This movie, I saw in Eastwood during a weekend back in 2007, and I watched it again last night, because I remember I had such strong feelings about it.
I actually saw some of my students watching the same movie at that time. Come Monday, some students remembered our little Eastwood encounter with the comment “Harry Potter was boring diba?”
I liked it.
It feels like first Harry Potter film that dared to distance itself from the book and be a movie all its own. A real re-imagination of the book, which really utilized cinematic tricks and techniques to service the story’s splendor and magic, and most of all, its movement.
Take the montage scenes as an obvious example. What the book built up in chapters, the movie unfurled in a series of overlapping scenes and dialogue.
Professor Umbridge’s reign of terror showed her flicking her wand to attack students’ bums, scrutinizing Professor Trewlaney’s classes, and that very funny bit when she unfurled a tape measure beside Professor Flitwick. These overlapping scenes all the while infused with uppity, elevator music. And what about the Daily Prophet montage where the camera zoomed in, on still pictures that came to life to show the shift in power in Hogwarts.
Isn’t there a scene just like that in Citizen Kane? A newspaper picture coming to life. Just like Kane, this movie employed cinema’s inherent tools to its full advantage all in the service of the story. Camera angles, music, special effects.
Never mind that Ron’s first stabs at Quidditch was completely scrapped. Or that Tonks got only a few minutes of screen time. What hampered the first two, Chris Columbus-directed movies was that these movies were so scared to do anything, other than be faithful to the book. So the movies felt like a pop up version of the book – each scene meticulously faithful to the words on the written page. It was also very also very awkward and self-conscious.
This movie, was a real stand-alone. It focused on the book’s essence – Harry’s journey towards the discovery of the prophecy, and his torment at the disturbing duality within him.
Not only is this great movie making, you get to see the best that Britain has to offer cinematically – Ralph Fiennes as Voldemort, Imelda Staunton as Professor Umbridge and Emma Thompson as Professor Trewlaney. And Maggie Smith and Allan Rickman, of course.