It’s not often you see a group of teenage girls willingly drawing on their foreheads, but then again it has been a year and a half since the last Harry Potter film was released. I am referring, of course, to the lighting bolt shaped scars that so many fans adorned in order to watch the latest instalment of the story: Harry Potter and The Deathly Hallows: Part One. Pitched to fans as, ‘The film event of a generation’, or rather ‘part one’ of the film event of a generation, it now holds the record for the most successful box office weekend ever. It’s impressive stuff, but I think what is more of an achievement is that a series now on it’s seventh film, based on a book, still has audience members dressing up to view it.
In many ways The Deathly Hallows is more sophisticated than it’s predecessors. The interplay between Draco, part of the dark side, and Harry, the hero, shows the two boys almost reaching a shared understanding. It is important to recognise that Draco has a conscience, that being ‘evil’ isn’t necessarily a simple choice. Relationships between the three main protagonists, Harry, Ron and Hermione are a heavy focus in the film and there is an emotional subtlety ripe for it’s growing audience. The Deathly Hallows, as the titles suggests, is concerned with death and survival, giving it an emotive edge not as evident in the other six films.
Although J.K.Rowling’s world is fantastical, what is clever about the film is how relatable some of the themes are. The alternative government at the Ministry of Magic, and the lack of job stability hints at the current situation with the recession. Trepidation over loved ones during the magical war has direct parallels with soldiers in Iraq. The lightening bolt scar is a sort of short hand for the Harry Potter brand; it represents the key concepts of the book, light and dark, good and evil. It is this impression of light that balances out an otherwise bleak, to the point of being realistic, story.
It is here that the casting, which when the series started a decade ago may have seemed like good luck, is particularly good. Daniel Radcliffe as Harry Potter seems small and vulnerable. Rupert Grint, as Ron Wesley, is bigger and full of bravado, as the characters were written. Ralph Fiennes who plays, or becomes, Voldemort has a snake like charm, and dirty hands, as you would expect.
There are few moments of light relief in a film that had the audience gasping and jumping and laughing together, but the locations provide a beautiful backdrop to dialogue that is often tense. Scenes in the New forest, on a stoned cliff top and along an expansive beach, give the film periods of lightness and hope which break up a thick plot.
During a particularly emotive scene, on a suitably deserted beach, the House Elf Dobby, says; “such a beautiful place to be with friends”. It strikes me that the entire Harry Potter brand is based on this notion of friendship and family. There we all our, watching something beautiful, laughing together like old friends. No one even blinks at the fact that half of the audience are in capes, with lightening bolt scars on their faces. In fact, that’s part of the magic.