Why I love Harry Potter

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I was one of those people who thought ‘why on earth are adults reading Harry Potter? It’s for children isn’t it!’.  Then, when The Philosopher’s Stone was released at cinemas in 2001, two of my friends dragged me along…..I got hooked.

Ron, Harry and Hermione (so cute!)

Let’s face it, if Harry Potter wasn’t any good there would not have been so many of Britain’s finest actors clamouring for a part.  Like the Star Wars saga/franchise, you would have to live on another world to have not heard of Harry Potter.

For anybody who knows nothing about Harry Potter (all five of you), Harry is an orphan being brought up by his nasty Aunt and Uncle Dursley who treat him like a slave.  On Harry’s eleventh birthday he discovers his parents were part of a wizard world he was not aware of and he is invited to attend Hogwarts School of Witchcraft & Wizardry.  Harry finds out his parents were murdered by an evil wizard named Voldemort, who tried to kill Harry and failed.  Harry was left with a lightening-shaped scar on his forehead.  The boy who lived.  Voldemort disappeared.  Harry befriends Ron Weasly and Hermione Granger at Hogwarts.  He settles in to the wizarding world, but all is not as it seems, Voldemort has returned……

Michael Gambon as Albus Dumbledore

In my opinion, the first two films are aimed at a younger audience and don’t fully reflect J.K. Rowling’s books, although they are a good start.  My favourite film is The Prisoner of Azkaban where director, Alfonso Cuaron, took over the reins from Chris Columbus.  Mike Newell directed The Goblet of Fire and subsequently David Yates the final four films.  The film is more muted in colour with greys, blues and greens (the ensuing films retain this winning look).  This reflects the change of direction in story and characters from jolly wizarding japes to serious, people are getting killed, storylines.  I also prefer Michael Gambon’s Dumbledore.  I loved Richard Harris, but Gambon’s Dumbledore is more steely and less twinkly-eyed/cuddly, if that’s the word I am looking for, truer to Rowling’s character.

For children, the appeal of Harry Potter is the magic and fantasy.  For everybody else, the eternal themes of friendship, good against evil, choices, bravery (I adore Neville Longbottom in Deathly Hallows, part 2), right and wrong, along with fun escapism, appeals to their inner child.  It is also the attention to detail and richly drawn characters in Rowling’s world that is wonderful.

In terms of casting, these films could not fared any better.  The actors are all perfect for their characters, Snape, Bellatrix, Lucius Malfoy and Sirius, in particular.  The child/teen cast are likeable and each bring their character to life from the pages of Rowling’s books.  Dan Radcliffe, Emma Watson and Rupert Grint grew up whilst making these films and it is noticeable in their acting, it improves with each film.  Unusually, for child stars, as young adults they all appear to be thoroughly likeable and unspoilt.  Great role models for youngsters.

My (now) 6 year old started watching Harry Potter last Christmas and loved it.  I was apprehensive over him finding it scary, but he was fine.  His friends with older siblings have seen the films too.  I think if you know your child, you will know what is acceptable for them.  We intend to watch the films, one each Sunday afternoon, on the build-up to Christmas.  A new, yearly, film tradition.

I see nothing wrong with being a ‘grown-up’ and watching these films.  The world can be a little dreary sometimes and a bit of Hogwarts magic is just what is needed.  Expecto patronum!

“Happiness can be found, even in the darkest of times, if one only remembers to turn on the light.” Albus Dumbledore

 

 

Movies, Memories and Childhood: Part I

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My first blog post referred to my first ‘serious’ movie as a child, the Raiders of the Lost Ark, and its impact on me.  This post is about an entirely different sort of movie and why it is special to me.

Disney’s The Sleeping Beauty

I was just over 4 years of age and my brother was 2 when my Grandma (my Father’s Mother) took us to a local independent cinema that was screening The Sleeping Beauty.  We had never been to the cinema before, but our little baby brother was fighting for his life in the Great Ormond Street Children’s Hospital and our Grandma wanted to treat us whilst we were staying with her.

For two hours (the cinema had a proper break in the middle with an usherette selling ice-creams – superb!), we were immersed in this beautifully animated, magical story.  The film made me forget how much I was missing my Mummy (our parents were staying with our brother in the hospital) and when I would see her again.

Disney’s Maleficent

I had forgotten this memory, as if it had been locked away, but I recently bought my eldest son a Disney film and when we sat to watch it, there was a trailer for the restored version of The Sleeping Beauty. I started crying because it triggered my memory of that time that was tinged with uncertainty, even down to remembering my Grandma bringing chocolate for us in her beige leather handbag and the scent of her L’Air du Temps perfume.

I am now looking for The Sleeping Beauty on dvd.  For someone who is a self-confessed tomboy, it will be a little at odds with my film collection.  However, I don’t care because the four year old me will now always be grateful to Disney for my moment of much-needed escapism and a film that will always remind me of my beloved Grandma, who died in 1994.  If Disney does this for all sad, worried or frightened children, then they’re okay in my book.

“This is a time when we need to smile more and Hollywood movies are supposed to do that for people in difficult times.” Spielberg

images: Disney