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Cinema in Focus: ‘Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part I’

Increasingly dark, the series' two-part ending also rests on the power of love to defeat the power of evil

3 Stars — Challenging

The seventh and final chapter of Harry Potter’s battle with Lord Voldemort is divided into two parts. The first film, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part I, was released this month, and the second will be released in July 2011.

Like the films before it, the battle between good and evil/love and hate are personified in Harry (Daniel Radcliffe) and the dark lord, Voldemort (Ralph Fiennes).

From a cinematic perspective, the films have retained their quality and intensity while expanding the fantasy fiction into an increasingly dark tale. The trio of friends — Harry, Hermione Granger (Emma Watson) and Ron Weasley (Rupert Grint) — travel through space like a Jumper and are now experienced wizards who understand the power and use of spells. But it is their love and commitment for one another that is their true strength — just as it had been in Harry’s mother at the time she sacrificed herself to save him from Voldemort years before when he was an infant.

Voldemort, who was originally known as Tom Riddle, had shown unusual power when he was invited to be a student at Hogwarts. As a student, he entered the restricted area of the library and discovered the most heinous of magical arts — the horcrux. Riddle discovered that his soul could be bifurcated through murdering someone such that he could hide his soul and become immortal. What he didn’t realize is that love was more powerful than even this act and, when he attempted to kill Harry, his mother Lily’s love protected him and the curse rebounded on Riddle, destroying his body.

This struggle is at the heart of the Harry Potter tale. Attempting to gain immortality is a longing of mortal humanity. However, to gain it through murder, by taking the life of another so that you might live, can only be countered by a love that is willing to lay down one’s own life for the beloved. Though not Christian films, this Christian principle is powerfully displayed within the series and remains the central message of the story.

In these final films, the “death eaters,” the dark army of Lord Voldemort, are attempting to take over the world. Murderously victorious over the “Ministry of Magic,” the racist and evil regime of Voldemort is gaining strength. But the prophecy that one person will be able to defeat him focuses his attention on Harry as that person. Both sides believe him to be the “chosen one.” This awareness that there is one who can save the world is again a Christian theme.

The now familiar sides of the battle show their true characters as Harry’s friends risk their lives to protect him, with one of them making the ultimate sacrifice to do so. The focus turns to a trinity of objects with such power as to make one invincible: a wizard’s wand of incomparable power, a stone capable of bringing the dead to life and a cloak capable of making its wearer invisible — even to death itself.

It is this collection, known as the Deathly Hallows, that becomes the focus of Voldemort, while finding and destroying Riddle’s horcruxes is the focus of Potter and his mates.

At the end of part one, Voldemort has found the “Elder’s Wand” and Potter has destroyed three of the seven Horcruxes. The final film will reveal the final battle between these personifications of good and evil.

Discussion:

» 1. The ability to shift shapes as well as jump through space are mechanisms typical in other science fiction films. Do you believe the use of these techniques strengthen or weaken the film? Why?

» 2. When Ron becomes jealous of Harry’s relationship with Hermione, he was wearing the horcrux locket. Do you believe that evil can be present within an object such that it affects us? Why or why not?

» 3. It’s hard to believe that one young boy and his friends would have the ability to stop evil. Yet the reality is that often one person makes all the difference, not only in our individual lives but also within history. Do you believe that one person can be a savior, or is evil too big for one person to stop it?

— Cinema in Focus is a social and spiritual movie commentary. Hal Conklin is former mayor of Santa Barbara and Denny Wayman is pastor of Free Methodist Church, 1435 Cliff Drive. For more reviews, visit www.cinemainfocus.com.

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