Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1 opens with several short sequences that quickly establish the films dark mood – a tone that has yet to be reached in a Harry Potter film and rarely occurs in a PG-13 movie. Each one of these little intimate moments shows how the return of the Dark Lord and the death of Hogwarts’ beloved headmaster has affected both the world of wizardry and muggles.
The most difficult of these scenes to watch shows Hermione (Emma Watson) using a charm to remove herself from the memories of her parents – all for their own protection. She is erased from their minds, photographs and home. Just as Hermione has made her parents forget about the daughter they used to know, you, too, must forget about the Harry Potter movies as you used to know them. Part 1 is unlike any of the other Potter films. We never go to Hogwarts. The light jokes and scenes are few and far between. Danger is around every corner. There is an unsettling intensity that never goes away. And absolutely every character is constantly capable of being killed at any moment – even the well-established central ones.
Not having read the books, I have learned to love the Harry Potter stories and characters through the course of the films (with the exception of The Goblet of Fire – I loathe that poorly-made movie). Even then, watching Deathly Hallows: Part 1 unfold was difficult. Everything is extremely bleak. It is hard to watch characters that you have learned to love go through such hardships. Honestly, at times I just wanted to movie to end – it is that dark.
Just as Dumbledore (Michael Gambon) instructed him to do, Harry (Daniel Radcliffe) is on the hunt for the remaining horcruxes – trinkets that contain parts of Voldemort’s (Ralph Fiennes) torn soul. Once found, he must discover a magical way to destroy them. If Harry can find and destroy all of them, Voldemort will be dead for good. Of course, Ron (Rupert Grint) and Hermione will not let Harry go on this dark journey alone.
Fans of the Harry Potter books are rejoicing that Deathly Hallows: Part 1 is the most true to the novels so far – probably due to its mid-book adaptation and long run-time of 156 minutes. Little is omitted and the adaptation is faithful. When The Half-Blood Prince ended, many Potter fans were disappointed because they left out the deep explanation of the horcruxes and Voldemort’s backstory. After seeing Deathly Hallows: Part 1, it is obvious how they are choosing to tell these parts of the story – Part 1 focuses mostly on the horcruxes (which includes amazing and unprecedented sequence that describes the deathly hallows) and Part 2, presumably, will tell the necessary backstory of the Dark Lord.
Many fans are curious to know where the split between Part 1 and Part 2 takes place. Without giving any spoilers to those who do not know the books, the cut happens at Shell Cottage.
In the last week, news has reported that there are “nude scenes” in Part 1 that are nowhere to be found in the original text of the novel. While these rumors are barely true, they are nothing to get up in arms about. For those who know the books, in one scene Ron is tempted to not do something that will negatively affect Voldemort. In his temptation he sees ghostly versions of Harry and Hermione that belittle him and act out something before his eyes that would absolutely shatter his spirits – the two of them kissing. In this shot, you see both Harry and Hermione covered in a shiny silver paint shot from shoulder-up. Yes, they appear to be naked, but smoke covers their bodies from the shoulders down. This shot lasts fewer than five seconds and Emma Watson has said in interviews that the two were not nude when they filmed it.
The main complaint about this scene is that parents do not want their children to see this sort of “adult content.” Deathly Hallows: Part 1 is rated PG-13 “for some sequences of intense action violence, frightening images and brief sensuality” – mind you, that’s brief sensuality, not nudity. Avatar features more “nudity” than Deathly Hallows: Part 1. In reality, the disturbing and dark tone of the film is far less fit for you children than the brief sensuality. If your children are old enough to sit through such a dark film, then they are just fine with brief sensuality. I recommend going by the MPAA’s suggested age advisory of 13.
Just as I rated Half-Blood Prince, Deathly Hallows: Part 1 is a perfect film. The directing is fantastically bold, the actors give their best performances yet and it looks absolutely beautiful. The only thing I would have them change is not splitting the story into two films so I could see the end already. Every beef that Potter fans have had thus far are no longer problems. The ultimately dark tone has been achieved and it is consistent and true to the novel. With a film this good, Harry Potter may go and receive a few Oscar nominations with Deathly Hallows: Part 1.
Photo credit: Warner Bros.