Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Dave and the Deathly Hallows

We joined the madding crowd last weekend and went to see Harry Potter 7a.

As with all of the other movies in this series it was well done and entertaining, though for the budget that they had you’d think they could have sprung for a few more lights. Yes, I get it – it’s dark and brooding and the atmosphere is supposed to reflect that, but after a while you start wishing that you could see what was going on.

I spend enough of my life bumbling around in the dark. I don’t need to go out of my way to experience that vicariously.

We took the girls with us this time, as they are now plenty old enough to enjoy the films in a way that they weren’t when this whole series started. It’s astonishing to realize that the Potter films have been going on for the better part of a decade now, and the books for nearly two. We even made it something of a festival weekend, watching Potter 5 and 6 at home before heading out to the theater for 7a. I don’t even try to remember the titles anymore. 

I’ve enjoyed them all, though – Rowling is a better story-teller than she is a writer, and she managed to create a fairly textured world that became a character in its own right in her stories and peopled that world with characters that you could care about. The movies have done a good job of capturing that.

My favorite characters are actually minor ones, the ones that flesh out the world that the main characters take for granted. They seem more real to me, and more interesting. Or maybe it’s just because I know I’m not the sort who’d become one of the heroes – if I ended up as a character in a movie like this, my credit line would probably read “third good guy from the left, classroom scene” or something like that.

Yet my favorite scene in this film was one that involved just main characters.

And no, at this point I’m not worried about spoilers. The book was a major best seller three years ago and has entered the culture as a point of reference, and the movie follows as closely as time and space will allow. If you don’t know the story by now that’s your issue, not mine. Read on at your peril.

For much of the movie Harry and Hermione are running from the bad guys, just the two of them, camping out in one of those marvelous tents that they have in their world, the ones that are so much bigger on the inside than they are on the outside. They’re cut off, even from their respective significant others, and it starts to weigh on them. They’re teenagers in the film, after all, and young love cuts deeply.

And at one point, with a song playing on the radio, Harry gets Hermione to dance with him.

This scene could have been such a disaster. And yet it worked out so well.

Several people have asked me if I thought the director was trying to imply that there was something romantic between the two characters, and that’s precisely the way the scene could have been fouled up. And you know that if this were not based on a best-seller with legions of fans who would picket any studio dumb enough to make serious alterations to the basic storyline, or if this were an American film, with our customary mandatory need to see happily-ever-after romance in a world that usually does not support such claims, that’s what would have happened. But that’s not how they handled it, and for that I was glad.

They dance for a bit – two sad and lonely people who care about each other and are trying to cheer each other up, and for a brief space it works. And then it stops working. There is pain you just have to experience until it stops, and Hermione turns away. It’s a very bittersweet moment, the kind you rarely find in films of any description anymore, let alone films aimed at young adults and kids.

I really liked how they let Hermione turn away into her own pain, and how they let Harry understand that, accept it, and still be there for her.

It was a heartbreakingly lovely moment, and it was the one I took with me as I left.


Unknown said...

I was thrilled to hear that a British company would produce the films for just the reason you described.
Life is hard sometimes. And then you go on.

Unknown said...

You're right, Rowling is NOT a good writer. I wish I had a quarter for every inappropriate adverbs she uses. But damn, she can tell a story.

Megan said...

I've read all of the books several times, and it's funny: the moment that stuck with me was the dancing scene you described, which I don't think was in the book at all. Normally, I'd be annoyed about additions to the story.

David said...

It's been a while since I read book 7, but I don't think that scene was in the book either. This makes it even more remarkable on the part of the filmmakers, for doing it so well.

I think they were just looking for a simple way to depict something that takes several chapters to build up slowly in the book. That's the advantage of a visual medium, I guess - you can compress a lot.

So it wasn't really an addition, now that I think about it, so much as a summary.