Posts Tagged ‘harry potter and the half-blood prince’
Scott Eric Kaufman on Harry Potter And The Half-Blood Prince:
it presents an unnerving and captivating account of a world and moment the audience can’t fully fathom. The confusion was compelling: I was drawn into situations whose meaning escaped me, but whose significance was clear, and so I spent the entire film intellectually engaged… The earlier films never alluded; they either explicated at length or vehemently pointed at the mystery the movie would explain. In The Half-Blood Prince, David Yates includes scenes whose importance is not established by the mere fact of their inclusion. The narrative wanders, forcing the audience to debate which of the various elements will ultimately be meaningful… The narrative ambiguity, coupled with a pace that allowed scenes to develop such that motivations were intimated rather than immediately revealed, resulted in a film that was strikingly adult in weight and complexity
You might think this sounds a bit like filthy postmodernism – I’m not convinced that a sloppy, confused narrative is actually a good thing because it allows multiple reads of the text – but it is still an interesting post and his snark about Manohla Dargis is worth the price of admission alone. It is interesting because it is the perspective of someone seeing the films with fresh eyes, especially since my views of the films are so coloured by the books. There are large chunks of Kaufman’s post I disagree with (starting with the opening sentence) but it is a good point about the impatience with the film of those familar with the books because they know how the story ends and the film singularly fails to move this story forward. At the same time though, I saw the film with my girlfrend, who hasn’t read any of the books either, and her response was less “what a wonderful intellectual puzzle” and more “well, that was pretty pointless”. If only Yates had played a bit faster and looser with the source text.
But there’s more! Kaufman has just posted his thoughts on the Hugos slapfight which John “Bellows” Scalzi has managed to supply with plenty more oxygen. By the way, if you are actually still interested in following the debate, the conversation over at Torque Control remains the most interesting and least retarded.
The Harry Potter films have been a masterclass in polishing a turd but unfortunately this impressive showcase in transmogrification comes to an end with The Half-Blood Prince.
The books dropped off rapidly after The Prisoner of Azkaban, bloating out with The Goblet Of Fire, dispensing with plot entirely from The Order Of Phoenix and becoming tortuous and tedious. The films, on the other hand, went from strength to strength replacing Rowling’s awful prose with an increasingly rich and sure visual language and using the cream of British acting to bring genuine life to pantomime characters. In the later books not only does nothing happen but what does happen doesn’t make any sense. Now, for the first time, one of the films shares this problem. The Half-Blood Prince looks like a very big book made into a pretty big film – you can see the gaps in its jagged, stuttering structure, where scences hit the floor – which is a bit odd because what does make it to the screen betrays some very strange choices about what to prioritise. How many times do we need to see Draco whip a dustcloth off the vanishing cabinet? Was the spider eulogy really necessary? The Deathly Hallows is going to be split in two so perhaps this will solve this problem. Perhaps it will throw it into sharper relief.
In his scathing review Peter Bradshaw suggests that the opening scene is the only good thing about the film. Most of his criticisms are accurate but The Half-Blood Prince is still an enjoyable (if bum-numbing and squandered) film and a vast improvement on the novel. Regardless of the ungainliness that reliance on Rowling makes inevitable, I was still able to go with it, to enter the world evoked; like all the films, this has life. In contrast, in addition to being incontinently plotted, the books are emotionally dead: you never laugh, you are never scared, you just listlessly flip-flip the pages waiting vainly for something to actually happen. You get all that in the film plus even a bit of pathos as Draco struggles with the situation he has placed him in, although surely more could have been done with this. What you don’t get is any real sense of sadness when Dumbledore dies. This is probably because it is very hard to care about Dumbledore who, despite being Harry’s mentor, is never around to do anything useful apart from pop up at the end of each book to explain what just happens. There is no man behind the beard.