So last night I finally got to see Harry Potter & the Deathly Hallows Part 1. I say finally, it's only been out for less than a week, but in my world of Harry Potter fan-dom every film has been seen in the first week of release and always more than once!
I remember in the days of 'The Philosopher's Stone' and 'Chamber of Secrets' that come the DVD release my brother and I would be painfully excited... unfortunately, 10 years later, the novelty has worn off. The films have never been able to really capture the magic of the books and reader's personal visions have generally been thwarted. I rarely eagerly anticipate being able to own these films for myself, the cinema seems to be the only place to enjoy their epic proportions as a lot of the time they swap substance for action packed spectacle (bar Half Blood Prince).
However, saying that, Deathly Hallows was a very pleasant surprise. Each film has indeed been better than the last and after an array of different directors from 1-4, it's David Yates that has stuck it out for the final 4 instalments and actually created the better half of the series. Hogwarts is so much more believable as a school, Harry is much less 'Hollywood' (remember the days of Chris Columbus) and generally the aesthetics are beautiful.
I must say that as the film started, I was ready to believe this would be my favourite adaptation and I stand by that. With the great decision to split the story the writers did indeed have the chance to pack in as much as possible (very much like the book itself does). I think in terms of detail, myself and many others wanted MORE! With a fast paced narrative to discuss, elements such as The Wedding, Grimmauld Place and Godric's Hollow were executed at top speed- BUT that is the nature of a two and a half hour film. If you want detail READ THE BOOK!
So moving away from narrative, I am more interested in the visuals!! Within the Deathly Hallows there is some fabulous cinematography, the chase scene through the forest (which I have learned to be filmed on a zip wire) also integrates some unnerving and effective handheld camera shots, the Ministry of Magic combination of lavish set production and vast number of extras is brilliant as always and the general grey filtering absolutely suits the tone.
What I loved about this film in particular was the vision it created of war. As we see Harry, Ron and Hermione make their way across the baron landscapes, we see the ruins of towns and communities ravaged by the Death Eaters, combined with the audio of a wireless radio, listing the names of victims. At one point, as the three hide out in an abandoned barn, we see the streaks of black death eaters shoot across the sky above, almost like the fighter planes of WW2.
Within the Ministry as we see Harry (disguised as Runcorn) discover Dolores's leaflet making room, the actual graphics produced just ooze swiss-looking propaganda and there is something incredibly soviet from the red and black block writing, to the controlled manner of the leaflet's manufacture.
The final point I would like to make on the visuals is my favourite. I was very excited to see how they would actually illustrate the story of 'The Three Brothers' from 'Beadle the Bard', and I was not disappointed. Where we might have expected fuzzy flash backs, in the rushed style of 'Half Blood Prince', it was in fact a beautiful four minute sequence of animation, unlike anything I have ever seen in Harry Potter.
The man behind these fantastic visuals is Swiss director Ben Hibon. There is something incredibly eerie in the soft movements of the silhouetted characters and particuarly the depiction of Death, far from the obvious look of the Grim Reaper, moving his skeletal figure gracefully, bearing down on the three brothers (much like a Dementor) and eventually sprouting impressive wings and taking flight
I loved the film, I always do- you just have to remember to take them for what they are and at times as my friend and I sat in a crowded cinema, we found our selfs immaturely giggling at references of 'take my wand...it's ten inches..." and squealing at the 'jump-out-of-your-skin- moments' you just KNEW were coming (the Bathilda/ Nagini scene- which was very creepy might I add!) But as this impressive animation came into being we were actually lost for words, and as graphics/ illustration students couldn't help but look on in wonderment!