Harry Potter and the movies

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1
writers: Steve Kloves, J.K. Rowling
director: David Yates

The audience was mostly full of twenty-something girls. All eagerly awaiting the screening. The opening shot - the extreme close up of the eyes was strong but also suspicious. Something about it was too much, too fast, too eager and too cheap. “Oh boy, somebody is going to treat me as if I was an idiot”, somebody sighed next to me. As the story was unfolding there were occasional giggles and some smart-ass remarks, yet all got quiet fast. The screen took charge over the hormones, the nervousness of energy, the tiredness and wiggling of the bodies. All of us became subjected to the shiny beets dangling in front of our eyes, moving “24 frames per second” (or whatever visual trick this posh digitally equipped movie theater offered). A few times the audience even laughed at a few lame jokes.

Additional and clearly unintentional laughs the audience awarded to some particularly clumsy staging. Those laughs spoke plenty: we go to the movies to be visually hypnotize, mesmerize and spellbound by succession of sounds and images. The faster, the slicker and the more intriguing the elements the better, however once the human behavior on screen rings false - we are merciless.

I was shocked by the lifelessness of the young characters. They mostly behaved (with the exception of Ron Weasly) as if totally surprised that they are not in a proper vampire movie or something. Somehow all the charm of the first installments of the series was gone. I understand that final confrontation with the evil Lord Vordemort is a serious matter but the movie wasted plenty of time for idle sitting around anyway.

After the screening the audience was borderline disappointed. “I wasn’t floored”, “It was OK, but I can’t wait for the second part”, “The book was better” - were mostly the comments I overheard. Afterwards I spoke to a ten year old, a huge fan of Harry Potter. When I said “but the film was so sad, wasn’t it”, his face for a second clouded - for this short moment he allowed the reality of the film to surface, but then it quickly passed. I suspect that for him the fun of the film was not in its execution but in the subject matter, in the young character of Harry Potter, in the wonderful initial world created by J.K. Rowling. Besides, what's the film's reality? Perhaps our yearnings that we bring into a movie theater are way more important than the skills with which stories flicker on the screen.

In "Deathly Hallows 1" shrewd marketing and our collective eagerness to carry on with magic, innocence and charm triumphed over quality. We can pretty sure envision the second part. It will be laud, fast, furious and victorious. In the human department it most likely is going to be so-so. (There is no reason to change anything or anybody since the formula brings in buckets of cash anyway.) And guess what? We are all going to be there. Glued to flickering images. With sweaty hands and glittering eyes. Gasping at the shinny screen.

Do we love Harry Potter series despite its steady turn to morose and grim, or because of it? Let’s hope the turn does not announce some upcoming collective shadow.

1 comment:

  1. Oh come on, new Harry isn't that bad :) It was pretty well-made, I even enjoyed it on some level and if I had to put on a review of it - it would be a positive one. The problem is that so much of Rowling's rich literary world has been lost. Having been confronted with its incredible vastness and then seeing what Mr. Yates gracefully brought on screen one cannot help but feel existential pain inside :) The characters and the screenplay are surprisingly lifeless. The humor, as you said is lame and, by the way, completely unnecesarry and even if it was it should've been used in the right moments - it's not. And because of it large part of the ominous atmosphere from the last volume of Rowling's series has been misguided and lost. David Yates, who took the director's helm since part 5 has disappointed. Again. And again with the same mistakes. What a heck.
    BUT. The cinematography is beautiful, action scenes are perfectly staged, supporting performances are intruiging and there are three moments that succeed over the movie itself - opening shot of Hermione wiping out her parents' memory, her and Harry's dance in the tent (only, as far as I noticed, really meaningful and right deviation from the literary source) and the stunning animated sequence illustrating the Story Of Three Brothers read by Hermione. In other words, the film defends itself with details.
    Nevertheless, it's just painful to see what Hollywood producers, if they're not the right ones, can do with a beautiful source material like this and turn it into a pseudo-dark, only-surface-lickening excuse for a fantasy drama. And the vision of what distuinguished directors such as Tim Burton, Terry Gilliam, Alfonso Cuaron (who made the third, and probably best of HP films), Steven Spielberg or even Polanski could do with this material still mocks me at nights.
    Best regards to you, I still hope we can put together a movie someday :)