Everything Is Nice

Beating the nice nice nice thing to death (with fluffy pillows)

Mopping Up The Butcher’s Floor Of Your Broken Little Hearts

with 3 comments

After watching last year’s cack-handedly compressed Harry Potter And The Half Blood Prince I wondered if the cynical marketing decision to split The Deathly Hallows into two films might pay artistic dividends as well as cold hard cash ones. To my pleasant surprise it has. Yes, it is still clogged with too many characters and minor plot cul-de-sacs but it has the time and – free of Hogwarts – the space to evolve.

My memory of JK Rowling’s novel is that it was 700 pages of wander aimlessly through a forest and 50 pages of a climactic battle at the end. My worry was that would be exactly the split of the two films. Luckily, whilst Harry, Hermione and Ron’s bickering peregrinations do take up a huge portion of Deathly Hallows Part 1, my memory was faulty and there a good few set-pieces. More importantly, it replaces Rowling’s childish prose with a tone of emotional maturity which turns the tedious squabbling that appears on the page into something approaching actual drama.

Of course, it would help if any of the three principal actors could actually act. After this many years together they certainly have some level of rapport and they have learnt to mask their limitations but still. Director David Yates makes the best of this by treating his cast as simply another prop, using his budget to conjure up tableaux in which he places them in some of the most scenic parts of the UK. Often, like a Take That concert, it resembles nothing more than a sustained advert for knitwear.

This sounds like sustained snark but I did enjoy the film. Where the books provide the reader with nothing but increasingly idiotic plotting, the adaptations have developed a rich and impressive visual language. Rowling’s novels moved through the years but they never grew up but this is exactly what the cast and the films themselves have done before our eyes. Deathly Hallows Part 1 is dark and violent and intense, it is a film you can get your teeth into and exactly the sort of blockbuster we should be making for children. It is also, for the first time, sexual.

At the beginning of the film, Ginny asks Harry to zip her up. The old ones are the best. This inevitably leads to kissing until the scene is punctured by the arrival of one of the Weasley twins. The scene is perfectly composed but unfortunately there is zero chemistry between the two actors. Daniel Radcliffe can brood but, for the Chosen One, he isn’t very charismatic. This actually works to the film’s advantage later on when Harry dances with Hermione to the slightly ironic sounds of ‘O Children’ by Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds playing on the radio. When Harry initiates this, it is a moment ripe with sexual tension. I doubt if anyone in the audience I saw it with came within ten years of the films 12 Certificate and they were practically baying for penetrative sex on the tent floor, right then and there. Instead, Radcliffe’s immense gawkiness transforms it into an extremely touching that brings home the isolation of the protagonists. Still, the audience got what it felt it had been cheated out of: later on Ron is confronted with a CGI image of Harry and Hermoine, naked and touching each other up, that is straight out of a Zack Synder film. Good stuff.

Basically, everything the books do badly, the film does well. Conversely, everything bad about the films is because of the books. If you’ve grown up on the Harry Potter books (and millions of people have) then I can’t imagine a better realisation of their potential. Well, unless that casting session so many years ago had gone a bit differently.

Written by Martin

23 November 2010 at 11:00

Posted in films, sf

3 Responses

Subscribe to comments with RSS.

  1. So how long until Harry Potter is “reimagined”?

    Rich

    23 November 2010 at 14:14

  2. Your audience sound more fun than mine who were mostly under-12s with their parents, and I think got a bit bored. I liked the hyper-desirable Ubermensch Harry and Hermione of Ron’s imagination, a good example of how the director saw something more interesting inside the source material.

    I claim that the genius of the Harry Potter sequence is to create some magical abyss from which better minds can call better stories. How was this achieved – by accident, by some kind of subconscious will? A mystery.

    Alison

    23 November 2010 at 17:56

  3. Rich: So how long until Harry Potter is “reimagined”?

    It sort of has been. The films represent such a vast transformation of the books – a sustained ten year, multi-multi-million pound artistic transformation – that it surely counts as a re-imagination. The amount of resources poured into them means that no one will be able to do them on a bigger budget which is the usual point of a reimagining. Certainly no one seems to have been able to set up a rival franchise. Let’s see if James Frey can manage (ho ho).

    Alison: Your audience sound more fun than mine who were mostly under-12s with their parents, and I think got a bit bored.

    Yeah, quarter to nine on Sunday in Shoreditch is a good time to avoid the under-12s. I’m not surprised they were bored and restless. I was actually a bit startled by its tone, right from the titles. I agree with the idea of parental choice and do think the 12A rather than 12 makes sense but, at the same time, you wonder how much parents think about these things.

    I claim that the genius of the Harry Potter sequence is to create some magical abyss from which better minds can call better stories. How was this achieved – by accident, by some kind of subconscious will? A mystery.

    I’m going for a sort of Gaia hypothesis were the fact everyone has read it leads to this magic process.

    Martin

    24 November 2010 at 10:32


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 106 other followers

%d bloggers like this: