Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1
Matinee with Snacks
It should go without saying that if you haven’t seen the previous six movies, you shouldn’t see this one. Unlike some of the films, however, I think you don’t need to have read the book (as long as you are current on the movie), which is a testament to its script. My companion sees the movies before he reads the books (a novelty in my usual HP crowd) and then reads them right afterward. Since this is only part 1 of 2, that book will sit idle until next June. I, having read the book, loved the movie. It handled some of my favorite scenes well, and the simple and effective opening scenes of the movie are a gift from Kloves to fans of the characters (particularly Hermione). It may not be my favorite (as Prisoner of Azkaban and Half-Blood Prince continue to wrestle for primacy in my heart), but it does contain my favorite sequence (the Tale of the Three Brothers). My stars!
What Prisoner of Azkaban did for Hogwarts, Deathly Hallows Part 1 does for Great Britain. Shot entirely in England and Wales, HP7.1 drags our travelers through some incredible, otherworldly locations. As when I saw The Road, I would snap out of the story briefly to goggle at the scenery. Not only the locations, but also the cinematography grabbed me as much as the affecting tweaks given the narrative by screenwriter Steve Kloves, king of J.K. Rowling interpretation. Cinematographer Eduardo Serra also shot Defiance, Blood Diamond, Beyond the Sea, Girl With A Pearl Earring, Unbreakable… you get the idea. It may even be more gorgeous — and less showy — than Michael Seresin’s work on Azkaban. Why dwell so much on the visuals? If you’ve read the book, you may agree that this half of the story is the slower-moving, more contemplative chunk of the story, generally. As a result, Serra sets the mood of ever-present danger and menace while still keeping us in the beloved fantasy world that Rowling has given us. Camping just isn’t all that visually compelling on its own. I really got a better feel for their peril and tension with his help.
Composer Alexandre Desplat takes over from Nicholas Hooper with a less noticeable but beautiful score. Sophie Thompson, David O’Hara, and Steffan Rhodri get a fantastic sequence all for themselves in the Ministry of Magic — fans will giggle at their subtle but terrific work. Rhys Ifans as Xenophilius Lovegood? Brilliant! Without revealing too much, the film ends shortly after a key scene at Shell Cottage, and I have to say this one better evoked the book’s emotional experience than did the previous installment’s big key moment. I did not know my companion’s ignorance of the book until afterward — I wonder at its effectiveness for him. I walked out of this film hungry for the rest, already wondering if they will wait and release it as one big fat DVD, and altogether confidence that Kloves and director David Yates have it under control.
I’ve said this about Pixar, and I’ll say it now about the Harry Potter franchise. It’s such a wonderful thing that such a beloved property has landed in so many trusted hands, with such a phenomenal cast. Bless Chris Columbus for setting the stage and plowing through the requisite exposition — the least fun part of the job but the all-important foundation upon which even these darker, different sequels depend. No hate for you, Chris. The whole Harry Potter phenomenon is such a miracle of quality, love, popular adoration, and genuine beauty, I am just grateful to have experienced the books and movies as originally intended — new and large and with the anticipation of the next thing. Pottermaniacs, I think you will love it.
MPAA Rating PG-3
Release date 11/19/10
Time in minutes 146
Director David Yates
Studio Warner Brothers