Well now, hasn’t Harry grown up? There is no arguing the case, I am a huge Harry Potter fan. I think the series has done so very much for children’s fiction and been a major cause in whole waves of children (and adults) returning to reading. The films have done a nice enough job of portraying the books so far but The Deathly Hallows Part One is THE film that all the others wish they could be. I always discount the first two, both filmed and written as their baby-faced content simply does not appeal to me. It was the third instalment, The Prisoner of Azkaban which brought the Potter franchise into its own and is the one I always recommend as a starting point for any still-would-be Rowling readers.
Azkaban introduces the real dark terror that tries to underpin everything that befalls our heroes and as the books and age progress, so too does the darkness. The films, obviously have followed suit but the child-world view and emphasis on magic has always taken the lead role. You may think this a bizarre comment to make as after all the stories are about magic, the weird and wonderful and directed at children. But the ‘fear’ of ‘He who must not be named’ has had to take a second place while the balance between light and dark plays out. The Deathly Hallows managed to relieve my frustration by finally succumbing to the terror and bleakness of Harry’s situation. Rather than merely portraying him as a rather annoying teenager sulking in corners (bizarrely enough, he rarely made himself a truly likeable hero in my mind) Harry has grown up; the magic and frivolity have finally taken a back seat while a true dramatic story unfolds.
I found this film far more sophisticated and emotional. It feels like there has been a huge switch to prove our three heroes as genuinely credible leads, as well as making them slightly more ‘Twilight-sexy‘ shall we say, for the teen market. I wouldn’t go as far to say that it is ‘gritty’, to suggest so would be laughable, but the tension is pressing from the very start and the opening scene (particularly with Hermione) is heart-wrenching. Being only half a book, it allows for a slower start, in fact the time taken in this film allows for the human element to shine through, the vulnerability which makes for some beautiful, moving scenes.
The other films have included stunning landscapes, but this film makes more use of its spectacular scenery. Moods and emotions are mirrored perfectly by the surroundings with most scenes depicting a cold beauty and shot in a grey light. Even the changes to The Ministry put you on edge with the very Stalinist styled monument which now stands centre stage. With ‘wobbly’ camera action (I’m sure there must be a technical term), long angles and slightly out of focus shots, the whole body has matured. It is definitely still a ‘teen’ tale, but all the additional growth makes this film very watchable for most adults.
Alongside this, the screenplay doesn’t play into the hands of none-potter-watchers/readers. Of course it is made so that you can view as a stand alone (more or less) but it assumes you are already on board. There is less ‘explanation’ of events or people because it expects you have read the book or at the very least seen a previous film. I think this is a strong aspect to Deathly Hallows because it is not bogged down with any backtracking or weight of information. There are items dropped in here and there from previous instalments, tying detail together subtly to add more importance (and in some ways purpose) to the six books which came before specifically, I feel, for those who have been with Harry from the beginning (or as close to it).
I was not an instant Harry reader, I didn’t want to read children’s books when I was University – the only time I have failed to see the point. It took until my third year and a desperate need for stress relief that these books were thrust into my hands. I read the first two happily as they were pleasant, if not a little pointless, reads. But the third sold me forever and am so glad it did, for this film is a must see; a true celebration of great teen fiction.