The tone of the film was set the moment the Warner Brothers logo appeared on the screen. The grey, steely WB logo rises out of a foggy, stormy back drop. As the logo grows larger, the metallic sheen grows rusty and decays. This is an accurate symbol for Part I – the fall of the Ministry of Magic (decay), the tension that comes to a head with the trio (rust), and the complete chaos of war that ensues (storm).
As the fog clears and the WB logo fades, the audience is, for the first time in the series, brought to the home of Hermione Granger, the most clever of the trio. Alexandre Desplat’s haunting and sad song “Obliviate” plays as Herminone, walking up behind her parents as they have their tea, quietly whispers “obliviate” and removes all memories of herself from the minds of her parents. As muggles, her parents have very little contact with the magical world, but the threat of danger for any people associated with anyone anti-Voldemort (especially muggles) is too great.
Next, Harry and Ron are shown in their respective homes physically and mentally preparing themselves for their departure. Unfortunately, we do not get the entire story with the Dursleys, for which I had hoped. Harry’s uncle, aunt and cousin simply leave to seek safety for the same reason Hermione obliviates her parents. Anyone close to the trio is in danger. For Ron, his family is so very involved in the magical world that they cannot just leave. As readers of the books know, and Part II of the film will reveal, the Weasley family will suffer losses.
The rest of the film is, as one 6 year-old audience member sitting not so far from me put it, “really scary.” She sat on her mother’s lap during the whole film, jumping and whispering “that was really scary” whenever something frightened her. One of those moments takes place within the first ten minutes as Snape enters Malfoy Manor to meet with Voldemort and other Death Eaters. The group of 25 or so Death Eaters sat at a long, black wooden table with Voldemort at its head. Above the table the body of the beaten and tortured Charity Burbage is suspended. Charity Burbage was the Muggle Studies professor at Hogwarts and had been captured by Death Eaters for her teachings. As Voldemort proclaims to all those at the table, she taught Hogwarts students that muggles were not very different from wizards and that there was nothing wrong with taking them as mates. At this, the congregants boo and hiss. Charity then looks over at Snape, a fellow Hogwarts professor and begs for his help. “We are friends,” she says in disbelief at his inaction. Then, Voldemort shoots the killing curse and she falls with a sickening thump onto the table. Voldemort proceeds to summon his pet snake, “Dinner, Nagini,” and the large snake slithers across the table toward its meal.
A surprisingly wonderful part of the film, and quite possibly my favorite, is the reading of The Tale of the Three Brothers by Hermione. As she reads, an animated scene appears showing the three brothers Antioch, Cadmus and Ignotus as they come upon death. The rest of the story is integral to the trio’s search for the Hallows, so I will not tell the story here, but I suggest picking up a copy of The Tales of Beedle the Bard. JK Rowling does a fantastic job creating these vignettes.
The rest of the film proves to be a tense, quick-paced, and action laden. We are along for the ride as the trio, alone to find the Voldemort’s horcruxes (objects containing a part of his soul) for themselves, move from place to place and encounter evil unlike anything they have ever seen or heard of before. Between them, the stress of their hunt (and being hunted) leads to an emotional break-down.
I was happy with the place they chose to break in the film, though I know others did not as was indicated by the “aww”’s and “what?”’s I heard in the theater. It may have seemed a bit anti-climactic in the film as Voldemort raids Dumbledore’s tomb to steal the Elder wand, but I believe this was the best option considering the emotional scene with Dobby, the free house elf, that preceded it. The viewer is left exhausted from the the action and sadness. It just plainly made sense.
As a long-time fan of the series (both book and film), I am proud to say that this film has remained as true to the books as it possibly could have. For audience members who have not read the book, this may mean some new objects (ehem…the mirror) and characters that may seem out of place. Overall, this is a wonderful family film that may be scary for some of the youngest members. The realities of war, racism, and the death of innocents in this fictional world are no less affecting given its nature as just that – a fictional work.
Please leave comments below on your experience watching Deathly Hallows, Part I. What was your favorite part? What did you miss? Any surprises?