but to say that Harry Potter has impacted my life would be an understatement. Only those involved with it can fully comprehend my meaning, but somehow it gets under your skin, and into your heart, and latches onto your soul, and makes you experience a torrent of emotions each time you think about it. You smile as you remember the humor, you get teary-eyed when recalling those who have died, and through it all, the Boy Who Lived stays with you. I did not grow up with Harry Potter, but my children will.
The first film is something unique. It is not as powerful as later installments, but it gives the audience the sensation, the knowing, that they are on the brink of something truly wonderful. It is merely a taste of what is to come, a house of building blocks that are the foundation of everything Rowling has set into motion. I don’t know that audiences can truly appreciate the earlier films until having read the last book, and then being able to see the delicate plot lines the author put in place from the very beginning. I was struck once more by the simplicity of the characters, their introductions into our lives, the ironies and intentional moments that haunt us.
Like when McGongall says, “This boy will be famous… there won’t be a child in our world who doesn’t know his name.” Prophetic. Who could have ever imagined that the Boy Who Lived would become an international phenomenon? He originated on a train with a single thought and brought an imaginative author out of poverty — by fluke or intention? Maybe the time was right for a new hero, for us to believe in magic once more.
Hagrid flying in on his motorbike, with tiny Harry in his arms. Little could I know when I turned through the final chapters of the seventh and final book many years later that I would be reminded of this moment. Hagrid carries Harry into our lives, just as he carries Harry at the end, shedding great tears because he believes the boy is dead.
The innocent, “It’s the Dark Arts Snape fancies… he’s been after Quirrel’s job for years!” I could not have imagined the outcome of that, the poignant foreshadowing of book six, or the conclusion of Snape’s role in the series.
Or even the significance of Harry’s eyes. “You have your mother’s eyes.” Everyone tells him this. Lily’s eyes. But it was not until the end that we learned why it was so important, why it mattered, why one passage about looking into them melted our hearts and made us forgive all past wrongs.
Many things touch my heart about this first film. The children are so small, so vulnerable, so innocent — and yet so wonderful and curious and absurd and lovely. Hermione, the bookworm, the know-it-all, obsessed with perfect grades and being the teacher’s pet. Being expelled is the worst possible punishment in her mind, beyond even death. Ron, always ready with sarcasm and good humor, but with a heart of gold and great courage in spite of his fears. The younger boy overshadowed by his brothers. And of course, Harry, the boy who survived a terrible curse and is tremendously gifted, who is our hero, our martyr, our symbolic savior.
Then there are other faces and names — Neville, whose journey is small but whose fate is great, Dumbledore, McGonagall, Snape, Draco. So many names I count both among my friends and enemies. So many memories. So many bittersweet moments.
And then there is the instant almost forgotten by its viewers, important enough that it resonates in our souls. The reason Harry survived the death-curse: because his mother, with her beautiful eyes, died for him. She gave her life for him. And that made all the difference, for it unleashed a love so powerful it turned death upon its master and brought about his destruction. I knew then that Harry Potter was not evil. It could not be, when it was such a clear reflection of Truth. I understand reservations and caution. I welcome it. This is not a series for everyone, and any twinge of uncertainty should be heeded. But the beauties of it continue to touch my life, to remind me of what is good, and honest, and virtuous, and right in this world. There are, after all, as Hermine said, “More important things than books and cleverness… [like] friendship, and bravery…”
… and a young wizard who reminds us every day of Great and Important Truths.