I have a strange affinity for this movie. It’s as if the other three have dabbled a bit in the magic of Hogwarts, but this one absolutely and completely comprehends how special a place it truly is. Maybe I like it so much because it seems like the best adaptation out of the lot, or maybe because I enjoy the mystery that pervades this particular story so much, or perhaps it is simply the first time a director got it completely and utterly right. Most of the other movies have their moments that seem to drag but this one doesn’t. From the opening scene to the final dramatic conclusion I am spellbound as rivalries are pushed into the background, as friendship spats are mended, and as Voldemort returns to human form. Well, as human as he can get with only 1/7th of a soul.
The only complaint I have, in fact, is that the 80’s Beatles hairstyles of all the boys bug me. I have never liked that style and have to repress the urge to pull out a pair of scissors and start cutting whenever I see them. But once you get into it, that doesn’t really matter much. What does matter is the purpose and flow behind the story. I love what the director has done with the camera. I remember sitting in the theater and seeing the shot for the first time as everyone climbs to the top of the hill through the long grass to the “manky old boot” sitting there. I felt a sense of awe, of beauty, of the serenity of an early morning and the company of friends… and I knew the adventure was about to begin. I love the quieter things that have been added, that make Hogwarts so special. The moving portraits are back! And the library… magnificent. There the young people are, discussing things quite seriously, while books are whizzing about in the air around them with vapid trails that indicate Summing Charms from other students. Entire stacks drift past lazily, shuffling about as books fly in and out of them.
You see, THAT is Hogwarts. Where extraordinary things are ordinary for its students. Where something is always happening in the background whether or not the trio are involved. Where Neville is practicing his waltz and Snape is hovering over the students during their free period, smacking heads whenever whispering starts up. (And for the naysayers who claim he would never do that — oh, he SO WOULD DO THAT!) And as much as I love all the movies, individually and collectively, none of the others really understood this about Hogwarts. This has the most “magic” of the series in many respects because not all of the “magic” is needed to further the plot. It’s brilliant, and it makes me feel as if I am there.
Back when Potter was a fairly new phenomenon and I had not yet asked permission to read it, I recall coming across an article about the “evils of witchcraft” in the series which used a passage from The Goblet of Fire out of context in order to shock and mislead its audience. It was the scene in the graveyard in which a school boy is killed, and Wormtail uses dark magic to restore Voldemort to semi-human form. Reading that for myself several years later, it was still harrowing — and it’s harrowing to see on screen. But it’s supposed to be harrowing. It’s supposed to be shocking and horrible and offensive, because that’s the point: that’s what evil is all about. This is not the hero of the story, this is his rival, his greatest enemy, the Lucifer of the magical world. Voldemort. A being so evil that starting in his teen years he chipped off pieces of his soul by murdering people to obtain a false sense of immortality. So evil that he broke into the Potters’ house in the middle of the night on Halloween and murdered Harry’s parents before attempting to kill him — a child. So evil he murdered his own father.
Tell me, what about that scene is attractive or would make children want to practice dark magic? Unless they are demented, cruel, monstrous creatures anyway — nothing about it is attractive. Not Harry being forced to relinquish some of his blood, not Wormtail slicing off his own hand, not the Death Eaters standing around laughing as Voldemort uses a torture curse on a fourteen year old. Not the sight of Cedric’s dead body thudding to the ground, or the eerie surroundings. I can understand a parents’ concern… it is a dark passage but Rowling trusted her readers could handle it, that they needed to know there is true and horrific evil in this world. Throughout her series, she slowly introduced us to this realization and to death, in an attempt to show children that even in loss, the greatest battles are worth fighting. In her world, the heroes do good. They have their faults, throw temper tantrums, fight about stupid, petty things, and make frequent mistakes, but their goal is to do good, to be good, to fight for good. And her villains are very, very evil, like evil truly is.
Evil isn’t pretty, but Rowling does not intend her audience to emulate it.