Capturing the Magic

David Yates must have received some extra help on his wingardium leviosa spell, because the level of quality for “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1” has certainly risen.

I have always been an avid fan of Harry Potter. The series has grown up with me, and I can’t think of anything else that has truly captivated me as much as the magical world of Harry Potter. I remember being a child picking up the first book and reading it with my grandmother, and anxiously awaiting the release of the seventh book all those years ago.

That being said, the movies have been something that I have always struggled to truly enjoy. Each movie has its pros and cons and I have pretty strong opinions on each one. The first two are childish fun and almost word-for-word adaptations of the books while the third film is brilliantly directed and has its own identity.

Many of the other films, however, seemed to struggle and fall into the wrong direction. “Goblet of Fire” has its redeeming moments, but is overall pretty lackluster. “Order of the Phoenix” has a pretty cool ending but fails to really capture the feeling of the book. “Half-Blood Prince” mixes humor with the impending doom pretty well but fails to recognize the deep connections and intricacies that Voldemort’s past has.

“Deathly Hallows: Part 1” changes all of that. I can say without a doubt that it was the best film in the series (even trumping Alfonso Cuarón’s “Prisoner of Azkaban”), and while only being half of a novel, it felt like the most complete film of the franchise.

Each predecessor in Harry Potter’s nine-year cinematic lifespan – except for “Azkaban,” – has left me feeling empty because of the lack of cinematic value the films have. Each novel gave the directors so much potential to create an epic tale of triumph and tragedy, but they failed to convert that to the silver screen.

“Deathly Hallows: Part 1” not only recognized this flaw, but completely overturns it. I was stupefied by the film’s dark tone, and ability to have the audience truly feel the constant terror and oppression that Harry and the wizarding world are subjected to. The movie is more bleak, more dramatically themed and the most complex Potter film yet. Gone are the days of Harry and his friends getting into mischief at Hogwarts.

Yates uses incredible cinematography to capture the roaming nature of the film. “Deathly Hallows: Part 1” is essentially about Harry, Ron and Hermione traveling through England in search of the Horcruxes that hold pieces of Voldemort’s soul. The camera shots are long and oftentimes spanning across large landscapes, almost allowing the audience to believe they too are running across snow-covered forests and barren landscapes. The way many of the scenes are shot reminds me of “The Lord of the Rings” movies. Almost every scene fades to black while adding to the dark themes of the film – and immerses the audience even more.

The film also succeeds at showing the deeper, human element of the situation at hand. The movie opens with Hermione erasing herself from her parents’ memory to protect them. No other movie came close to something so depressing. Another scene that stuck out was Charity Burbage being murdered by Voldemort at Malfoy Manor.

Helpless and afraid, she reaches out to Snape as he sits across the table, calling him her friend. Snape, who has been cold-hearted and stone-faced throughout the entire series, actually shows a moment’s regret in his decision before ultimately allowing Voldemort to kill her. This bit of emotion shows the inner struggle Snape is dealing with as he works for the Dark Lord.

The acting in “Deathly Hallows: Part 1” also sticks out like the tip of a wand after a lumos charm. Emma Watson (Hermione) essentially steals the show with her compassionate but commanding character, and is the rock that holds both Ron and Harry together. Ralph Fiennes (Voldemort) is actually scary – which is impressive considering some of the other films’ portrayal of the Dark Lord. The final scene of the film actually sent chills down my spine.

Overall, this film shines in comparison to the other movies in the franchise. While leading up to the epic finale that will come out in July, it stands alone quite well. “Deathly Hallows: Part 1” is an outstanding addition to the Potter saga, and it finally showcased the prevalent and important themes of the final few novels.