Sunday, 3 July 2011

Exclusive: Review of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part Two: I hate giving stars, but this is definitely a ten out of ten

I was lucky enough to attend David Heyman's screening of the new Harry Potter film in Leicester Square. There was no fuss: after a brief reminder of Voldemort's taking of the Elder Wand (from a superbly modernist grave containing Dumbledore), we were straight into the action. The texture of the film itself is startlingly convincing: gone is the faint cheesiness of the first two films. We are in a world whose strangenesses and darknesses are ever-present.

Snape: not evil after all
What really sets this film apart, making it (I think) possibly the best of the series (excluding The Prisoner of Azkaban, and perhaps The Goblet of Fire), is the attention to detail. Hermione changes into Bellatrix Lestrange at one point (to go to Gringott's Bank), and Helena Bonham-Carter superbly conveyed Hermione's sulkiness and quavery expression, at one point doing such a convincing impression of Emma Watson that it spookily seemed that she might actually really have changed shape. There is wit, too, among the darkness: a bleeding Neville Longbottom, having seen off a ravening horde of Voldemort's supporters, and having almost fallen to his death, pops up cheerily with a 'well that went well.'

I must admit that, being slightly sentimental, I was weeping quietly all the way through. What this film does is enhance Rowling's slightly clunky prose (which made her last two books a disappointment for me), so that the epic touches which she was unable to convey by writing are writ large on the screen. The last battle at Hogwarts always seemed faintly ridiculous to me: here it is genuinely terrifying, with battered schoolchildren fighting desperately against screaming Death Eaters. The deficiencies of Daniel Radcliffe's plankish acting vanish as we meet what is truly the heart of the series: there is darkness in us all, and we must all fight to overcome it.

We learn, too, about the exceptional loyalty and devotion of Snape to Harry Potter's mother, Lily, and of Dumbledore's realpolitik. There is a beautiful scene, when Harry is looking in Snape's memories, which I think was the best in the film: a young Lily makes a flower grow in her hand, but her sister calls her a freak. Hiding in a tree trunk nearby is a young Severus, who blows a leaf to her. It is sun-filled and dappled and touched with a sense of wonder and loss and brimming with the sadnesses of human relationships. It delicately haunts the mind long after, and even now thinking about it I am filled with emotion.

There are some superb set pieces, too: the escape on a damaged, maddened dragon from Gringotts, whose wings and claws drive gouges into London's rooftops; an eerie, white King's Cross; and the film never lets up on energy, drive and spirit. It's an excellent piece of work, and as David Heyman himself said, it's not the end, but the end of a beginning.

Read my review of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part One

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