By now, it has become routine for critics and audiences to greet a new Harry Potter movie by saying it is ‘darker’ than the ones that came before it.
And yes, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1 is certainly the darkest of the seven films released so far. Unlike the previous films, which rarely killed more than one good guy at a time — and usually at a suitably climactic moment – the new film kills and wounds the friends and family of Harry, Ron and Hermione right from its opening scenes.
Some critics have complained that this seems like a rather grim development for a series that used to be all about kids flying around on broomsticks, and they have a point.
But let’s not forget that the very first book began with Harry being orphaned by the evil wizard Voldemort – who will have his final showdown with Harry in Part 2 next year — and that every story since has wrestled with the theme of death in one form or another.
The more surprising thing about the new film, perhaps, is how the characters and the actors who play them have matured in the nine years since the first film came out.
Which is not to say that they act like proper grown-ups just yet; Harry and his friends still squabble like adolescents and break up over petty grievances, even with the fate of the world hanging in the balance.
But there is an erotic charge to certain scenes — most notably when Ron’s jealousy is stoked by a false image of Harry and Hermione in a passionate embrace — that would have been unthinkable in the earlier films, when the characters were only 11 years old.
(It’s worth noting, though, as Elizabeth Baird Hartley does at HogwartsProfessor.com, that an early exchange between Ron’s brother Bill and his fiancée Fleur Delacour seems to indicate that, “contra the cultural tide,” the couple are saving themselves for marriage.)
Unlike previous Harry Potter movies, which compressed each of the increasingly long novels down to a single movie, Deathly Hallows has been spread out over two movies to give every last one of the book’s plot twists its moment in the spotlight. And yet, even with all the extra running time, some of the book’s best grace notes remain unfilmed.
Harry’s awful cousin Dudley, for example, is seen only from a distance, and never gets the glimpse of redeemability that we saw in the novel. When Harry and Hermione visit the grave of Harry’s parents, the Bible verse on their tombstone is visible if you look closely for it, but Harry and Hermione do not discuss what it means, as they did in the book.
Ah well. Let’s just hope that Part 2 gets the final showdown between Harry and Voldemort right. Done properly, there should be some meat for Christians to chew on there, too.
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If you missed Vision when it played at the VanCity Theatre late last month, have no fear: the film, which concerns the medieval mystic Hildegard von Bingen, is already available for streaming via Netflix.ca.
Directed by the renowned German filmmaker Margarethe von Trotta, the film is a basically respectful look at Hildegard and her sometimes complicated relationship with powerful figures both within the church and outside it, and although it touches on issues of class and gender, it never loses sight of Hildegard’s spiritual groundedness.
Speaking of movies about nuns, the Pacific Cinematheque will be hosting a few screenings of Eugène Green’s The Portuguese Nun December 16 – 20.
I don’t know much about the film, but I gather it concerns an atheist actress who meets a nun while shooting a movie based on a 17th century collection of love letters purportedly written by a nun to her lover.
Guardian critic David Parkinson, for one, has praised the film, calling it “a deadpan reverie on love and faith, film and life.”
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Late last year, I passed on some news to the effect that 20th Century Fox is developing a new movie about the life of Moses, said to be an “action” film in the style of Braveheart and 300. Now comes word that there is another movie about Moses in development – and this one has a particularly interesting pedigree.
New York magazine’s Vulture blog reports that Warner Brothers has its own Moses movie in the works. The writers working on it are Stuart Hazeldine, a British Christian who has worked on Warner’s upcoming adaptation of Paradise Lost; and Michael Green, whose credits include Kings, the short-lived TV series that modernized the story of Saul and David.
Whether either of these films will end up before cameras is an open question, of course. I’m still wondering what became of the King David script that J. Michael Straczynski (creator of the classic sci-fi series Babylon 5) wrote for Universal Pictures a few years ago.