Monday, July 16, 2007

These Dreams Are Dark

But in a good way.

More Harry stuff, this time an awesome bit of criticism from Matt Zoller Seitz at House:

The film's alternately doubting and exultant mood -- encapsulated by Radcliffe's nuanced performance -- at times reminded me of George Harrison's great solo debut, All Things Must Pass, arguably flower-power-rock's most moving contemplation of love, cruelty, spiritual yearning and the quest for self-knowledge. One of its finest songs, "Beware of Darkness," could double as the viewer's admonition to Harry:
Watch out now, take care
Beware of the thoughts that linger
Winding up inside your head
The hopelessness around you
In the dead of night

Beware of sadness
It can hit you
It can hurt you
Make you sore and what is more
That is not what you are here for.

... Another, more moving example occurs in a scene in the forest outside Hogwarts where Harry talks to Luna Lovegood (why the James Bond films didn't already use this name is a mystery) while feeding thestrals, spooky creatures that look like skinless winged horses. Luna explains to Harry that thestrals "can only be seen by people who've seen death." As she tells Harry of her mother's demise in a spell-casting accident, she feeds a baby thestral, first by tossing it an apple (which it ignores), then a slab of red meat (which it devours). When the foal's snout dips toward the meat, Yates cuts to a scene in Hogwarts' mess hall, starting with a closeup of Ron Weasley tearing into a sausage. This, too, initially reads as a mere sight gag, but it plugs into the story's core as surely as the paper airplane business. Harry, Luna, Ron and the series' other significant young characters are baby thestrals -- unsettling but deep-down-beautiful creatures whose specialness is associated with trauma.


...and most delightful of all, Alan Rickman as Snape. Rickman's line readings, like Ian McDiarmid's in the Star Wars films, have a self-awareness which suggests the character realized long ago that he was a character in a drama and can't believe no one else has figured it out. (He's the Thomas Crown of acting: there's no scene he can't steal.) The film's admixture of unease and joy holds together, and it's consistent with Sirius Black's assurance to Harry that darkness and light coexist in every human soul, and that "what matters is what we choose to act on. That's who we really are."

Read it all, including the comments.

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