Before I went to Korea, I drove around the country. I said a long, languid “see you later” to this country and many of the people I knew in it. The day I arrived in Chicago, a straight shot from Pittsburgh, I met up with Theresa. We saw Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince.
I wrote about it. I have a tendency to do that.
I have very little unique to say about Deathly Hallows, part one. (DH1). This is Yates’s third Harry Potter flick and Kloves’s seventh. Of Kloves’s twelve writing credits (“Part 2” is on this list) three of them are originals. His first three works were his own, followed by the screen adaptation of Michael Chabon’s “Wonder Boys.” And we all know how I feel about Michael Chabon. And Wonder Boys. (<3)
Then Kloves gave himself over to the Harry Potter series. As someone who, in various states of inebriation, will hushedly admit “I am a writer,” I like to think of the power of the person writing the screenplay. I understand that in big budget productions, there are script doctors. There are drafts upon drafts. Someone else might even have handed Kloves an outline and told him to “write the script from that.” I don’t know. Even though I know these things may be true, I like to think that the screenplaywrite is the person who sets the ground work for the magic that becomes a film. They are the first person to imagines how the scenes are going to fit together. How the hero will soulfully look into the eyes of their love interest.
At least, that’s how I think when I write scripts.
After learning that Kloves has been responsible in name for all of the scripts, I looked back on the series and asked myself “how did this happen?”
DH1 is plagued by the same disease of other Harry Potter movies: it feels -rushed-. It feels -forced-. It feels like it wasn’t planned. Rather than attacking the series with a plan, a whole plan, DH1 was looked at as something new and unique. When beginning to work on it, rather than being able to see the threads from earlier in the series, they all needed to be added and dealt with at once.
I am willing to give the team more slack on DH1. There were a lot of new threads to deal with as well.
Trying to fit everything in, even in the time they had, was hard. Important things were cut, and important things were added. In what feels like an effort to placate audiences, to give them as neat a stand alone package as possible (though I still have been unable to find a non-Fan, someone who doesn’t remember the books or hasn’t seen all the movies willing to see DH1 in the name of science), loose ends from previous installments have been left alone. (I could make a list, but it doesn’t seem worthwhile.)
Instead of focusing on adding these lost moments, a lot of screen time is devoted to long shots of the UK in the winter. These are meant to evoke feelings of isolation. Helplessness. Hopelessness. We are supposed to understand that they are alone and have no direction.
That’s how I felt the plot was going.
It is my predilection to enjoy those derelict, desolate shots of cold, grey expanses and falling apart buildings. However, I don’t find these to be acceptable replacements for the plot moving along.
There is a lot of criticism out there about how Rowling tells her stories–how she moves them–and how the movies tell and move their stories. The stories feel as though they were conceived of with an end, and a beginning, but not a lot in between. When faced with the middle, bits and pieces of it fill in and fall into place, and sometimes they don’t at all. The characters searching, with no ideas, for the horcruxes, is how I feel about the plot. When reading the book, I felt as though I was searching for it in each page. Finally, I was lucky when something that was of a magic never before mentioned in the books fell out and made the characters lucky.
One of the things that was, for the most part, great about Harry, and his universe, was that he wasn’t really all that special. Sure, he was the chosen one, but he was chosen. He was chosen by Voldemort to be his enemy. He was a rather normal kid. Often, when Harry did something special, it was quickly followed by someone else doing the same thing. He learned to make a patronus, and people were impressed, but others learned to do the same thing and some did it more quickly than he had. Harry was brave, but he wasn’t especially more brave than other characters. He hadn’t been raised with a deep seeded fear of the villain in the same way everyone else was. He wasn’t especially more “clever” than anyone else. He wasn’t more crafty. That is to say, he didn’t think steps ahead of everyone else. Harry was just a guy.
In fact, once you got used to the world of the books, everything was “just kind of how it is.” I disliked when the mystical (not magical) deus ex machina was rolled out for our viewing and reading pleasure.
This long period of wandering listlessly along unpopulated parts of Britain was not just about the isolation and desolation of their lives. It was about Harry and Hermione.
Harry and Hermione have a special connection. At several points during the series, while Ron and Hermione were mad at one another, Harry and Hermione forged a closer friendship. In the final chapters of the series, we see someone who is effectively an outsider lead a charge against an insular community. Sure, Harry is part of the community -now-, but in some way, he will always be an outsider. He grew up in the real world. And so did Hermione.
When they’re in a coffee shop, Hermione orders a cappuccino. Ron says “whatever she’s having,” in a nervous air that shows he doesn’t understand. Harry orders a drink. We’ve seen him do this before, in the subway of London. His friendship with Hermione, the fact that they, in a way, bonded because of where they came from, is moved to the front line.
While they’re camping, there is a moment when the radio (which, in taking the movie for itself, has a great, if not entirely well explained, role) plays a song. Harry and Hermione are alone. They start to dance. A lot of people say this seen is a play to fans who liked the idea of a Harry and Hermione couple. A lot of people say it’s cheesy and cliche because it’s about how great the moment could be if it had been with someone else.
The moment is about friendship and the temporary joy isolation can provide.
When the two characters dance, they dance as friends. They dance as people sharing the most awful experience of their lives with one another. Hermione herself makes a comment about hiding in the woods forever. These are two kids faced with an impossible task. They are hopeless. In their hopelessness, in their isolation, they find a moment where they force away all of the problems of the world and instead limit their world to the space of their tent where they can dance. They don’t have to worry about saving the world. When the song ends, there is this pause, this realization that that isn’t what is true. There is an awful world to face and they have to face it. This is a visualization of Hermione’s earlier comment about hiding in the woods–that they can’t.
Sometimes DH1 gets a little excessive. As the characters grew up in the confines of the school, they were very much children. In letting them out into the world–even an oddly insular world–they are also allowed to grow up, much like the audience of Harry Potter has been doing. They use the silly sounding magic terms less–usually in reference to the former childish life of the characters. Relationships and responsibilities are handled differently. There’s much more partial and implied nudity. In the theater, when Daniel Radcliff takes off his clothes before jumping into the frozen lake, something a friend referred to as “the moment I could no longer suspend my disbelief,” a woman in the audience yelled “Oh yeah!” Cheering, laughing, and cat calling rose up from the rest of us.
In spite of its “adultification,” Deathly Hallows still appeals to the same part of me Sorcerer’s Stone fulfilled: the part of me that enjoys just liking something for what it is, not what it could be. That likes being entertained. The part that enjoys the suspension of disbelief and fantasy that I could create light or fire, that the good guys can band together to defeat evil, that there’s evil that can so directly be defeated, that there can be happy endings, that people can be cured from anything. That magic exists.