It’s indeed the beginning of the end and the series was in much need of a charismatic boost after a lazy effort in Goblet of Fire(widely regarded as the best book/worst movie in the series). The truth is, it’s great that since Order of the Phoenix, the movies have only been steadily improving as they accompany Harry and his friends’ journey to save the world.
Deathly Hallows – Part 1 begins with Rufus Scrimgeour meeting the press expressing solidarity in the dark times they find themselves in. With Lord Voldemort gathering his forces and Death Eaters all the more powerful after Albus Dumbledore’s death, Scrimgeour paints a grim picture as he tries to maintain a face of strength. The film then shifts to Hermione, Ron and the rest of the fraternity leaving their homes to better, safer places. It’s all painted in a gloomy, rainy backdrop so that you don’t feel that even for a second, there is some hope lurking in the corner. Only this film, after the third(Prisoner of Azkaban) gets the mood and the setting perfectly right. And then we shift to Harry Potter.
It’s good to know that the movie hits the right notes with respect to the book. Deathly Hallows being the last book in the series, J.K. Rowling knew that nostalgia was going to play a huge part. There is a passage or maybe a couple of pages where Harry is waiting for his friends in Privet Drive when he takes Hedwig around the house stopping at key places. The cupboard under the stairs importantly. This is the sequence where the reader feels what Harry exactly feels. The nostalgia and the realization that neither the reader nor Harry is ever going to return to this place. In the film, Harry opens the closet and we see him from inside the closet. We don’t see the closet at all. He looks at it and we look at him, we realize the rush of memories that he’s having, we are having. Full points to Steve Kloves for not brushing this off as trivial in an extremely detailed novel.
There is a lot of awkward silence in the film that for some people(especially those who haven’t read the books) might come across as slow/boring. A lot of characters in this book go through some personal/emotional battles. They have their own insecurities. Harry lives with the pressure of finding the Horcruxes while having to see his friends die in the process. Ron has his own fight for some attention from his family and Hermione. Hermione and her bittersweet relationship with Ron coupled with the huge sacrifice she goes through in order to accompany Harry in his journey. Thanks to all these and the locket Horcrux, people say things that they shouldn’t or wouldn’t. And this leads to a lot of silence and brooding in the safehouses they find for themselves. The book does mention how several days pass after Ron leaves and how the atmosphere is entirely silent. Deathly Hallows is also a book with absolutely breathtaking locations. The forests, the riversides, the rocky hilltops and snowy Godric’s Hollow.
But this silence is what leads to one of the most endearing shots in the film. In the grim situation inside their tent after Ron leaves, Hermione sits devoid of all hope, unconvincingly disguising the heatbreak, as does Harry. Harry goes to her and takes her hand and Hermione accepts albeit with a little shrug. At first it’s extremely uncomfortable for them and the viewer but then they both realize slowly how indispensable they are to each other. Especially during these times with Ron gone. Surely one of the loveliest scenes in cinema this year. If that’s not enough, Deathly Hallows gives some stiff competition to Day & Night, that brilliant short animation feature Pixar appended with Toy Story 3. The Tale of the Three Brothers, the story that explains the Deathly Hallows is presented in cleverly directed animation. It’s credit to the director(Ben Hibon) that it’s not depicted with the usual colorful cartoon-y feel but in a more matured format with economical use of colors, shadowy figures and a superb wraith like Death figure. Ben Hibon, take a bow!
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 1 is the best in the series so far. I loved the last film, Half Blood Prince , also directed by David Yates, and this one is miles ahead. It’s faithful to the book right up to the tiniest of details and sets up the finale showdown beautifully. I, for one, can’t wait for July 2011.