We got back around 4:30 this morning from the midnight showing of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, part 2.
I went as Hermione from Prizoner of Azkaban – pictured above are my “time turner” (an earring on two necklace chains), my “wand” (birch, 14″), and the stockinette I plugged away at through the movie. [Half a flap to go, then ready to block, if all passes muster.]
After the film got out, four of us went to the local Eat N’ Park to eat breakfast food and discuss. The movie was visually perfect; I don’t think they could have better captured what I imagined from the book. (Disclaimer: I’ve not read it since it first came out.) Among books-turned-movies, 7.1 and 7.2 were astonishingly faithful to the narrative, which one might expect when the author is also one of the producers. But there were several places, when the narrative of the book reached the climax of expressing the profound mythology behind the books, where the movie fell short. Not very short – they got 95% there, and if you know the book well enough you can see the subtle hints and clues – but the book actually expresses it in places the movie doesn’t.
[Spoiler-alert-ish: If you care about the series enough to understand what I’m about to talk about, you probably don’t want to read this until you see the movie. Not like you don’t know how things go down, but maybe you want to experience it for yourself.]
The foundational truth behind all the deepest magic in the HP universe is love. This sounds a bit trite, until you realize that when Rowling uses the word love, she means something rather different than we are used to in movies.
Our culture idolizes romance to a sickening degree, so that the meaning of life expressed in so many movie stories is to find the love of your life and be in love with them forever, and maybe to have babies and dote over them perpetually. Many of us buy this, and many of more of us have been made cynical by it, or both. Thus when, at the end of the Philosopher’s Stone, Dumbledore tells Harry that Voldemort couldn’t touch him because of his mother’s love, I filed the conclusion in the “nice, but a little incomprehensible, and probably cheesy” category.
But throughout the series, we see what love really is. Love is friendship, between three people with not much in common but pluck and talent, friendship that persists through all sorts of idiotic arguments and always comes through in disaster. Love is mentors who trust you and always do what’s best for you to grow up into who you need to be, even if that does not involve you having a good time. Love is having mercy and pity on your enemies, even to the last gasp. But most of all, love is laying down your life for others. Harry is surrounded by those who love him and love their friends enough to die for him: from his mother, to his godfather, to the body count that racks up through the 7th book, to the revelation that Snape has not only died but given up his entire life for love of Harry’s mum. As Seretha put it, “this is a series about a boy who is trained through his whole life to lay down his life for his friends, and in the end does it willingly.”
The movie portrays these events quite accurately. All that it doesn’t do is make explicit the connections that the book did: The fact that there is still hope for the miserable Draco, even though he’s still somewhat of a d-b 20 years later, and that’s only possible because Harry wouldn’t let him die. The fact that Harry could come back because he had died willingly, and because the protection of his mother’s death kept him from dying while Voldemort lived. The fact that, at the eleventh hour, Harry tries to get Voldemort to repent, and wouldn’t use the killing curse; the fact that the bad guy is finally killed by his own rebounding killing curse. (You can sort of tell this because of the colors, but it’s subtle.)
I’m not really complaining about the movie. [Though they didn’t finally put the Hallows together, and there were other bits of illogic, but that just makes me want to read the books again.] Really, I just wanted to remind myself of the full story so I don’t lose the actual point among all the emotions and cinematic pyrotechnics.
Because that kind of love… that’s the kind of love worth living for. Worth fighting for, worth having a life for. And for me, love isn’t just an ideal, or a fact of magical metaphysics, but a person. The Person, who like all of Harry’s predecessors, laid down his life for me so I could lay down mine for others. The Person who, as Love Himself, could not be bound by death, but defeated death, so that because I believe in him, I never have to be afraid of dying. The Person who sent His Spirit to live in me, so that I have half a chance of becoming the person who might just lay down my life for others when the moment comes – which, like Snape proved, does not only mean death, but sacrificial life.
“Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends. You are my friends if you do what I command you. … These things I command you, so that you will love one another.” ~ Jesus (John 15:13-14, 17, ESV).